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Feminist Christology
Jesus in History and Tradition
Religious Studies
Undergraduate 2

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Feminist Christology





                              Feminist Perspectives



-Freedom of choice, equality of opportunity, freedom of competition, the rights of the individual.

Agitation for legal change through political action for example Miss Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters decided to create a 'Womens social and political Union' in 1903 rather than go with the peaceful protests of Millicent Fawcett. They would not wait for the vote they tried to get through violence. Miss Davidson committed suicide and other suffragettes chained themselves to palace gates and attacked shops and MPs.



-Women’s oppression is a direct result of structural inequality not lack of choice. Structural inequality arises out of capitalist economies where individuals are pitted against each other to compete for scares resources (Juliet Mitchell, Women’s Estate ).

-Women’s oppression is a structural necessity for the workings of capitalism.  They are exploited through class and gender. The latter as a result of the ideologies of ‘motherhood’ and ‘family.’ The solution is to transform consciousness.




- some feminists assert that there are essential differences between men and women to do with biology, and physical strength, which is different from liberal and marxist feminists who stress the need for equality.


- Some feminists such as Mary Daly believe that these differences such as the biological differences have a significant impact on the culture of women and could increase the view that these allow women to believe they are superior.


- Difference feminsts therefore stress separatism as a strategy over patriarchy.



Post Structural


- These feminists argue that sex and gender are social and cultural constructs and therefore reject biological determinism and capitalist reductionism.


-Difference cannot be reduced to 'essence'


- Nicholson argues that the categories of maleness and femaleness are not fixed but are 'discursive'. The focus is on the range of male and female constructs and how they are struggled over.



Post Feminists


- Not all men are dominators and not all women are oppressed


- Success of women's movement in terms of pay, culture, education, marriage and divorce laws as a sign of progress


-Rosalind Coward and other feminists believe there is still a war to be won, but with some significant victories, it is necessary to change the nature of the discussion on sex and gender. They call for a constructive dialogue between men and women to make more of a structural challenge.


Feminist Christology


-Makes women's experience the basis for Christological reflection


(Contextual theology – God is at work in social-historical world as well as scripture. Inter-textual approach necessary for transformation.)


-Challenge the centering of maleness as norm in Christological discourse and overcoming binary oppositions in Christian thought that lead to the othering of women.


-Seek to overturn patriarchy but also build new relationships between men and women by developing new images of Jesus.



But it is complex...



First, women from different situations have experienced their embodiment as something negative in many Christian traditions. Western Theology in particular has been based on a dualistic worldview that placed soul over body and male over female. Eg) In Early Christian writings women were seen as 'the gatewell to hell' and 'less than male'. Even though Christianity is an incarnational religion, it has too often been uncomfortable with the body, especially with the task of women to give birth to the next generation. Jesus' maleness has often been used as an argument against the full humanity of women. ' The doctrine that only a perfect male form can incarnate God fully and be salvific makes our individual llives in female bodies a prison against God and denies our actual,sensual,changing selves as the locus of divine activity.' (Rita Nashima Brock)


Second, women from different contexts have experienced oppression. Patterns of domination and submmission vary but they are present worldwide. The headship of Christ over his body the Church, reflected in the headship of the husband over his wife, has often legitimised the subordination of women.


Third, interrelatedness has been part of the experience of women. Women have traditionally found identity in relation to others as Mothers,Wives, Sisters and Daughters. In the past, a single male individual could represent all humanity. In current times, however, the interrelatedness of all life, including creation, has come to the fore; one of the impetuses has been the emergence of process thought.


(Moltmann insists that according to biblical ideas, what makes us 'imago dei' is not the soul apart from the body. The image of God consists of men and women in their wholeness, in their full, sexually specific community with one another. God is not known in the iner chamber of the heart or at a solitary place but in the true community of women and men. The experience of God is 'the social experienceof the self and the personal experience of sociality'.)

                           Rosemary Radford
“Can a Male SaviourSave Women?” A chapter in God Talk and Feminist Theology 1983.
3 Related themes
A. The original message of Jesus was “vindication of the poor and oppressed”
B. This message was corrupted as it was translated into the orthodox Christology of the 4th Century onwards as Bishops and male leaders conspired to the patriarchalization of Christology.”

Institutionalised Marginality


 Chalcedonian Creed


We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The Solution
Return to the Jesus of the Gospels who is “remarkably compatible with feminism.”
He spoke on behalf of the marginalized
Revised God language making it more inclusive (Abba father for God).
Rejected dominant/subordinate hierarchy
Women participated in his ministry, particularly the vindication of the lowly in God’s order.
The maleness of Jesus has no ultimate significance.
He has a lifestyle that discards hierarchical privilege.
“The femaleness of the social and religious outcasts who respond to him is social symbol of  witness against . . . . Patriarchal privilege.”
“We must cease to isolate the work of Christ from the ongoing Christian community . . “ (Ruther, Introducing Redemption in Christian Feminism 1988).
New Christology
Jesus Paradigm
Jesus becomes a paradigm by embodying a certain message . . “good news to the poor” and the confrontation with systems that incarnate oppressive privilege.
Jesus is therefore not an exclusive possibility.  Each Christian must take up the same pathway and become other “Christ(s)” to one another, so the church becomes a redemptive community.
Rita Nakashima Brock
Divine Child Abuse and Erotic Power
Problem with Christology is that the death of Jesus is the result of a loving father. It is problematic because -
It is tantamount to child abuse
Absolves responsibility in the present
Experiencing God’s grace is to escape punishment
Abusive model reflected in church and family.


Ideology that splits of parts of ourselves, self-righteousness divides self and world, so that personal is separated from the political (binary oppositions, dualism).
 God as father lacks nurturing intimate meaning and as a result has pushed the child (us) towards “identification with the powerful but distant father as a move towards self protection.”  The needs of the child are unmet and at best this relationship produces a male solidarity in which women are not part of the brotherhood.  
Erotic power


Heart is metaphor for the human self its capacity for intimacy. Heart involves the union of body, spirit, reason and passion. Centre of capacity for mutuality and community.


Erotic power is the feminist liberating power that restores and nurtures relationships of the heart.  It is the contrast to hierarchy of male dominance as male erosis lust for sex and power whereas female eros is relational and critical awareness of that unites the psychological and political spheres of life binding love with power.
Erotic power is inclusive, patriarchal power is exclusive, it is connected and aims to make us whole.  “Existence-as-relational-process.” It produces a creative synthesis, is concerned with connection than control.
The Solution
What is missing from Christology is a sense of connectedness and mutuality. 
Building on Ruther’s critique of patriarchy, Brock accepts that Jesus transcended patriarchy and challenges structures “which is essential to any feminist understanding of Christianity.”
But Jesus is more than a liberator (a unilateral image), “Jesus speaks to the brokenhearted but the brokenhearted do not speak to the strong.”
Any movement towards liberation must be accompanied by self-awareness and self-affirmation to build new relationships.
Any destruction of structures without new relationships is simply another shattering of the self.
Brock argues that what is missing in Ruther’s scheme is a God/dess figure who has an impact on Jesus in his community of followers.
She develops a Christology where Jesus alone is unable to liberate without a public God/dess figure
Brock develops a “Christa/community” that includes Jesus but only complete when in relation to others.
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