Why was this question asking how we should refer to the Christian God migrated to the Christianity site?


Firstly the question was largely edited by other members. I just asked how we should refer to the Christian God: she, it or they because many people frown upon the use of "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun.

I think this is purely about the usage of an English pronoun.

  • Christianity.SE closed it as opinion based. A rewording might ask about what is the current status. Frankly I think this is too broad a question because there are volumes that discuss the issue.
    – Mitch
    Jan 8, 2015 at 16:07
  • Searching for gender-neutral pronoun returns a number of hits (many marked as duplicates). That may help with grammatical correctness, but doesn't answer your question about actual attested usage of non-masculine pronouns with respect to God.
    – Celery Man
    Jan 8, 2015 at 19:10
  • [Sorry, that should be “the question”, rather than “your question”. I tried to edit, but got hit with the "comments can only be edited for 5 minutes" hammer.]
    – Celery Man
    Jan 8, 2015 at 19:19
  • 1
    You can probably make the question better and reopened, but you don't yet have an account there. Get an account there and we can help you get it going.
    – user39425
    Jan 9, 2015 at 0:29

2 Answers 2


As I commented (just before this Meta question appeared) on the question in both places,

This question asks about domain-specific language and is more suited to a domain-specific SE site, since there is one. I've adjusted it to make it even more fitted there (and probably should have edited it there rather than on ELU -- sorry about that).

The question was not well-received on ELU, having been downvoted to -4 with no upvotes. Comments indicated that it would be better asked on a domain-specific site which could justify the use of the pronoun.

Since SE does have a relevant site for the domain of the question (whether to refer to the Christian God by a different pronoun than he) I migrated it there. In order to demonstrate that there is a precedent for feminist language, I added in a reference to two notable female figures from the Middle Ages who did refer to God as Mother.

Had the question remained on ELU, it would almost certainly have been closed as opinion-based, having garnered two close-votes before migration. On C.SE, it can be answered by those who know the domain. It's had at least one upvote.

In hindsight, the adjustment of the question to better fit C.SE should have happened on that site. I won't make that mistake again.

  • What exactly do you mean by domain-specific language? Jan 8, 2015 at 10:06
  • I mean language which is specific to a particular sphere of knowledge (in this case, Christianity). You are asking about how to refer to God, whose sex is not as immediately obvious as that of the guy next door. Consequently it's not a question of English; it's a question about God and whether female/neutral pronouns are acceptable.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 8, 2015 at 11:09
  • 5
    If you were to ask a question about a hermaphrodite and whether they should be referred to as him/her/it, the question would be closed as opinion-based with "Ask that person". Where you can't ask God directly, it's reasonable to ask people who may know how God would answer.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 8, 2015 at 11:10
  • The whole question of Bible interpretation involves languages other than English. While contextualisation in exegesis may often be acceptable (eg The Living Bible has the verb 'boomerang'), questions about the nature of the Godhead require the utmost care in translation. Thus 'The Hebrew word for our English "God" is Elohim. The "im" on the end of the word always signifies plurality and the word elohim of itself indicates a plurality within itself. But it can take singular verbs (when it refers to the one Godhead revealed to Israel) / plural verbs (when it refers to pagan deities).' [A.S.K.] Jan 8, 2015 at 11:41
  • @AndrewLeach You seem to be saying that Christianity is a special domain implying that it does not have much to do with the English language. I searched the Corpus of Contemporary American English for the word "God". It returned 106221 results. I guess most of the results refer to the Christian God. I think it shows that the notion of the Christian God is an important part of the English language. Jan 8, 2015 at 13:26
  • 2
    @ivanhoescott To speak for Andrew, no, he's not saying that a special domain "does not have much to do with the English language". He's saying that people in that specific domain would have better knowledge about what is appropriate language use in that particular domain. "What do you call that rope used on a sailboat that connects the sail from the yardarm to the mast?" sailing.SE (if it exists) would probably know better than here, even though they're not primarily a language site.
    – Mitch
    Jan 8, 2015 at 16:03
  • There is no way that that's an answerable question on Christianity Stack Exchange, and it has indeed been closed there.
    – TRiG
    Jan 8, 2015 at 17:35
  • The Christianity group allows “explanations of the beliefs and practices of a denomination or movement”, but not “a survey of all Christian views on a particular subject ”. So I guess you could ask "In the Roman Catholic church, is God regarded as male, female, neither, or both?" but not "In which Christian traditions is God regarded a gender-neutral?". [My 2 cents: if you accept the doctrine of the Trinity, then God is at least two-thirds male!]
    – Celery Man
    Jan 8, 2015 at 18:46
  • @CeleryMan Not that it really matters, but for the sake of other readers having correct information, "overview" questions are allowed on Christianity.SE, but they are sometimes difficult to draft. Ref: Inquiring perspectives on one matter from throughout all of the Christianity spectrum
    – user39425
    Jun 22, 2015 at 17:20

I reasoned that this question belonged on the Christianity site rather than EL&U as follows.

  • Christianity is a world wide religion, practiced in many languages, not just English.

  • The underlying question has a long history of debate in multiple languages.

Leading to my conclusion that

  • The gender of that religion's God is a matter for those who have expertise in that religion.

Unfortunately for this question, it did not fit the rules of Christianity.SE. Every SE community has it's own rules, and they apply them as they see fit.

  • 2
    Complete utter tosh. If I wanted to know the origins of the word Buddhism would I need to ask my question on Buddhism.SE (if such a site existed)? The English language uses/used the pronoun He when speaking about the Christian God, note the capital letter, which differentiates it from the "mortal" he. The OP is asking whether it is politically incorrect to refer to God as being male, which is POB (i.e. Primarily opinion based)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 9, 2015 at 6:02
  • Always good to receive a well reasoned rebuttal. Argument by inaccurate analogy has such a long and honorable tradition. By all means disagree - write your own answer. I simply present my reasoning for suggesting the question for being moved. Those are facts, not tosh, whatever that is.
    – user63230
    Jan 9, 2015 at 7:16
  • 1
    The re-written question has actually been re-opened on C.SE., and answered (Yes, there are traditions which do relax gender-specification when referring to God). Whether one should do that is a matter of opinion, of course.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 9, 2015 at 14:12
  • @Mari-LouA The English language doesn't use the pronoun He! Some people do, but definitely not all, and definitely not even all Christians! It's probably a minority of all groups. Jan 14, 2015 at 7:24
  • 1
    Who is the minority? Christians who refer to their God with "He" written or spoken, or religious groups who believe their God is either female or gender neutral?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 14, 2015 at 9:50

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