This is one of those posts that require me to conjure up enough courage after it is written to hit "publish." I have visions of losing friends and no one ever reading this blog again, haha. In all seriousness, this post involves a certain level of vulnerability and deep honesty. Those two things usually entail the risk of condemnation and rejection. But I hope that anyone who reads this post will give me the benefit of the doubt and enough charity to know that I struggle with this topic and need a place to openly process my thoughts and questions. I want to be checked and corrected by you, my dear faithful reader! But please keep in mind that my questions reveal a hesitancy about this topic instead of an outright rejection of sorts.
I've been in situations lately where groups of women have discussed the issue of using gender neutral pronouns in reference to the Trinity. Usually when these conversations happen, there is always the assumption that every woman automatically agrees that the only self-evident option is to use pronouns that empty any hint of supposed maleness from God's triune being (which assumes the biblical language ever intended for that in the first place). I even find myself very ashamed when I realize I'm still using masculine pronouns to refer to God in conversations with other academics, especially women.
As a woman and a feminist, the idea of voicing my hesitation to gender inclusive language in relation to the Trinity is enough to ensure I will be the outcast who will forever be chosen last for the team. There is no faster way to receive a response of bewilderment, confusion, suspicion, and even a hint of pity. If only you were really progressive and enlightened, you'd understand why women must encourage gender inclusive language when speaking about the Triune God, right?
Yet, I wonder. I share all the same concerns that these good feminists share. I am committed to the cause of women's liberation as much as the next woman. I've felt the oppression more than I'd like to admit and know the good fight is just beginning. In contrast to the author of this post, I don't think that women who are hesitant to gender inclusive trinitarian language are simply "theologically well-educated." There are much more theologically well-educated women who have fought the good fight before me who adamantly disagree with my hesitancy in abandoning the use of masculine pronouns in relation to the Trinity. The matter is far more complicated than reducing this issue to who has the better training or more education (and to be fair, Dr. Millinerd hints as much given his lengthy post on this topic!).
Here is the rub: for me, this is a methodological issue. God gives humanity permission to speak about God. Unless God revealed Godself to humanity, creatures could not know anything about God. All the Barthian blood that runs through my body becomes very nervous when any speech that Jesus uses in relation to himself or God the Father is assumed to be easily replaced with other human language. The language of Father, and Son, and the imagery therein reveal the essential relationship between the members of the Trinity. They neither automatically entail exclusion nor some understanding of the maleness of God's being.
So these are my questions: If this masculine biblical language is abandoned, are we compromising the fullness of God's revelation? Moreover, should Christians simply discard the language given in the biblical witness because it has been abused or is the very task of the Christian to redeem said language? What is really gained by discarding the language used in the biblical witness when we choose gender inclusive language (especially when using female pronouns)? Is the gain enough to warrant or justify such a replacement?
It should be noted that I am not assuming the answers to these questions. That is the entire purpose of this post. I'm wrestling with these important issues for methodological and gender reasons. And at the most basic level, what language should I use when I write and speak? But the careful reader might be genuinely offended at my subtle assumption: the burden of proof is upon the feminists and those choosing gender inclusive trinitarian language to justify abandoning traditional biblical names and pronouns when speaking about God. Again, as a Barthian, I am not opposed to theological revolutions. However, such revolutionary moves can only be done once both one has wrestled with the tradition and also remained faithful to an objective methodological orientation.
Well, I guess with that last sentence, all my cards are now on the table.