Reflections on Biblical and
Christian Philosophy

Alvin Plantinga: Brief Note on the Use of the Generic "She"

Plantinga's Use of "She."  It seems to me that many philosophers have gone to the generic "she" over against the historically generic "he."  At least Plantinga has.  I confess that I do not know whether there is a movement in philosophy to change the historical generic pronoun, but I suspect that it is becoming more prevalent.  A brief survey of the Internet does not demonstrate any widespread effort to make this change.  In fact, convention still seems to favor the generic "he."  (See here.)

In every area of philosophy, I try to discern and separate Biblical ideas from non-Biblical ("natural" or "autonomous") ideas.  Plantinga is at minimum making light of the Biblical use of "he," and maximally he is contributing to the destruction of Biblical authority.  Certainly, I can understand the modern effort to give more status to women in the marketplace of ideas.  Women have had to fight for their recognition in this arena.  However, there are some Biblical issues that must  be considered.

(1) The masculine is the authoritative head in Scripture.  This principle takes two forms.  (A) Prophetic and apostolic writers are all men, and all the Biblical writers are men.  (B)  The authoritative head of the family, the Church, and the State are delegated to men.  Here is not the place to address all the nuances of masculine-feminine roles.  I am simply asserting that all places of authority over others are designated to men Biblically.  They head the family, the Church, and the State.  Women may only have authority over other women and children under the "age of consent." 

Do women have insights that men do not?  Of course, they do.  Should women participate in the ideas of the marketplace?  Certainly, they should.  Men ought to listen more to women for their wisdom and insights.  But, primarily, women's roles are in the home.  The woman of Proverbs 31 is involved in many pursuits, but her primary role is that of mother and wife.  Some women are gifted to be single and to serve God in the other gifts that He has given.  But, again, the primary role of women is as stated.  Many women have found that in home-schooling, they have achieved a status far beyond any other influence on their family and eventually on society.  My position here is not to minimize the Biblical roles of women.

(2) God chose masculine names for Himself.  The Hebrew and the Greek have definitive pronouns for both masculine and feminine genders.  God intended authority through the masculine gender.  Is God male or female?  Does gender apply to God?  On the one hand we do not know.  Likely, God is above and beyond gender.  On the other hand, we should not minimize the gender that He chose for Himself in His Revelation.  He wanted mankind to know Him as masculine.  He is not the Mother but the Father "God."

(3) The only reason that there is a movement away from "he" to "she" is the feminist agenda.  One can postulate all he wants about the abuses of women in the past in the myriad ways that have been named.  And, no person acquainted with Biblical justice should ignore true abuses.  But it cannot be reasonably denied that it is the modern feminist agenda that is pushing various superficial reforms.  One change is the grammatical use of gender-specific pronouns. 

(4) The use of "she" is distracting to the central arguments being presented.  I am not sure that this assertion can avoid the counter-assertion of being "picky."  Nevertheless, my train of thought, and I am sure of many others, is distracted by the appearance of "she" in the place of "he."

Plantinga's use of "she," then, has a double negative effect.  It undermines the authority and identity of God while promoting the general agenda of the feminists.  Now, I am certain that he has had no intention of those effects.  But the issue is always the authority of the Bible.  Biblically, God's own authority and communication is masculine, and He has ordained the same for social structures.  To advance any agenda other than His own has a doubly negative effect.  In this case, the negative applies to God's Revelation and His authority, and the positive applies to the feminist agenda.


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