The whole of Christian doctrine, 140 characters at a time

On gendered pronouns

A couple of people have tweeted about my use of pronouns in the Twystematics. This is an explanation, not a justification.

English lacks a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun. This is not news.

In writing, I take the view – accepted by almost everyone today – that the older practice of using male pronouns as generic is no longer acceptable; I will resort to a singular ‘they’ sometimes (now allowed by the OED…); more often I will switch between male and female pronouns with some deliberate attempt at balance.

In referring to God, in historical writing I tend to re-cast sentences so as to avoid any need for pronouns referring to God (my Baptist Theology contains none, for instance); in doing theology proper, where God is the subject of almost every sentence, I find this impossible. I have here adopted the old practice of capitalised male pronouns; I do not think that this is a good answer to how to refer adequately to God in contemporary English; I do think it might be the least bad answer.

(‘Godself’ and similar are OK, if ugly, until one tries to write extensively on the Trinity; ‘Fatherself; Sonself; Spiritself’? No.)

Others will think other answers are better. Probably in ten years’ time I will – and anyway contemporary idiom will have shifted slightly again. For now, this is my best attempt to negotiate the problems.