Beyond Theology of Religions: The Epistemological and Ethical Challenges of Inter-religious Engagement
Sharon D. Welch
For the past one hundred years, the primary form of scholarly inter-religious encounter has been inter-religious dialogue. While fruitful, such an approach is also severely limited, reflecting as it does Western assumptions about the nature of religious knowledge itself, about the bearer of religious knowledge, and about the nature of the self. The problem now being examined in the postcolonial comparative study of religion is quite straightforward: the categories for defining religion were taken from Western traditions and then applied to other traditions, a process in which the other traditions were often found wanting, or, even if seen as complex and worthy of appreciation, were still misunderstood by Western scholars. This chapter considers the following question: In a postcolonial world, how do we see and value differences, those that are forced, those that are self-generated, and those that are an ambiguous combination of both coercion and creativity? The impetus to postcolonial comparative work and postcolonial critique of religious traditions has been initiated by those who have borne the costs of colonization and domination, who criticize its legacy, and who call for new forms of critique and interaction. The impetus for new forms of interaction and fundamental critique is not primarily the West's deconstruction of its own forms of domination, but is a response to the work of those, who albeit colonized, resisted colonization from its beginning, and have continuously asserted their subjectivity and agency.
This article uses the term ‘equivocation’ to describe the sense in which Christian incarnational theology appears to have provided a resource or way of thinking about the embodied human condition. For British literary works produced across a period of over a thousand years, that is not wholly negative. Christian convictions about God's investment in the materiality of human existence bear witness to the perception of infinite human longings and seemingly endless possibilities, as well as our fearful limitations. British artists and commentators during this period have not all accepted the authority of a Christian approach, and in the last two or three centuries many have aspired to challenge the more negative or limiting emphases of its teaching. Arguably, the paradigm remains significant, yet it continues to provide both impetus and challenge to ongoing reflections on the nature of unavoidable human incarnation.
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Christian eschatology is a complex combination of ideas and themes that synthesizes three ancient traditions of eschatological hope: Jewish futurism, Zoroastrian apocalyptic, and the Greco-Oriental soul journey. This article examines these three historical roots of eschatology and their synthesis in Judaism and Christianity. It points out the gender and class biases found in these classical patterns of eschatology, looks at the revision of Christian eschatology in nineteenth-century progressive millennialism, and shows how early feminist theology adapted both millennialist hope and belief in personal immortality. The article then examines the critique and revision of eschatological hope in several major feminist theologians of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries: Marjorie Suchocki, Catherine Keller, Ivone Gebara, Delores Williams, and Rosemary Ruether. It also considers the ancient Near East roots of Christian eschatological thought, the development of Christian eschatology, crises and reinterpretation of Christian eschatology in modern Western thought, and feminist theology and eschatology in the late twentieth century.
Today, 58% of women executives voluntarily choose flexible work options or a variety of other nontraditional career paths that take them far afield from the traditional, male, linear ascent to corporate power and success, and 37% of these highly qualified women voluntarily leave their careers for some period of time. They leave to have babies, to take care of aging parents, or for other such gender-based roles, and one-fourth do not return to their previous jobs. The collective impact of these individual, gender-based decisions made by women has created a near panic among US corporations. The price tag for refilling a job slot is typically 150% of the former employee's salary, and for high-level executives, is almost three times the job's annual salary. Accordingly, as women executives leave the corporate world, their individual actions create a collective, leaderless social movement that looks, statistically and financially, like a contemporary women's revolt against big-time corporate American enterprise. To stop the disruptions to business interests brought about by this leaderless women's movement, global corporations have turned for advice to Women's Studies scholars and other advocates for women's gender-based interests and rights. As a result, corporate America now hires these advocates to develop gender-based company policies and procedures to keep women executives in the corporate fold. This new effort is referred to as Feminism, Inc., which is the for-profit hiring of women's advocates to facilitate a business process designed to economically exploit the women the advocates help. This chapter is organized as follows. Part I delineates the problem and shows how Women's Studies scholarship and professional advocacy for women's rights transformed into an antifeminist, market-driven, business agenda for corporate America; Part II proffers solutions.
This chapter addresses aspects of feminist Christology, including the perceived misogyny amongst the Fathers and Scholastics; the problematic ascription of maleness to God; and the ‘anti-woman use of Christology’. Some argue that the patriarchal image of Christ leads to the exclusion of women from the Incarnation and question whether sexual difference should equate to theological significance. Others say that Christological symbolism is imperialist and patriarchal and serves to disempower women. Yet others say that Christ could have been a woman: this is why the ‘Christa’ crucifixion image is important to them. Feminists also question the patriarchal ways in which Christ’s work of redemption has been interpreted. Feminist theologians rightly argue that the patristic ‘quod non est assumptum non est sanctum’ should be complemented by the Pauline metaphor of the body of Christ. The humanity of Christ, including his maleness, points to the relational and communitarian dimension of his human nature.
This article explores the literary revisioning work as it is displayed in the work of two women writers whose attention has been largely focused on the Jewish and Christian traditions. Alicia Ostriker and Michèle Roberts are women whose work arises out of direct political involvement with the women's movement. Both are authors who are deeply immersed in contemporary critical debates and both acknowledge their conversational relationships with other female creative artists. As such, it is possible to view their work as representative of a revisionary movement within contemporary women's literature concerned with nothing less than the radical revisioning of religious traditions.
Musa W. Dube
In the globalization era, justice-seeking feminist theologies are challenged to sharpen and reposition themselves to speak to the issues of the time by adopting new methods, topics, and frameworks. Consequently, “the boundaries of theology need to be redrawn in the light of the creation of new global cultures” and “crucial to the task of rewriting the story of feminist theology in the light of globalization is reflecting on the nature of a theological perspective it makes.” This chapter explores the interrelations of globalization, a world scripture (the Bible), and the vision of feminist theologies.
Cherith Fee Nordling
Attempts to speak of gender in the context of evangelical theology are often fraught with misunderstanding or intransigence. As gender has become a concept used within theological anthropology (rather than emerging from it), it brings along its own set of issues that mainly derive from the sociological contexts and categories in which it developed. How do we live out a gendered reality in conformity to Jesus Christ, the eschatological New Adam of a new, restored human race? Does evangelical theology continue to marginalize women based on the order of old creation, or does it manifest a theology of mutual participation in God's new creation? Much evangelical culture and theology mirrors aspects of popular culture, as each remains influenced by and perpetuates forms of premodern gender essentialism. This article considers how the concept of gender has developed, how it plays out in evangelical theology, and how the gifting and influence of various women in Christian church history compared to some current evangelical proscriptions. It also examines eschatology, resurrection, ascension, and the Holy Spirit.
Dorian Llywelyn SJ
The mother of Jesus is the most important female figure of Christianity. Mary appears in a small number of biblical passages, but the vast Marian phenomenon includes Christian doctrine and a range of cultural expressions. Interest in Mary emerged early in the Eastern Mediterranean, and spread into the West. With slightly different emphases, Catholics and Orthodox Christians share a number of beliefs concerning Mary and pray to her, but most forms of Protestantism reject Marian devotion. While Catholic attention to Mary diminished in the global North following the changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, it has remained strong in other parts of the world, especially in Latin America. Shrines such as sites where Mary is believed to have appeared draw millions of devotees annually. Contemporary Mariology, the academic study of the figure of Mary, includes considerations from almost all the liberal arts.
E. P. Sanders’ reconstruction of ancient Judaism resulted in an increasing interest in Paul’s relation to Judaism. While scholars before Sanders commonly assumed that Paul converted to Christianity and thus developed a religious identity separate from Judaism, Sanders’ view of Judaism as a religion of grace forced scholars to problematize Paul’s relation to his religious identity. Three major scholarly trends can be distinguished. Some scholars maintain, in spite of Sanders, that Paul rejected Judaism and developed a ‘Christian’ identity of sorts. Others take an intermediate position, arguing that Paul only repudiated those parts of Jewish tradition that separated Jews from non-Jews while otherwise being basically faithful to his religious heritage. Finally and most recently, still other scholars argue that Paul remained fully Jewish after becoming a follower of Jesus and that, consequently, he never developed a religious identity separated from Judaism.
This article traces the history of the modern concept of race and various theological responses, thus making a modest contribution to theological anthropology. It assumes that modern racial ideology and racism emerged from the contexts of European and American global dominance between the sixteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. Premodern forms of ethnocentrism are qualitatively different from the modern ideology of race. This article first examines how twentieth-century trends in the study of race have shifted away from natural sciences and toward a social constructionist definition of race. Pietism, the evangelical awakenings, Enlightenment philosophy, and the Social Gospel would later be associated with the abolitionist and civil rights movements. In all these cases, theologians were challenged to incorporate human experience and ethical critique into their theological methodology. Those who did so were more responsive to modern racial ideologies and racist practices. This article also considers Catholic missionaries and the Iberian empires, along with abolitionism and humanism.
Kevin J. Vanhoozer
This article focuses on the nature (what it is), authority (rightful say-so), and interpretation (how to use it/make it work correctly) of the Bible. Strictly speaking, evangelicals do not believe “in” the Bible but in the God who authored and speaks authoritatively through it. The challenge for an evangelical theory (doctrine) and practice (interpretation) of Scripture is to hold fast to the gospel fixed in writing while engaging the living God who is its author and attending to the great salvation that is its subject matter. “Biblicism” is one of the most frequently cited defining marks of evangelicalism. Evangelicals take their doctrinal and ethical marching orders from the Scriptures, and the goal is to be a people whose faith, hope, and love—her doctrine, duty, and devotion—centers on the promise of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the one about whom the gospel is proclaimed. This article also discusses Protestant orthodoxy and pietist revival, hermeneutics, and the infallibility of the Bible.