She shows conclusively that the attempts of a long series of scholars to find Jesus affirming women's leadership in some way have entirely failed.
Jesus and the Feminists : Margaret Elizabeth Kostenberger :
Surely this is an important cautionary tale for our times. Was he a chauvinist? A feminist crusader? Or an egalitarian emancipator of women? Her analysis of underlying hermeneutics is careful and concise. Her conclusions, balanced and well-reasoned.
Is Jesus who they say he is? This is a valuable resource for all who seek to answer this all-important question. We are treated to the entire landscape of feminist scholarship on Jesus, from radical feminists to egalitarian evangelicals. Evangelicals in particular will applaud the effort to set the record straight on Jesus.
Numerous feminist distortions of Jesus and his own understanding and treatment of women are discussed with care, while showing them to be far from the gospels' own portrayal, rightly understood. The role of hermeneutics is central in this discussion, and Jesus and the Feminists provides an excellent case-study on just why a correct hermeneutic matters. Even more to the point: getting Jesus right matters! Her analyses of radical, reformist, and evangelical wings of this movement are methodical, clear, thorough, and mature. Her findings are highly significant.
They force the question: Is Jesus Lord over Western culture's ideologies or their servant? Today a new generation stands poised to replace the aging leaders who ushered feminism into our churches. Her clear and concise charts are a ready and easily understood tool for satisfying a reader's curiosity about the feminists whose works are reviewed as well as presenting in a graphic format that aids in personal understanding and teaching others a synopsis of the issues feminists are bringing to the forefront for discussion. Her table of contents is almost an index at the beginning to help the reader 'scratch where it itches.
I am grateful to have such a resource to use as textbook and supplementary reading for my classes in women's studies and for recommendation on questions that come through my website and women in the churches. Nothing could seem stranger or newer to the ambient culture than a biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood. It is, first of all, and last of all, 'about Jesus.
For Catholicism, the implementation of this program would mean women priests and the deletion of all references to God the Father. For people of all faiths, it would signal the end of the constitutional separation of church and state. The radicalism of some feminist attacks on religion was captured by the fourth and most recent "Re-Imagining" conference, which began by inviting the participants to bite into one of the apples piled in bowls on the tables at which they were sitting.
The point of the exercise was to reclaim Eve and, with her, a woman's right to the knowledge of good and evil. In a similar spirit, a school of Catholic feminist theologians has enthusiastically turned the tools of postmodern cultural analysis against the Virgin Mary, for whom it has little patience — at least in the form in which the Church has presented her. And, at the extreme, many ostensibly Christian feminists call for goddess or Sophia worship on the grounds that the male God and Savior of Christianity do not reflect women's experience.
These feminist critiques of patriarchal religion have begun to make a serious impact upon the churches, most of which suspect that they have not always treated their female members with the respect they deserve.
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But this laudable eagerness to acknowledge women's dignity may be blinding many to the nature of the challenge they are trying to accommodate in a proper Christian spirit. For feminist demands upon the churches have inevitably and invariably hewn more closely to the imperatives of politically radical secularism than to those of Christianity.
Feminist rereadings of religion through the lens of secular concerns has a longer history than many may suspect.
In , at Seneca Falls, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a group of colleagues assembled to defend women's right to the same civic freedom as men enjoyed on the grounds that "all men and women are created equal. In sum, "He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her and to God. Some years later, in The Woman's Bible , Stanton launched an open challenge to religious authority in the name of women's emancipation and self-determination. In a spirit that contemporary feminists would find entirely congenial, she insisted that women's freedom required liberation from artificial laws and customs that, by freeing women, would transform society.
She nonetheless reserved her real fire for the New Testament, which she judged even less friendly to women. Rejecting the Christian claim that the New Testament brought "promises of new dignity and of larger liberties for women," she announced that women's inferior position is actually "more clearly and emphatically set forth by the Apostles than by the Prophets and the Patriarchs.
Catholic and Feminist: Can One Be Both?
With this distinguished ancestry, Mary should have been granted a husband of her own rank rather than a humble craftsman. But then Stanton could not understand why Mary had to be human at all. If an earthly Mother was admirable, why not an earthly Father? In her view, "a wise and virtuous son is more indebted to his mother than she is to him, and is honored only by reflecting her superior characteristics.
Armed with a postmodern theory that insists upon the social construction of all religion, contemporary Catholic feminists are carrying Stanton's impatience with the Virgin Mother to new levels.
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They contend that Catholic moral theology, formulated by a misogynist male hierarchy, has used Mary to guarantee "the perpetuation of compulsory heterosexuality, the valorization of virginity, and the denigration of female sexuality:" Incensed by Pope John II's devotion to her, they insist that reverence for Mary as the virgin Mother of God imprisons women within the traditional feminine stereotypes of virginity or heterosexual marriage. The scope and intricacy of the attack exceeds my purposes here, although it should give Christians pause to see Jesus described as an "illegitimate child.
In underscoring the fundamental secularists of most feminist goals, I am passing no judgment on the inherent worthiness of the goals themselves. Many of those goals, notably equal pay for equal work, are not merely admirable, but necessary as a matter of simple justice. Others may be open to civilized debate, but nonetheless reflect a serious attempt to permit women to move as freely in the world as men and equally with men to enjoy the fruits of their talents and labor. But the worthiness of the goals should not blind us to their single-minded focus upon the goods of this world and, beyond them, to the liberation of the individual woman from binding ties or obligations to others.
This inherent feminist secularism obviously poses serious problems for Catholic women, all the more since most feminists have tended to be critical of Christianity and downright hostile to Catholicism. It is in this context that Rosemary Radford Ruether and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, both Catholic feminist theologians, have joined the attack on the purported oppression, patriarchalism, and male dominance that have deeply compromised Christianity. The many interlocking political and theological debates that pit feminists against Catholics and all orthodox Christians touch upon virtually every aspect of our society, culture, and faith.
At their core, however, lies feminists' visceral hostility to Catholicism's male priesthood and opposition to abortion. Feminists see Catholic teaching on these and other matters as the negation of Catholicism's profession to honor the equal worth and dignity of women and men. Yet belief in the equal dignity of women and men lies at the heart of Catholicism. Catholicism has always insisted upon the freedom of each individual to follow or rebel against the Holy Spirit. Catholicism has always acknowledged the special dignity of women, the ideal of which is embodied by the Virgin Mary.
Historically, these teachings coexisted with Catholicism's tacit or open acceptance of significant inequality between women and men. Recently, however, Catholic theologians, beginning with the holy Father, have increasingly insisted upon the fundamental equality of women and men. Consider, for example, the words of Pope John Paul II in On the Dignity and Vocation of Women: "both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree, both are created in God's image" .
Neither, however, can exist alone, but only "as a 'unity of the two,' and therefore in relation to another human person.
Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is? - eBook
The great twentieth-century theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, also insisted upon the exemplary quality of the feminine for all human beings. Insisting that the word for "answer" or "response" is feminine, he drew the lesson that "woman is essentially an answer [ Ant-wort ] in the most fundamental sense. Thus Balthasar wrestled with the same problem that angers feminists today, namely, how can the idea of equality between women and men be reconciled with the idea of man's primacy?
Unlike feminists, however, Balthasar refused to agree that the difference between men and women diminished women's dignity and importance. To the contrary, he insisted that "the word that calls out only attains fulfillment when it is understood, accepted and given back as a word. The primary needs a partner of equal rank and dignity for its own fulfillment" Throughout the most compelling modern Catholic teachings on the nature and dignity of woman runs this emphasis upon a complementarity of women and men that in no way diminishes women's importance or standing.
Indeed, if we follow Balthasar, man himself is "responsive" or feminine in relation to God. In this respect, it is tempting to argue that, as the answer that fulfills the word, women embody the exemplary human posture — that of receptivity or confirmation. None of this has satisfied feminists who persist in coveting the role of the word that is answered for themselves, presumably on the erroneous assumption that Catholics see a direct analogy between man and God and thus deify man in relation to woman.
They do not, and we might do well to recall that the teachings of the Church consistently question — indeed, they defy — the deification of any human being. If pride constitutes the first of the capital mortal sins and humility the first of the capital virtues, how do we insist upon the equality of women and men in the world as the premier standard for Christianity? Feminists would counter that their real object is to ensure the equality of women and men within the faith — their equal "personhood.
It is the equality of roles — of worldly authority, standing, and freedom — that is at issue. Neither Christianity in general, nor Catholicism in particular, has taught that standing in the world testifies to a person's worthiness.