Question:

I have asked you several questions in the past and really respect your opinions. I'm a freshman in college at the moment and in my English class we are doing a unit on gender inequalities. The teacher (and other people in the class) think that the whole Bible is sexist because God is a male, the restrictions against women, and words like "mankind." In addition to that, they even say that words like mankind, or even everyday words like "you guys" or "freshman" reinforces "rape culture" by subtly being sexist against women. They weren't even considering or focusing on salvation at all but just dismissed the whole Bible and Christianity as sexist. They never asked me directly about this matter, but what would you tell someone who thinks this? I'm not going to pretend that sexism doesn't exist, but this is taking it to a new level. Thank you for your help and time.

Answer:

You appear to be in the midst of people Rush Limbaugh loves to call "femin-nazis." It is the natural response of people when they recognize a perceived error to respond to it by going to an extreme; as if a extreme will balance out a wrong. The flawed reasoning is even captured in our society in the cliche, "Two wrongs don't make a right."

What is missing is an accurate view of history. They claim that events in the past occurred to purposely oppress women, but it is without evidence. Do you really think that someone sat down and decided to use male terms in order to slight the women? Doesn't history tell us that women were treated as more special by men and, as a result, deserved protection?

Since they want to pick on the Bible, you and I accept it as truth, but let's assume for the moment that they will also grant that the Bible does contain a record of history. In the beginning, when God created the world he first made Adam. In the Hebrew, the word 'adam, literally means "red clay," but it also is the word for "man" or "human being." Another Hebrew word for "man" is iysh, which means a male, a champion, or a husband. After proving to Adam that nothing else in the world was comparable to him, God made Eve from one of Adam's ribs. Adam declared that Eve would be called woman because she was taken from man. In Hebrew woman is the word 'ishshah. You can see the root iysh in it. It literally means "from man" and is the word for female and wife.

What is interesting is that memory of this is carried in most of the world's languages. We get "male" and "female" from the French language. Female literally means "from male." We get "man" and "woman" from the Saxon language. Woman literally means "from man." Even in ancient Chinese the symbol for a woman is that of a female being drawn from a sleeping man. (See The Chinese Language and the Creative Hands of God for details.) What we have is ancient memory of where we came from buried in the world's languages.

What you have is a bunch of nuts taking offense from something that has nothing to do with the issue they are championing. To call the world society or our own society a "rape culture" is a juvenile way of trying to insult people. It trivializes the true horrors of rape and tells us that since they are without evidence of a problem they attempt to stir up fear with misused words.

Many languages use the masculine form when neither the male or female is meant. Thus, the proper English way of talking about a child whom you don't know the gender is to use masculine pronouns. The reason isn't a slight against women, it is a necessity because you don't wish to call a human being an "it." It isn't limited to just English, many languages have the same rules. But the reason goes back to the fact that all people came from one original man. You could say that Eve was a clone of man with modifications. Therefore, to say "mankind" or even "man" in the generic is to give honor to the memory that we all came from Adam. "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26).

It was God, not man, who decided to refer to Himself in masculine terms. One reason is because God is a Spirit. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). It would be improper to apply characteristics found in the physical realm, such as male and female, and apply them to beings of the spiritual realm. Both in Hebrew and English the proper gender when gender doesn't apply is male.

We also must respect the fact that God inspired the Bible and gave its writers the words to use. God chose to refer to Himself with masculine terms. We are not in the position to tell God He is wrong. "Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?" (Isaiah 45:9). But I think there are reasons God uses the male terms beyond mere neutrality of gender. God refers to Himself as Father because His role in our lives more closely matches the role of a father than that of a mother. See "Our Father in Heaven" for more details.