Flat White

God is non-binary. Apparently…

4 July 2021

4:11 PM

4 July 2021

4:11 PM

You will be interested to know that the Reverend Canon Sarah Jones, the Church of England’s first ever ‘transwoman’ priest, has made a brilliant discovery that she wishes to share: “I would absolutely say that God is non-binary in the sense that God is neither male nor female and I think it’s helpful.”

There is a little bit of the curate’s egg in that statement, for it is possible she/he meant that God is tertiary, or quarternary, etc. However when we look at reasons she gives for her conclusion: “[W]hen you really think about it, does God really have a body? I don’t think so, so could God really be ‘He’, just genuinely like a guy?” She/he might mean that God doesn’t have a body so he can’t have a human male’s bodily apparatus; or it could just mean that Canon Jones is not averse to a god with different appurtenances to ours. What ever is meant, any serious consideration of her conclusion raises quite a few difficulties.

She is, of course, correct if she is talking about God in heaven, for it is well understood that God is one and incorporeal; ie, spiritual. But here on earth, there are a number of examples of a bodily God; for example, the men who visit Abraham’s tent or even Jesus of Nazareth. Both are depicted as fully male. Jesus poses a distinct difficulty for her anti-male thesis since we can presume from her calling that Jesus is God incarnate as a male and so denying Jesus’ divinity as the Son of God would, for an ordained Christian, be tantamount to a letter of resignation. 

Further, all human males, except those congenitally deformed (or are trans) are blest with organs of reproduction. I suspect that her purpose in raising this issue was not so much to raise doubts about God as to raise doubts about the privileged status of the human male in the Church of England, something that is high on the list of anti-western sentiment at the moment. Indeed, many Anglicans have doubts about the ordained males in both the Anglican and Roman Churches.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) the redefinition of God she favours was dealt with in 1948 by the Anglican apologist and Cambridge don, C.S. Lewis, who pointed out that the Bible instructs the faithful to refer to God as ‘Him’ and to pray to Him, as in ‘Our Father.’ That would seem a rather insurmountable obstacle for the Reverend Canon Sarah Jones who, we assume, must have claimed to believe the Bible at least at the time of her ordination.

But apart from Biblical instruction, the Biblical God is a father by analogy. Modern science discovered last century that is is the male X and Y chromosomes when united with the female’s X chromosome that actually determines the child’s being at the moment of conception, whether it is a boy or a girl. 

The Biblical narrative of creation relates that God created human beings, albeit, creating the female from the male. Our description of God as ‘He’ or ‘Father’ reflects our own understanding of the father as the cause of the being of both male and female, a cause confirmed by modern science.

Dr David Long is a retired solicitor and economist.

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