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This exciting collection brings together ten of the most respected women theologians today -- Anne E. Carr, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Sandra M. Schneiders, Mary Catherine Hilkert, Mary E. Hines, Mary Aquin O'Neill, Joann Wolski Conn, Catherine Mowry LaCugna, Susan A. Ross, and Elizabeth A. Johnson -- for the comprehensive introduction to each area of contemporary theology from a feminist perpective.
A Vociferous Argument took place in my church recently when a woman charged the visiting preacher with being insensitive to the women in the congregation. He protested that his sermon was simply an attempt to offer a theological understanding of the biblical passages of the lectionary in a way that was faithful to the texts and to traditional teaching. She argued that his approach should use inclusive language, take account of feminist understanding, and that his way of theologizing should incorporate the insights of women about the patriarchal and misogynist character of the Christian tradition. She claimed that she and other women in the congregation were faithful Christians but that their personal integrity demanded fidelity to their own deepest convictions about themselves as fully human participants in the church. His theology, she said, should use the methods of feminist theology to give a sermon that was helpful to women. "What methods?" he asked. Indeed.
What methods have feminist thinkers developed in recent years, and how are they different from those that the preacher learned in seminary? In this chapter, after laying out the contours of theological method in general, I sketch questions of method in feminist theology through the work of two of its most influential representatives. I examine the thought of Rosemary Radford Ruether and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, both Catholic theologians, to delineate some of the methodological issues they raise. I also explore some of the critiquestheir work has received by other theologians. Although Mary Daly, one of the first feminist academicians, warned against "methodolatry" as a rigid traditional framework that considers women as nondata and their questions nonquestions, the issue of an appropriate method for feminist theology has recently come to the fore. It has been raised in different ways by both Catholic and Protestant feminist theologians, as twentieth-century Christian feminist theologymoves into its second generation.
The Nature Of Theological Method
Theology, as knowledge or discourse about God and all things in relation to God, has long been done in different contexts, within many traditions, and with various implicit and explicit methods of approach. Within the wide Christian tradition, the many theologies can be distinguished by their methods. This is so even within the books of the Bible itself, the originating and core document of Christian faith, recognized now as entailing a variety of theological orientations. And it is so in the theologies associated with particular geographical areas or historical periods or with different groups of thinkers or individuals whose writings found their way into the stream of the tradition of the church. Thus biblical, medieval, Thomistic, Lutheran, and Calvinist theologies, Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist theologies display the different starting points, sources and norms, implicit or explicit theoretical assumptions, and interpretive strategies that comprise their methods. In turn, these methods shape and even determine the content or emphases of their discourse about God and God's revelation in Jesus Christ.
As the broad set of Christian traditions developed and the work of theological reflection became more refined, it was always marked by its historical and geographical setting and by the social location and experience of the theologians involved, just as it was marked by the cultural, ecclesial, and personal experience of its intended readers. Changes in theological method often occurred in relation to transformations in the wider culture, in philosophical thinking, and in other fields of human thought . As theological reflection proceeded throughout Christian history, there were increasingly explicit efforts to achieve systematic consistency in its propositions, that is, internal coherence within the various topics and categories of explanation and external coherence with other knowledge and with the cultural and personal experience of its listeners or readers. Thus the question of method today has become a theological topic in itself, as thinkers debate whether Christian thought should, or necessarily does, accommodate itself to its particular cultural time and language while remaining faithful to the whole of Christian tradition or whether it should strive rather for faithful presentation of the grammar and narrative patterns of its originating sources in the Bible and the rules of the classical doctrines.
Only in later times were the categories of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience explicitly differentiated as sources for theological reflection. For the most part, previous theologians assumed these elements in their work, appealing to the central authority of the Bible as it was interpreted in their times, to the authority of earlier theologians or philosophers, to church councils or the pope, to rational argumentation, or to common experience, both cultural and personal, More recent theology is characterized by the conscious attempt to proceed with both consistency and coherence to demonstrate and to argue for the rationality and truth of its assertions about God and all things in relation to God.
Roman Catholic theological methods are clearly outlined in a recent essay by Francis Schüssler Fiorenza. Acknowledging the historical variety of theologies in the ascetic, spiritual, and monastic traditions, he describes three classic academic models that have been most influential --those of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and neoscholasticism -- and several contemporary methods. Augustinian and Thomist methods were concerned to relate revelation (known chiefly in the Scriptures but also in the Christian writings of the past) to current philosophy: Neoplatonism in Augustine's thought and Aristotle in Aquinas's synthesis. Neoscholasticism responded to the challenges of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the rise of the natural sciences with a return to Thomist categories, but understood in a rationalistic and Cartesian framework. The three classic ways share a common emphasis on Scripture and tradition, the scientific character of theology, the centrality of the church community, and the role of experience. They differ in that Augustine emphasized the role of personal purification in the right interpretation of the Bible, whereas Thomas stressed sacra doctrina as a rule-governed procedure with its own authorities, and neoscholastic theology emphasized church reaching.Freeing Theology. Copyright © by Catherine M. Lacugna. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
|1||The New Vision of Feminist Theology - Method||5|
|2||The Bible and Feminism - Biblical Theology||31|
|3||Experience and Tradition - Can the Center Hold? - Revelation||59|
|4||God in Communion With Us - The Trinity||83|
|5||Redeeming The Name of Christ - Christology||115|
|6||The Mystery of Being Human Together - Anthropology||139|
|7||Community for Liberation - Church||161|
|8||God's Embodiment and Women - Sacraments||185|
|9||Feminism and Christian Ethics - Moral Theology||211|
|10||Toward Spiritual Maturity - Spirituality||235|