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If one doesn't wish to refer to God as 'he' or 'she', can one use the gender neutral pronoun 'one' to refer to God in third person --- for example:

"God should do whatever one wants".

"Since it is God rather than humankind who is the Creator of everything, it is up to God to decide by what codes of conduct one wishes humanity at large to stand by".

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"One" does not refer to any specific person, but rather to a single person in general. From a strictly linguistic perspective, as opposed to theological, the word you want is "they". Traditionally, "they" is a third person plural pronoun, but modern English is evolving to have a third person singular usage of "they" for when neither "he" nor "she" is appropriate.

For the theological perspective on this question, you could ask it on

From my relatively uninformed perspective, it seems to me that using a pronoun traditionally meant for the third person plural to describe a single entity could lend itself to describing concepts of God/divinity.

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We use 'one' to talk about a generalised concept of people in general. It is an indefinite personal pronoun, and cannot be used as a gender-neutral substitute for 'he' or 'she' when talking about the Christian God. There is little agreement among Christians about how to do this, or whether it is necessary. The Church of Sweden made the decision in 2017 to simply use 'God' instead of either human-gender personal pronoun. The head of that church said, illustrating the usage: ""theologically we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human". Some Christians, however, feel that such usage undermines the doctrine of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) because it de-masculinises the "Father". Some churches try to give both sexes equal time by alternately using 'he' or 'she'. The Church of England Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, adopts the Swedish practice, and has said that God should not be referred to as “he”. She says, “We’re told that God created human beings in God’s likeness… If I am made in the image of God, then God is not to be seen as male. God is God.”

Gender neutral pronouns for God

  • I will leave this as a comment: I always gathered that the Virgin Mary became pregnant after the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit visited her in the night. Mediaeval theologians puzzled over how the insemination was done, Mary remaining, as she did, a virgin. I think I read somewhere that they concluded it was done via her ear. I don't know if this is established doctrine, but if it is, the doctrine of God the Father does not seem in any imminent danger from calling God 'she' or just 'God'. of course, this whole way of thinking is ludicrous, and leads one into what I might call theo-biology. – Michael Harvey Apr 19 at 19:52
  • Is not referring to God as 'God' every time a reference to God is wanting to be made awkward, far too repetitive and too obvious that one is trying not to use masculine or feminine pronouns with reference to God? For me, saying, for example, "God created humankind in God's image. God loves humankind as God loves everything that God has created" sounds far too awkward and, quite frankly, ridiculous. Is there not a way that one can omit third person pronouns, gender-specific possessive adjectives and the like from one's speech when gender inclusive speech is wanting to be deployed entirely? – OneWhoBelievesInPeace Apr 19 at 21:36
  • Well, I understand your concerns, and I have to say, as someone who hovers between atheism and the Sea of Faith, once you start to think along those lines, who know where it might end? – Michael Harvey Apr 19 at 22:32
  • You really have to decide which interest group you want to offend, those happy with a male god, those that want a gender neutral trinity or those who find the archaic thee/thy/thou faintly ridiculous. It’s partly the fault of English which lacks the useful gender neutral, respectful “U/u”” of the Afrikaans language, and possibly Dutch and Flemish. – Ronald Sole Apr 19 at 22:38
  • @Ronald Sole If I had to choose from the available options, I'd certainly choose removing gender-specific language from discourse around God entirely. If God is believed to be whom the classical theist says, then God is by definition a sexless and genderless Being, a Being who is utterly transcendent. Again, is there not a way one can choose not to use gender-specific possessive adjectives, personal pronouns and the like whilst still being grammatically correct when speaking about God without resorting to the use of 'they' in a gramatically singular fashion? – OneWhoBelievesInPeace Apr 19 at 22:50

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