Notes on Inclusive Language
(Abridged from original Document)
by Warren F. Forgay
In the 1960s, a powerful new political movement, militant feminism, arose in Western countries. This revolutionary social movement (initially confined to the radical Left) made a series of demands, including: equal pay for equal work (later changed to equal pay for work of "equal value"), abortion on demand, a "liberalization" of divorce laws, a glorification of sexual freedom including lesbian activity, and an insistence (most especially by English-speaking North American feminists) that everyone use "non-sexist" language, i.e. inclusive language (also known as "gender-neutral" language). It is worth examining this issue at least briefly, because of the influence it is having on the Church, especially in the new translations of the Bible. It has in effect made one's choice of a Bible translation a quasi-political act, and has had the effect of transforming our understanding
of the Scriptures.
Prior to the early 1970s, it seems that no one had ever heard of "inclusive language". Yet in a span of just twenty years, this had become a virtual dogma not only for militant secularists outside the Church, but also for many secularists within the Church itself. Since 1983, most of the new modern translations of the Bible (and all of the widely published ones) have adopted inclusive language (and which, for no consistent reason, often avoid such language when reference is being made to God.) Indeed, the desire to use inclusive language is almost certainly the real reason (other than, perhaps, a desire for profits) for the new avalanche of modern translations, all of which comply with feminist
demands extensively, if not, as yet, completely.
One of the first to call for the use of inclusive language and the abolition of traditional English ("linguistic sexism") was the feminist National Organization for Women in its document Revolution: Tomorrow is NOW, published in 1973. That same year, one of the first documents published which used inclusive language throughout was Humanist Manifesto II, published by the American Humanist Association. (It is interesting to note that the founder of the National Organization for Women, Betty Friedan, was also a signer
of Humanist Manifesto II.)
Before discussing the use of the generic "man" specifically, it should be noted that there is another aspect to the entire inclusive language phenomenon, and the rapid adoption of Inclusive Language Bibles (the true nature of which is often played down by those promoting them). This is the close political alliance between modern feminism and
the modern homosexual movement in secular society. Indeed, the two movements have cooperated closely almost from the beginning. Enrique Rueda comments: "this is why the homosexual and the feminist movements have joined forces to provoke a change in the language by which religion is fashioned and expressed. The proposed change consists in usage of inclusive or nonsexist language, wherein all references to God or persons in general by the usage of "masculine" words is eliminated (i.e. elimination of the generic masculine).
One of the obvious effects of this change is to blur the distinction between genders and the attribution of specific roles according to gender. Naturally, anything that contributes to the dissolution of gender-related distinctions is propounded by the homosexual movement"
[1, page 65]
Specious Arguments for Inclusive Language
There are several arguments used to promote the use of inclusive language and the permissibility of inclusive language Bible "translations" They seem especially popular
today with neo-evangelicals, and are as follows:
1. "Traditional English is offensive to many, especially of the younger
generation; therefore, we must use inclusive language. We must not use words or Bible
translations that offend people."
Response: Doubtless traditional English offends some individuals, especially those who are militant feminists, but the same argument works both ways: many are offended by the use of "inclusive language" (especially in the Bible, hymns, prayers or liturgies). In any case, the Bible has always offended many people for many reasons at many different times in history. It is never right to change the inspired words and message of the Bible so as to make it less "offensive." (That the Bible uses masculine imagery and language that feminists will call "sexist" is shown below, and is really undeniable). The determining factor should
always be Biblical truth and accurate, honest translating of Sacred Scripture, regardless of whether or nor some will be thereby take offense at the words. Otherwise, there is nothing left but complete arbitrariness on the part of the "translator", who decides which portions of Scripture are no longer politically acceptable to people and hence must be changed to suit the taste of the consumer given the nature of the social context. The Bible offends some people for condemning homosexual
behavior. The Bible offends feminists, not only for its teaching on the role of women and the use of masculine imagery (e.g. the generic "man")
but also for its use of masculine pronouns in reference to God. Why do the promoters of inclusive language not abolish masculine "sexist" language in reference to God as well? Because this is not what Scripture
says and teaches? But they have already rejected what Scripture says and teaches in opting for inclusive language in the first place. They can only refrain from doing so for emotional reasons, not, given their axioms, for any other. This is why, sooner or later, the masculine references to God must go too, because the entire inclusive language phenomenon is motivated by external secular
politics, not honesty or faithfulness to Scripture.
2. "People might misunderstand the generic use of words such as 'man' and
feel excluded. Therefore, we must use inclusive language.
Response: Again, truth, not feelings, should determine the language used. Further, little evidence is ever offered to back up the claim that the generic use of words such as "man" lead to a misunderstanding that women are to be excluded. The
meaning of the generic "man", for example, is quite obvious from its context in Scripture, and has never been misunderstood. Even if it were misunderstood, the proper response is not to mistranslate Scripture, but to more effectively teach the meaning of Scripture. Many modern neo-evangelicals, who advocate inclusive language, also advocate the "day-age" interpretation of the days of creation in Genesis
1, whereby the "days" of creation are not taken literally at face value, but are understood as very long periods of time of many millions of years. Yet few, if any of them, have advocated changing the Hebrew
yom ("day") to "geological age of millions of years" in the English translation, even though this is what they think the word really means, and even though they think that the literal sense is too hard to believe today, and even though
their theory the whole Christian Church for the first eighteen hundred years misunderstood the meaning of this Hebrew word. They have
not done so because they recognized that to do so would tamper with the sacred text and
mistranslate the original Hebrew word into English. Mistranslating the Bible into English is no more justified for feminism than it is for evolutionary geology. However, evolutionary geologists are not so busy politically or quite so vociferous in attacking the traditional words of the Bible as are modern feminists. Given their axioms, these liberals must sooner or later also dispense with the masculine references to God and Jesus Christ. Since scriptural authority and honest, accurate translating have in principle already been thrown overboard in the inclusive language versions of the Bible, there is simple no way to prevent such a development. Every single excuse given for abolishing the generic "man" in these versions must logically (and almost certainly will) be applied in the
future in reference to God himself. Why have Christians always referred to God using masculine pronouns? Because such is the usage and teaching of Scripture. Why have Christians always used the generic "man" in English translations? Because such is the usage and teaching of Scripture. One cannot maintain the former and dispense with the latter, or vice versa, once Scriptural authority and honest, accurate translating have been dispensed with.
3. "Traditional English, especially traditional English Bible
translations, are to hard for unbelievers to understand, and hinder many from accepting the
Response: This argument is evidence of a powerful secular mindset. Those who argue thus seem to regard the Bible primarily in a utilitarian sense, i.e., as an evangelistic tool for "winning souls to Christ". In this view, the Bible is valued not so much for what it
is, but rather for what it does, and this may be why it is being treated so shabbily by the modem Church. However, "soul-winning" is not
primarily the intent for which the Bible was really written, though the apostle John does express the hope that those who read his gospel will believe (John 20:21). The Bible was never intended to be an evangelistic tract, and was not primarily written for unbelievers. There are many things in the Bible that are hard to understand,
but this does not justify the mis-translation of Scripture or the "dumbing-down" of Scripture for the utilitarian purpose of more "effective evangelism." Traditional English Bibles correctly follow the inspired Greek and Hebrew in using "masculine imagery" and we are not entitled to change the
inspired text into something else, however offensive non-Christian society at large may find the Biblical usage of "sexist" words and phrases. One must also question whether or not traditional English
really, keeps potential converts from the Gospel, or whether in fact it is something else. In any case, in what other areas of the Bible do the advocates of inclusive language recommend be changed in order to make the Gospel more "attractive" (or less offensive!) to unbelievers?
Why not abolish all masculine references to God? Why not excise or re-write all passages that offends certain homosexual militants? Why not the passages in the Gospel of John that are deemed "anti-Semitic"? Why not re-write the passages describing the role of women in the marriage bond or the Church? There is no end to this political correctness and re-writing of Scripture, once the
secular axioms under which the advocates of inclusive language operate are adopted.
4. "Standard usage of inclusive language is inevitable, and the Church must get with the times and start using it."
Response: There is nothing inevitable about inclusive language, nor of the Church's acceptance of it. (Inclusive language may quickly fade from the secular scene if the Church takes a stand against it). It is true that the Church in the past has hastily adopted other secular trends and ideas, often with little careful reflection, such as evolution, higher criticism, lower criticism, etc. Today it may seem that the homosexual "rights" movement is inevitable. In the 19th century, it seemed that acceptance of evolution theory was inevitable, and there were certainly those in the church who hastily adopted it. But the results have always proved detrimental. The only thing that is inevitable is the return of Christ in judgment, and whether or not He will find us
faithful and about His business rather than that of the feminist (or other) worldly movements. There is nothing inevitable about the usage of inclusive language in secular society, and even if that turned out to be the case, it would not make it any more permissible for the Church to adopt the ways of the world. Traditional English (or Greek, or Hebrew) is
not incomprehensible, though some do take offense at it. What the feminist Revolution proposes to do with all the books written before the mid 1970's, when inclusive language came onto the scene is not clear. The Revolution would seem to have two choices: 1) try to forget and to ignore as much as possible all the literary works of the
pre-Revolutionary past (not to mention films) and hope that few will read them or be much influenced by them or 2) re-write all those works in "non-sexist" English, as the Bible is now being re-written. It is to be doubted, however, that those who love the writings of Shakespeare, Austen, or even C.S. Lewis will ever dream of doing what supposed lovers of the Bible are now doing to the sacred text with their inclusive language versions.
5. "Traditional language implies male headship over the women, and male positions of leadership and authority over the
woman; i.e. traditional
language implies or leads to an inferior status for women; therefore, we must adopt inclusive language."
Response: This is the nub of the whole inclusive language phenomenon, and why it is being promoted. Feminism, a revolution whose primary goal is
power, is a rebellion against any sort of role-distinctiveness for the sexes, and certainly in rebellion against the traditional positions of subordination assigned to women in Old or New Testament teaching (which it falsely claims are positions of inferiority). But all this has really little to do with language in any case, since there is no evidence that "sexist" English (or Latin, or
Greek, or Hebrew) has caused women to be in subordinate roles or positions
of inferiority, nor is there any convincing evidence that has ever been presented that traditional generic
words forced women into harsh and unjust positions. Languages which are not as "sexist" as the Biblical languages or the English language have not resulted in societies in which women have a status more to the liking of modern Western feminism.
6. "Acceptance of inclusive language, does not mean an acceptance of the social agenda
of modern feminism."
Response: But it does mean exactly this. Some examples of this are given above. The very reason feminism came up with the idea of inclusive language in the first place was to advance the social agenda of feminism. Further, the mere use of inclusive language helps advance that social agenda by blurring distinctions between the sexes, and by making the English language more
impersonal (see below). Such usage also is a sign,- a sign of one's willingness to accept (or at least not oppose) the feminist movement. Totalitarian movements
often desire revolutionary changes to language, as George Orwell noted years ago. What is remarkable is the (perhaps willing) blindness of many, especially in the leadership of modern evangelicalism, to the dangers of an all pervasive totalitarian feminism.
Feminist English also makes the language more impersonal, as will be shown below. The dehumanization of man has been a notable characteristic of the 20th Century. It is no coincidence that modern feminism, whose "non-sexist" English blurs distinctions between the sexes (thereby helping to advance the homosexual agenda, as noted above), also dehumanizes children in the womb, reducing them to "fetuses", "products of conception", "potential humans", "embryos", etc. The gruesome slaughter of children in the womb, now running into the millions, and the promotion of sexual perversion, are two of the more outstanding fruits of modern feminism, and should have been enough to convince anyone that the Revolution has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit (see the warning of Jesus in Matthew 7:15-20).
7. "The use of inclusive language is not inconsistent with faithfulness to Scripture or adhering to the complete
inerrancy of Scripture."
Response: Inclusive language is completely inconsistent with faithfulness to Scripture, first because Scripture itself does not use such language, and any honest,
faithful translation of Scripture will likewise not use such language. Second, inclusive language is a wholly artificial political creation, invented to advance an agenda (as described above) which has no warrant or basis in Scripture itself: abortion on demand,
sexual freedom and homosexual behavior, complete sexual egalitarianism, the denigration of the family, easy divorce, the ordination of women, and the rejection of distinctive roles for the sexes. None of these teachings are Scriptural (which is why Christians have throughout the ages have never taught them). That the Biblical Greek
and Hebrew languages use masculine imagery in unquestionable, and to refuse to translate this imagery into English it to really regard it as
uninspired, unimportant, and of no relevance for modern society. Inclusive language changes singular Greek or Hebrew words into plurals makes a shift away from the personal individual to the impersonal collective, gives a misleading impression of the role of women (e.g. the expression "brothers and sisters", found frequently in modern inclusive language Bibles), to name just a few of its incorrect qualities. While in most instances this political language is not applied to God, that time cannot be far off, given the increasing power of feminist politics, the increasingly secular nature of modern Western society, and the lack of any Biblical base for inclusive language. Inclusive language must be recognized for what it is: a roundabout way of rejecting the divine inspiration of Scripture and hence its profitability for
correction (see II Timothy 3:16). That its promoters cannot or will not see that fact strikingly illustrates the power of modern secularism to shape the minds of many within the Church itself.
Generic Words and Their Usage
Like many words, the English word "man" has more than one meaning. Indeed, this word can be said to have layers
of meaning. The generic use of the word "man" is very important; it is also
irreplaceable in English. This is noted below in the following points.
The generic "man" is both personal and singular. At the same time, it also
means the totality of the human race. Because this word is singular and personal, it
demands the use of singular and personal pronouns: "he", "him", "his". This word has a Hebrew Old Testament
equivalent, adam, and a Greek New Testament equivalent, anthropos.
The New Testament does have Greek equivalents for English words such as "people", but the Greek word
anthropos is not one of them, and to use such words for anthropos is to be dishonest in translating Scripture, done simply to appease a radical and profoundly secular political movement. The Greek word for a people is
laos. The Greek word for a rabble or multitude is ochlos. For the words "tribe" or "nation", there is the
Greek word ethnos. The Greek word for "person" is prosopon. The Greek indefinite pronoun
tis used for such words as "anyone", or "someone". The Greek word for "everyone" is
pas, not anthropos. For the adult human male (as opposed to adult human female) there is the Greek word
aner. And the Greek word for the generic "man" is anthropos. Anthropos
functionally may mean the totality of the human race (generic) or, given the context, an individual human
male (never female), exactly as its English equivalent.
That the Greek word anthropos may mean an individual male human being can be proved from numerous passages in the New Testament. Listed below are a few such examples:
Matthew 19:3 "...is it lawful for a man [anthropos] to put away his wife for every
Matthew 19:5 "...For this cause shall a man [anthropos] leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh."
John 7:22 "...ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man" [anthropos].
I Corinthians 7:1 "...It is good for a man
[anthropos] not to touch a woman."
Galatians 5:3: "For I testify again to every man
[anthropos] that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."
Ephesians 5:31: "for this cause shall a man [anthropos] leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh."
In the above examples, it should be noted that anthropos is used even in places where (especially according to feminists) one would expect the Greek word
aner (which means exclusively an individual male). The way anthropos is used in the New Testament, and the frequency with which it is used, shows its importance, and why it is important that this word be translated
Every single instance in which anthropos is used in the New Testament has been examined; while this word can mean an individual, it always means an individual
male, and never an individual female. This word is a masculine
singular, regardless of whether the reference is to an individual male or to the totality of the human race. Only the generic English "man" is a suitable and correct translation for this word, and the King James Version accurately translates it (as do other Bible translations prior to the onslaught of modern feminism.) The meaning
of anthropos is determined by the context in which it is used. Claims that its generic use will be misunderstood by modern society to mean only men and not women are patently absurd. (And even if this were the case, it would be a call for more teaching and explanation. The mistranslation of Sacred Scripture can never be justified, not even for the sake of "relevance" or more
"effective evangelism".) The real reasons for the current mistranslating of
anthropos (and other Biblical words) is political- a desire to promote feminism, to promote modern ideas of sexual egalitarianism. A lack of courage in opposing feminist demands for the use of "inclusive language" may also be a factor. For, whatever else may be said about inclusive language, it is certainly
not the language of the Bible.
It should be noted that any use of inclusive language English translations of
the Bible are really an attack on the verbal inspiration of Scripture itself.
Such translations are dishonest, inaccurate: politically motivated (or, perhaps, profit-motivated). They conform to the world and the spirit of the age in direct violation of Scripture itself. Further, if so-called "sexist" Biblical English is
sinful or immoral to use, then so are the inspired languages of the Bible on
which it is based. There is no escaping this conclusion. Any honest examination will show the
languages of the Bible to be just as "sexist" as traditional English. The only way to hide this fact is to engage in dishonest translating. If feminist language critique were true, it would mean that the Bible itself is not the inspired Word of God, but a mere human document, subject to the
same errors, prejudices, mistaken notions, and sinful concepts as any other
The expression "the Fall of man" is an excellent example that illustrates how the generic "man"
has no synonym. If in this instance, we try to substitute the word "people" for "man" (a favorite feminist "substitute"), we
change the entire meaning of the teaching. The "fall of people" does not refer to an individual because the word "people" is not singular; hence this is a profound shift away from the historicity of the Fall. "Humankind" is even more impersonal than "people", the word being a mere abstraction. On the other hand, if we try to replace the generic "man" with "husband" and "wife" or "Adam and Eve", we again change the meaning of the passage, because it would then imply that only Adam and Eve fell, rather than "man" in the generic sense. And all
of this, of course is related to Jesus calling Himself the Son of man, whom He came to save.
The generic "man" is not "sexist"; it has never excluded women (by definition and by use it
cannot do so), nor has it caused women to be in a role subordinate to that of men in either the Church or the marriage bond. It would seem that the real motivation behind inclusive language is a rebellion against precise, clear, Biblical teaching on the role of women in the Church and the marriage bond, a role that is seen to be subordinate (true) and inferior (false). Feminism is a Revolution which is, at its roots,
un-Scriptural and anti-Scriptural. It is not surprising, therefore, that a manifestation of this rebellion and revolution, inclusive language, is, root and branch, wholly
roots of modern feminism can be traced to such atheistic writers as Simone deBeauvoir, Betty
Friedan, and even Friedrich Engels, whose book, The Origin of the Family
was a landmark work in the development of modern feminist social theory.
"For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall
the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his
Father's, and of the holy angels." Luke 9:26
Warren F. Forgay
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
1. Rueda, Enrique The Homosexual Network (Devin Adair Publishers, Old Greenwich, Connecticut, 1982)
2. Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) wrote his feminist book
The Origin of the Family in 1884. He was a close friend of Karl Marx, and helped develop the modern political theory known as Marxism, which in turn developed into Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, Communism, and also modern Feminism. All of these revolutionary, political theories are profoundly hostile to the Christian revelation, and all have sought to transform (i.e.
corrupt) it or else destroy it. Modern feminism is simply the latest manifestation of this
social theory. That the feminist Revolution intends to destroy Christianity is fairly obvious from the literature; a study of feminist works may be easily obtained from the "Women's Studies" section of any modern bookstore or library. (Scholarly
anti-feminist works are few in number and not easily obtainable, making a study of them by way
of contrast more difficult.)