Alvin Plantinga: Brief Note on the Use of the Generic
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
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
(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.