God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them… The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
Genesis 1:27; 2:22, UNASB
Last month we were examining the inclusion of sex in our games, but in doing so we touched on something that goes far beyond sex: we briefly considered the problem of gender. We mentioned in passing that our fiction sometimes includes races which are not characterized by the same genders, let alone the same gender roles, as ours. To recall a few examples, the aliens of Enemy Mine combine masculine and feminine within themselves such that they have their own children on their own, each parent giving birth to children rather spontaneously without interaction with any other of its kind. The amoeba-like Dralasites of the game Star Frontiers switch genders during their ordinary life cycle, either producing spores or receiving spores depending on hormonal changes within themselves such that when in feminine form they might at any moment sprout a growth that would become the child of an unknown father. In the television version of Alien Nation, three genders are required to produce offspring: a male, a female, and an enabler to prepare the female for the male. These are just fictional notions, not realities, yet we know that there are microscopic organisms which do not have gender identities as we understand them, so the concepts are not entirely inconceivable.
There is an ancient interpretive tradition of the Genesis passage quoted above which suggests that Man was initially created without gender distinction. It was thought that initially he had male and female within one being. This, according to the rabbis (and certainly it would seem so in other passages), was like God; God incorporated within Himself all that was male and all that was female. Thus man, as originally created, was a single gender until God divided him into male and female parts specifically so that the parts would need each other.
Clearly one God can divide His aspects in infinite variety. There seems no inherent reason why a creature could not be created with a single gender, or with seven or eight distinct genders which interact, or with life cycles which cause them to move from one gender to another as they grow. God chose to divide man into male and female. He treated most of the animals of our planet similarly (with quirks here and there, such as male seahorses who carry the young within their pouches and genderless amoebae which divide into two identical creatures when they have matured sufficiently). However, we need not conclude from this that all creatures throughout the universe or in other universes (should there be any such creatures) are necessarily divided in the same manner.
I came to this realization in part as I considered neopaganism. In ancient times, pagans created gods in their own image, carving faces and forms out of wood or metal. Modern neopagans don’t do this. Most of them believe in and revere the god and the goddess.
It was this that stuck in my mind. Christianity maintains that God is both male and female; neopaganism decrees that the male and female are distinct at the level of the divine. To the Christian, the very concept of the goddess is nonsense because God transcends gender. We call Him “Him” because “Him” is properly the personal pronoun for a person of unspecified gender—that is, in languages which descend from proto-Hittite, the use of the feminine personal pronoun “her” always means a person known to be female (or, in some languages, an object or creature or idea that has become personified as feminine), while the use of the masculine form means a person, who might be male or female. God, being both male and female, is properly referred to as “Him” in such languages, and we understand (or at least, we should understand) that this does not limit Him to that which we understand as male or masculine. He expresses all masculine and feminine character within Himself.
The neopagan division of the divine into male and female is a terribly anthropomorphic notion, a making of a god in our own image, as much perhaps as carving one from wood or stone. Beyond that, it is also terribly limiting to the possibilities of our reality. If the divine itself were divided into male and female, god and goddess, then this division is not merely a biological quirk but a fundamental aspect of reality. It must be that all creatures, or at least all sufficiently advanced creatures, reflect this division—not just humans, and not just those on earth. A god and goddess would, it seems, be locked into imitating their own identity. Thus the neopagan view of the divine suggests that these unusual gender concepts are not merely improbable but heretical.
Perhaps more striking, not only does the neopagan concept that there is a god and a goddess make maleness and femaleness fundamental aspects of reality, it puts them in eternal tension. They will always be separate, they will always be distinct, they will always be in some sense at odds with each other. They cannot be reconciled, because the goddess cannot be the god and the god cannot be the goddess.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24, UNASB
To put it another way, again paraphrasing from the ancient rabbis, He made one into two so He could make two into one. Even as He incorporates masculine and feminine within Himself, He ordains that men and women would come together into one creature incorporating masculine and feminine within itself. The god and goddess cannot do this; they are perpetually distinct.
The god and goddess also cannot separate themselves into different categories—there cannot be three genders or five genders or seven genders, nor can there be a creature without gender. These creatures cannot exist in the universes of the neopagans. Our God, if He can divide His nature into male and female, can divide and unify it in any way He chooses. Christianity is a liberating theology in this regard. Christianity is the superior faith when it comes to gender values: male and female are aspects of the same God, who can express Himself in any way He desires.
There will be those who are not persuaded by this; they will hold to the view that creatures must always be male and female because this is how God created man. It may be that such gender divisions are universal; from a biological standpoint this is the most practical approach we have yet imagined, providing the best foundation for unification and diversification within a species with the greatest chance of long-term survival. That would not be a problem for Christianity, as God certainly could use the same model everywhere. If He chose in some world to abandon that model, it would demonstrate the folly of the god and goddess distinction to which so many cling. Whether or not He has done this, the possibility demonstrates that the fundamentals on which we understand reality are again superior.
I hope that in contrasting The God against the god and goddess concept we can see how much less limiting our faith is in this regard than we may have supposed. It certainly is not necessary for us to include characters or creatures in our worlds which break the standard male and female mold, but it isn’t heretical, either.
This article was originally published in September 2003 on the Christian Gamers Guild’s website. The entire series remains available at its original URL.