The role of Jesus in God’s providence points to a crucial question, perhaps the most crucial question that any theology of providence needs to address: What does it mean to say that it is a particular human being, indeed, a particular man, who exercises God’s sovereign providence over the whole of creation?Terry J. Wright, Providence Made Flesh: Divine Presence as a Framework for a Theology of Providence. Paternoster Theological Monographs (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009), p. 232, italics original
Society for the Study of Theology, and had some provisional ideas for an essay, but I’m finding it difficult to motivate myself to do some proper research on anything at the moment beyond reading books for review. (Blame Facebook; blame Netflix; blame anything that isn’t actually me.) But this week, with all the fuss about gendered language in the Church of England’s liturgy, and with Steve Holmes’s excellently thought-provoking blog post on ‘God, gender, and transsexuality’, the topics of the man Jesus and the doctrine of providence have been thrust once more into the forefront of my mind. And so I ask: Is providence gendered?
God is not male; God is not female; God is beyond sex and beyond gender. But Jesus, even the resurrected Jesus, is a man and presumably cisgendered. (You’ll forgive me for using terminology incorrectly, if indeed I’m doing so. Gender Studies isn’t exactly my area of expertise.) So it is a man who exercises providential sovereignty over all things. But what does this mean in practice?
One way to deal with the matter is to bring ecclesiology into the providential mix – again, something I’m keen to do and hinted at in Providence Made Flesh. The resurrected Jesus may well be a man who exercises providential authority from the right hand of the Father; but the idea that God acts in the world through the Spirit-enabled actions and presence of the Church, which, in some way, is the body of Jesus, suggests that providence is definitely gendered but with every possible gender.