Knowing Our History

There’s a great post over at her·meneutics written by Sandra Glahn on “The Feminists We Forgot.”  In the article, Glahn stresses the importance of knowing our history, and in particular, the importance of the church knowing feminism’s Christian roots.

This “new woman” is not an invention of second-wave feminism either. Betty Friedan did not start the “woman movement;” Christians did. Motivated by the belief that men and women were made in God’s image to “rule the earth” together, these pro-woman, pro-justice believers sought to right wrongs for those who had less social power.

I’ve stressed this before in my post on Cruciform Feminism, and it serves as a good reminder to me that I need to keep digging and learning more about the history of feminism within the church.  The more we understand the historical role of the church in the work towards equality between men and women, the better we can dispel misconceptions about feminism and the church.  This is one reason I plan to start including women from church history in my weekly Frauen Friday series.  Women have had a far more influential role in the church throughout history than we are usually given credit for… again, a lot of this comes from an unfamiliarity with our own Christian history (I am obviously speaking from my own experience here with roots UMC, SBC, and A29 traditions).  I want to do my small part to help change that… starting with the woman in the mirror (cue awesome MJ song)!

As Glahn concludes:

The teaching that women’s involvement is a new phenomenon in church history has been used to silence those whom the Spirit has gifted for leadership. And advances made on behalf of women have been attributed entirely to secular feminism. We ourselves have been complicit, because we haven’t known our own history.

Be sure to read the full article here.  I also highly recommend Julie Clawson’s five part series on Discovering Christian Feminism.  Feel free to list any other references in the comments below!

A Cruciform Christian Feminist Credo

For my systematic and biblical theology class last semester, I got to write up a personal credo as well as a catechism.  The intention of both the credo and the catechism was for me to develop material from which I would be able to teach others about a particular topic in theology.  I chose to focus on questions of gender as it relates to theology (since I was working on other projects on a related topic) and came up with this credo which I have dubbed ‘A Cruciform Christian Feminist Credo’.

It’s a work in progress, and much of it needs to be refined and/or flushed out, but I think it’s a good start.  I really enjoyed this project because it forced me to begin refining my own thinking, especially when it came to the catechism and proposing specific questions and crafting specific answers.

I based the structure of my credo off of the Nicene Creed.  I sat down to write this without any sources, except for the Nicene Creed for reference, but as you can tell I’m largely influenced by the work of Michael Gorman, particularly with reference to his work on cruciformity.[1]  While this credo reflects my own personal beliefs (hence, “I believe…”), I am thankfully indebted to others who have shaped my own thinking.  In addition to my own reading of Scripture, this credo represents years of thinking influenced by a number of teachers, authors, bloggers, etc.  Additional influences (as it pertains to the topic of this credo) include Elsa Tamez, Sarah Coakley, Rachel Held Evans, Philip B. Payne, Beverly Gaventa, Carolyn Custis James, Christians for Biblical Equality, N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, my fellow Cataclysmic bloggers and friends, a number of other bloggers, and more… and of course my extremely gifted and learned HBU profs, past and present!

A CRUCIFORM CHRISTIAN FEMINIST CREDO

I believe in the triune God of Scripture, three in one and one in three.
I believe in one God, maker of all creation,
whom we call Father and who is also to us like a mother;
God is our heavenly parent.

God made humankind in his image, both male and female God made them,
to be equal bearers of God’s image and equal caretakers of God’s creation.

I believe that man and woman are equally responsible for Sin,
and both experience the corruption of the Fall.
Woman is no more prone to sin than man, nor man than woman.
The Fall resulted in broken relationships between God and humanity,
woman and man.
Patriarchy is a reflection of a fallen world and
not Godʼs original design for creation.

All of creation is in need of redemption.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Humankind,
who for men and women came down from heaven
to bring salvation, redemption, reconciliation, and restoration.
I believe both genders, male and female, are fully represented in the Incarnation.[2]

I believe Jesus is the revelation of God, and in him all the fullness of deity dwells.
God is like Jesus, for when we see Jesus we are seeing God.
Jesus demonstrated the character of God
in his cruciform living, cruciform loving, and cruciform dying.
God vindicated Jesus, our cruciform Lord,
by raising him from the dead–we now await the resurrection to come.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, who gives life to all
and power to those who are ʻin Christʼ

to live life ʻin Christʼ which is to live as he lived–
cruciformly, cross-shaped, self-denying, radically-loving, God-glorifying.

I believe that Godʼs new creation– inaugurated by the Son and activated by the Spirit–reestablishes the equality of all women and men.
Within this new creation, Godʼs people, the church, actively seek out justice
for the oppressed and reconciliation for all
through the proclamation of and participation in
the gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

I believe that cruciformity, that is, living and dying like Christ,[3]
can and will transform this world through the power of the Holy Spirit.

1.  See also my earlier post Kenosis, Cruciformity, and Feminism.
2.  This idea comes from Thomas C. Oden’s discussion on “Was the Incarnation Sexist?” in his Systematic Theology.  See my earlier post Gender and the Incarnation.
3. Michael Gorman, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (p.48).

QOTD: Richard Bauckham on God as “both free and faithful”

This is one of my favorite Bauckham quotes, taken from God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (p.72).  If you’ve not read the book, you should.  It’s a good read!

[T]the identity of the God of Israel does not exclude the unexpected and surprising. Quite the contrary, this God’s freedom as God requires his freedom from all human expectations, even those based on his revealed identity. He may act in new and surprising ways, in which he proves to be the same God, consistent with his known identity, but in unexpected ways. He is both free and faithful. He is not capricious nor is he predictable. He may be trusted to be consistent with himself, but he may surprise in the ways he proves consistent with his himself. The consistency can only be appreciated with hindsight.

See also Mike’s earlier post The Christian God is Surprising.

‘Interchange’ in Christ

I recently did a book review for my Paul class on Morna Hooker’s From Adam to Christ: Essays on Paul and thought I’d share my summary of her main argument on ‘interchange’ in Christ.

The book is a collection of Hooker’s essays on Pauline theology, most of which focus on Paul’s understanding of redemption.  She notes early on in her introduction that Paul is distinctively Jewish and “saw redemption primarily in corporate terms,” (p 2-3).  Hooker argues that while Paul’s soteriology is originally situated within a salvation-historical framework, following his encounter with Christ Paul comes to understand salvation as ultimately participatory for God’s covenant promises are “effected through incorporation into Christ,” (3).  Because these covenant promises have become universally available to all through Christ, Paul looks to Adam as “the only figure with universal significance” to draw a link between the old and new (5).  From this connection, or juxtaposition rather, Hooker develops the idea of ‘interchange in Christ‘ and its necessary implications.

What does Hooker mean by ‘interchange’?  The idea of ‘interchange’ in Paul’s theology in that “Christ is identified with the human condition in order that we might be identified with his” (26).  Though Hooker clearly favors the term ‘interchange’ she quickly identifies it’s deficiencies, namely, it is not a simple exchange that takes places between Christ and humanity.  According to Hooker, Christ acts not as humanity’s substitute (as many scholars have argued) but as humanity’s representative.  She argues that the interchange that takes place between Christ and those who are ‘in Christ’ is necessarily participatory–as we participate in Christ everything that is true about Christ is true about us.  In other words, “to be in Christ is to be identified with what he is,” (37).

The cornerstone text for Hooker’s understanding of interchange is Paul’s simple yet perplexing proposition in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Christ was made sin in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him.  Hooker stresses the importance of the reciprocal nature of redemption, albeit unbalanced, arguing that “it is necessary, not only for Christ to identify himself with us, but for us to identify ourselves with him,” (43).  Kenosis and cruciformity (though she doesn’t use that word) are prominent themes in Hooker’s interchange framework as it is ultimately through Christ-like “self-abnegation” that we display pistis Christou, faith in the God who raises the dead, the same faith evidenced in the person and work of Christ (46).

Paul’s idea of participation in Christ is fundamental, not only for his Christology, but for his understanding of salvation, of the nature of the redeemed community, of God’s plan for humanity and the world, and of the way of life appropriate for restored humanity. Those who live ‘in Christ’ depend on him. Being changed into his likeness, they reflect his glory; but the glory of the new humanity is the glory of God’s children, who are obedient to him, responding to him in faith, who share the obedience and faith of Christ himself. (9)

Hooker offers some interesting perspectives and I’m particularly partial to her reading of 2 Corinthians 5.21.  Are you familiar with Morna Hooker’s ‘interchange’ description?  If so, any thoughts?

Love and Liberation in the Cross of Christ

I’m continuing to work my way through Gorman’s Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross as well as some feminist responses to theologies of the cross.  It’s been a great benefit to have some really great comments on my last post (Kenosis, Cruciformity, and Feminism) so thank you all for joining in the conversation!

I wanted to share an excerpt from Cruciformity in which Gorman argues that we cannot and need not “liberate the cross from Paul” (p. 376n.21) as some theologians have sought to do. Gorman writes,

Paul’s understanding of the cross does not focus on substitution demanded by a vindictive God but on the love and freedom of both God and Christ that liberates humans from oppressive powers. While it is true that Paul inherits and accepts a sacrificial and even substitutionary understanding of the death of Christ, he places his own emphasis elsewhere. In particular, Paul is concerned to show that Christ’s death is an act of God’s love and of Christ’s love, and that Christ accepted his death voluntarily–even if obediently. He was not the passive recipient of punishment but the initiator of an act of love… God’s sending of Christ was not experienced by Paul fundamentally as an act of violence but as a gift of love for enemies and willful sinners who were simultaneously victims of the evil they embraced.

Paul, then, is not concerned about the details of how atonement occurs, but about the motivation of love behind and in the death, and about the effects of the act of love. It reconciles people to God as it defeats the powers of sin and death, thereby inaugurating a new age–the new age–in which hate and violence have no place. (p. 376)

Gorman notes that his intention is not to downplay “the function of the cross as God’s mans of atonement” but rather his “concern is to stress that Paul does no know a vindictive God but a loving one.” (p. 376n.21) Amen to that!

This focus on motivation and effect is vividly evident in 2 Corinthians 5 in which Paul emphasizes how God demonstrates the initiatory nature of love by willingly taking the first step towards reconciliation–in this the love of God is magnified. The God of Paul’s gospel is the God who loves his creation and is eager to reconcile creation to himself. This passage stands as a loving and necessary rebuke to those who mantra is ‘God hates you’.

I’ve been reading on the atonement (namely, violence and the atonement) for another class and it’s interesting (and helpful!) to see some overlap between my topics of study.  It just goes to show how interconnected and interdependent the different topics and -ologies of the Christian faith are. How we think abut one things affects how we think about another… and so on. And yet, there is so much mystery!

Stay tuned for more thoughts on cruciformity and feminism. My paper is due in two weeks!