The Heart of It All: The Holy Spirit

August 27, 2013

by Peter Amsterdam

The Gender of the Holy Spirit

Audio length: 10:06

Download Audio (9.3MB)

(You may need to right-click the above links and select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" to download videos and audios to your computer.)

(For an introduction and explanation regarding this series overall, please see The Heart of It All: Introduction.)

In the late 1970s and early ’80s our founder, David Berg, presented the concept of the Holy Spirit representing the womanly or motherly aspect of the Trinity. Scriptural support for this concept was drawn from Genesis 1:26–27[1] and Proverbs 8:12–31.[2]

TFI’s Statement of Faith reflects this understanding by saying:

We believe that the feminine and maternal elements of the Trinity of God are manifested in the Holy Spirit, who comforts and nurtures believers.

From David’s Writings

In David’s writings, he summarized the idea this way:

Another amazing fact that surprises many people is that [from Scripture it can be deduced that] the Holy Spirit is portrayed in the form of a woman.—As the comforting Spirit of love, the mother-figure of the Trinity. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1, the story of creation, it says, “And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”—Genesis 1:26–27.

Here we see God the Father obviously speaking with someone as He’s talking about making man in “Our” image, after “Our” likeness. And then to show you what “Our” image and likeness is, it says, “male and female He created them.”

The feminine portrayal of the Holy Spirit is also found in the Bible’s book of Proverbs, where God’s Spirit is portrayed as “wisdom”: “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? She cries aloud, ‘To you, O men, I call; I raise my voice to all mankind. Hear, for I will speak of excellent things, and I open my lips to speak of right things. For my mouth shall speak truth! The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the earth existed. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, when He marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always in His presence.”—Proverbs 8.

Of course, as with God Himself, the Holy Spirit is just that—a Spirit, which is merely represented or pictured as having a bodily form.—In this case, female, being the mother-figure of the Trinity, just as God is pictured as a father-figure. But this does not necessarily mean that God actually looks like most artists have tried to portray Him—as an elderly gentleman with long flowing white hair and beard.—Nor does it mean that the Holy Spirit is an actual woman. These are mere portrayals, representations, illustrations to help our finite, childlike, human minds to somehow grasp and personify our heavenly Father and His precious Holy Spirit of love![3]

If you don’t agree with this feminine representation of the Holy Spirit, that’s fine.—It’s really not that important whether you believe that the Holy Spirit is manifested as a male, a female, a pigeon, or a dove. It’s not a major doctrine with us or something that we insist that people believe.[4]

God Is Spirit

Scripture teaches that God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is spirit, which means God doesn’t have a body and therefore has no specific gender. In other verses God says that He is not a man, meaning He is not a material being; therefore He is neither male nor female. (See “The Nature and Character of God: God Is Spirit” for more on this subject.)

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.[5]

God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind.[6]

The Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man…[7]

God is Spirit. He isn’t human. He is neither male nor female. As David said in the quotation above, “the Holy Spirit is just that—a Spirit, which is merely represented or pictured as having a bodily form.”

Feminine Attributes Ascribed to God

While the majority of the time Scripture speaks of God as being masculine, using terms which refer to male representations, such as Father, King, Husband, etc., there are also some verses in which God is portrayed as being involved in womanly activities. All of these portrayals, both male and female, are either metaphors or anthropomorphismsexpressions which attribute human physical and emotional characteristics, as well as human experiences, to God, in order to help us understand Him and what He’s like. Using these terms helps us picture what God is like. However, they shouldn’t be taken to specifically mean that God is male or female, for God is neitherHe is Spirit.

It is, however, interesting that Scripture depicts female or feminine images or activities in reference to God. It’s important to remember that during the Old Testament times, God being a Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, was as yet unknown. When female images were attributed to God, the writers weren’t attributing them to one of the persons of the Trinity, but simply to God. Since the Incarnation of Jesus, God the Son, and the coming of the Holy Spirit after His ascension, the concept of the Holy Spirit, one member of the Trinity, portraying female qualities or engaging in feminine activities, blends in nicely with the mentions of the female images attributed to God.

In Scripture God likens Himself to a woman in labor, to a mother who nurses her child, who comforts her children, a God who bore and who protects His people.

For a long time I have held My peace; I have kept still and restrained Myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant.[8]

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.[9]

You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.[10]

In Hosea 11, God is portrayed as being involved in activities which would normally be handled by a mother.

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk … I bent down to them and fed them.[11]

Another example is God’s role as a midwife, a role that was only performed by women in Old Testament times.

You are He who took me from the womb; You made me trust You at my mother’s breasts. On You was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb You have been my God.[12]

Upon You I have leaned from before my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb.[13]

In Conclusion

Nowhere does Scripture specifically state that the Holy Spirit is female, nor does one expect it to, as the Spirit of God is spirit and therefore has no gender. Yet within the Old Testament, which was written before the understanding of God being a trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost), God is spoken of in a manner which includes examples of maternal and womanly attributes and activities. In light of the Bible verses which speak of male and female being made in God’s image;[14] God’s wisdom being spoken of in feminine form, and referenced as being with God at the creation of the universe;[15] and with other female anthropomorphic references to God, one can understand the concept of feminine and maternal elements of the Trinity of God being manifested in the Holy Spirit.

As David said:

I like to think of the Holy Spirit as the God-Mother, always gently loving, wooing, comforting, winning, soothing, and healing like a Mother—characteristics usually associated more with the feminine than the masculine. So to me the female image of the Holy Spirit of wisdom in Proverbs is very convincing![16]

If you begin to accept that mother concept and apply it to Her relationship with the Trinity, it fits beautifully! I think it helps you get a much better idea of the beauty and the wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit.[17]

You don’t have to believe it or receive it—all you need is Jesus for salvation![18]

David expressed what he believed God had shown him regarding the Holy Spirit representing the feminine elements of the Trinity. While this is not something expressed in standard Christian theology, Scripture does at times speak of God in terms of female attributes, which lends credence to the concept of the Holy Spirit exemplifying the feminine and maternal aspect of the Triune Godhead.

[1] Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

[2] I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.

 13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.

 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;

 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.

 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

 18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.

 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.

 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice,

 21 granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.

 22 The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old.

 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth,

 26 before He had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.

 27 When He established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep,

 28 when He made firm the skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep,

 29 when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth,

 30 then I was beside Him, like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always,

 31 rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

[3] “Take a Trip Out of This World,” Treasures (1987), 638–39.

[4] “The Answers of the Children of God” (1987).

[5] John 4:24.

[6] Numbers 23:19.

[7] 1 Samuel 15:29.

[8] Isaiah 42:14.

[9] Isaiah 66:13 NIV.

[10] Deuteronomy 32:18.

[11] Hosea 11:3–4.

[12] Psalm 22:9–10.

[13] Psalm 71:6.

[14] Genesis 1:26–27.

[15] Proverbs 8.

[16] Goddess of Love, #723, 1978, par. 24–25.

[17] The Dream Queen, The Holy Ghost, #1304, 1982, par. 17.

[18] The Dream Queen, Double Issue Introduction, #1300, 1982, par. 13.