The Urantia Book Fellowship

God, Man, and Supreme

Functional Gender Designation in The Urantia Book

The inspired word of the Judeo-Christian Bible is written in very human language. The society and culture into which its translation to sacred text took place inexorably conditioned this language. The ancient patriarchal traditions that influenced the Bible's origins have served to place their own cultural character and social mores into the gender-conditioned language of this scripture, especially as this language is applied to describing the personal aspects of God and Deity. This resulting gender-conditioned language permeates present-day Judeo-Christian theology. This language is prevalent throughout both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The revelators of The Urantia Book carry many of these language traditions into their own vocabulary, but they do so with one very important distinction. As we will see, their use of gender-descriptive terminology for aspects of personal Deity very often adds a whole new level of connotative distinction, a distinction carrying with it functional meanings that transcend the level of simple human gender. In much the same way, I too attempt in these writings to follow much of this same established pattern.

The concept of a personal God is expansive beyond our finite capabilities to characterize him. Because of our remoteness from the absolute level of consciousness, our finite level of comprehension cannot capture his infinite nature - human language will always prove incapable of fully discovering the inscrutable mystery of the Godhead. Our human language is utterly inadequate for fulfilling this task. From our experiential, finite perspective, we can only perceive the existential, eternity reality of God as a time-space conditioned relativity. Our circumscribed viewpoint, our inability to grasp the concept of unqualified eternity, must be supplemented by the revealed eternity viewpoint.

There is inherent risk in our attempts to reduce the essential nature of God to our finite level of human comprehension. God is ultimately beyond all attempts to categorize him. If we use our understanding of gendered terms to describe God's personal nature, if we use these terms for ascribing to God the human qualities that we understand as masculine and feminine character traits, we are in danger of metaphorically putting the cart before the horse. Rather, we are better served by realizing that the essential nature of humanity is fundamentally dependent upon God as the true First Source and Center of all realities, and that the qualities of gender we know as masculinity and femininity are ultimately derived from God as a personal being and as our spiritual Father.

By deriving gender relationships from higher functional and cosmic patterns, we may begin to understand how men and women are truly complemental to one another by creative design.  If we truly wish to discover the quintessential nature that characterizes the mortal estate, we must first seek for insights into the expansive nature of God that conceptually transcend the level of the finite material mind. If we wish to discover the underlying purpose and design of such a personal God that gives rise to the male and female derivation of human gender, we can aspire to this elevated conceptual grasp because we are assured by faith that a fragment of this same personal God actually indwells our minds. God partners with us to spiritually elevate our thoughts and desires - he incessantly inspires us to rise above the mortal estate, to courageously enter into the spiritual kingdom of heaven, and he himself is the very scaffolding that enables us to achieve this very goal.

The presenters of the papers contained within The Urantia Book have resisted following a revelatory path that completely divorces itself from the traditional language and symbolism as embodied by Judeo-Christian theological conventions. However, in so doing, they have resourcefully decided to infuse this human terminology with new and transcendent functional meanings. By means of theologic compromise and strategic concessions to established norms of terminology, they have maintained a necessary and vital tie to the past.

On this world of mortal habitation, gender characteristics have shaped the conceptual imagery central to religious language - this custom directly affects the way in which men and women experience their respective existences. For example, the Judeo-Christian tradition has elevated the concept of an exclusively male, patriarchal representation of God as the sole Creator of the heavens. This tradition has permeated present-day theology, bringing about a corresponding lack of feminine imagery for such divine applications as prayer and worship. Western religion tends to designate God with masculine titles far more than it ever uses feminine titles. Using masculine terms like "He" or "Father" to refer to God has evolved to its present usage as a natural extension of a religion born of a society where men were the traditional ruling class, educators, and leaders. Today, however, we are beginning to realize that if you think of God only as Father, you have an inadequate notion of God.

Historically, certain enlightened individuals have come to believe that the Bible itself was not necessarily the primary source of women's oppression. The real problem was more directly attributed to the cultural bias of male translators and interpreters. Subsequent efforts therefore concentrated on reinterpreting the Bible. This approach opened up the possibility for providing a focus on the human element in biblical texts, on questions of authorship and historical development, and on literary aspects of the Bible. It was believed that the Bible should be investigated like any other historical document and then interpreted based on the evidence.

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