Exploring the feminine and masculine impulses of Godde
review of Elizabeth Johnson's 'SHE WHO IS'
She Who Is: 5 The Patriarchal 'God' of Classical Theism
In her excellent book 'She Who Is', Elizabeth Johnson demonstrates how feminist theology can be used to challenge traditional and patriarchal assumptions about Godde and to seek understanding of what the gospels and continuing Christian tradition may have to say in the context of the sufferings of women... and their liberation and dignity and flourishing.
In this search for understanding, and in the context of countless women's experiences, she draws attention to the sustained critique of classical theism that has taken place since the start of the modern era - and of the patriarchal concept of 'God'.
She argues that the theistic 'God' is modelled on the pattern of an earthly king and absolute monarch - an intrinsically hierarchical model built around the reification of 'God'.
The dangers implicit in this model are in the way that 'God' is easily seen as somehow 'apart' from the radical suffering of the world, somehow 'allowing' it to endure - in a way that may too easily be weighted and slanted towards a divine mandate for passivity, obedience and submission. A kind of hierarchical mindset that can too often be co-opted to sustain unjust civil and ecclesiastical rule, where submission within the hierarchy may be portrayed as a virtue and be encouraged or expressed by passively acquiescing in the face of injustice.
In response to this hierarchical and imperial conception of 'God', a good number of theologians have been seeking other ways of speaking about Godde. These theological efforts are leading to discourse about the liberating Godde, the incarnational Godde, the relational Godde, the suffering Godde... and the unknown, hidden Godde of mystery. These theologians are - it might be said - exploring and engaging in a 'revolution' about the idea of Godde that is occurring in our day.
It is at this historic juncture, where speech about Godde is being re-shaped, that feminist theology joins a wider theological effort, intersecting with the emergent thinking and re-evaluation of others.
Classical theism emphasises, arguably in a one-sided way, the all-pervasiveness of 'God's' dominating power to which all human beings owe submission and awe. This could be said to reflect and express the patriarchal imagination, which prizes unopposed power, detached autonomy, and unquestioned loyalty. This model of 'God' seems to embody the solitary male ego - contained in himself and filled with power.
Feminist theology challenges this concept of Godde, and looks critically at the fundamental sexism both implicit in it and springing from it.
Feminist theology seeks to go beyond the critiques of others, and focus especially on the human reality of vast numbers of women... women and their dependent children as the majority of the poor - and sees the lifting of their voices as the 'irruption within the irruption' of liberation theology.
It proclaims the experience and witness of women created in the image of Godde so truly that their reality can provide suitable metaphor for the holy mystery of Godde.
As theology starts to respond to its tradition of exclusivity... in the light of the experience of the 'other half' of the human race, feminist theologians join what could be termed a revolution (or, at least, a radical re-evaluation) in the concept of Godde and the ways we think of her.
Links to my summary pages on 'She Who Is':