Feminist Theology

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A theological movement of various strands united in a determination to secure social justice for women. Its origins may be traced to 19th-cent. social campaigns, but it was only after the end of the Second World War (1945), and particularly in the 1980s, that it posed a serious challenge within the Christian tradition. Here the central issue is the unease about associating the female or feminine with the godlike. Since it is agreed that God transcends both sex and gender, feminist theologians argue for a humanly inclusive theology, the ‘envisioning’ of God in a gender-inclusive way. The stumbling-blocks to attributing the full ‘image of God’ to women are held to be fourfold; failure to find the feminine in God; insistence that woman is derivative and hence secondary to man; the assumption that woman is characterized by passivity; and the tendency to identify women with bodiliness as opposed to the transcendent mind. It is claimed that the modern acknowledgement of the equal importance of the part of women in human reproduction (where the male was previously considered the primary source) has wide implications, including that of appropriate language for God, notably metaphors of mother/father. In looking at the Bible, feminist theologians' evaluations of the weight to be given to the biblical perspectives are affected by such factors as the complications of race and class, ‘grass-roots’ experience, and efforts to bring about change in Church and academic institutions. Of special interest to them is the association of Sophia, divine wisdom, with the dignity and intelligence of the human female/feminine. Also central is the conviction of living in the presence of the risen Christ who summons all humans to the transformation of their future relations with one another. See also women, ordination of.

Subjects: Christianity.

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