Feeling the Force of Feminism

18 06 2008

At present I’m making incursions into enemy territory as I research my MTh thesis, handling the claims and criticisms of academic theology, seeking to keep my head amidst a maelstrom of anti-inspiration invective. The latest area of conflict that I’m billeted in is that of feminist theology, and its proving to be a hard station.

Perhaps before I make any other statements on this, a qualifier is needed. I’m not dealing here with the issue of women in ministry, nor am I speaking of those women who are making an argument for a greater degree of respect to be paid to femininity within the church. I have my own views on each of these issues, but they are not my concern here. Rather, by feminist theology I am speaking of radical feminism, with its virulent antagonism against all things male in Scripture.

I am researching ‘Father language’ in John’s Gospel, with the high incidence of Jesus’ describing God as His Father (with all of the intimacy that such a term suggests) as my focus. By divine providence I am covering this issue at a time when I am preparing for fatherhood myself, and it is proving a rich seam of thought, academically and personally.

The sad thing is that feminism seems to hate fatherhood – particularly that of God. I could multiply a whole host of quotes to support the above statement, but one from Karen Bloomquist will more than illustrate:

“A crucial theological agenda in the conversion from patriarchy is the transformation of God-language and imagery. Exclusively male imagery and language for God continues to legitimize patriarchy and the paradigm of male ‘control over’ that undergirds the violence-laden situation we find ourselves in today. It is not that male God-language is in itself generative of violence, but that it comes to function that way within the central power-over dictates of patriarchy…Changing God-language and imagery is not an elitist exercise but a key step in the conversion from patriarchy”. [Quoted in Thompson: The Promise of the Father]

Such statements (and believe me I could fill an entire blog with examples of them) betray something deep at the heart of academic feminist theology – that of the supremacy of the modern reader over the text. Bloomquist is able to assert her own position with frank authority, without any sense of caveat or proviso. Her word is truth, and God’s Word is negotiable. It is fascinating to read from the works of those who feel that the text can be converted by them rather than vice versa, and that they can make demands of God’s Word rather than God’s Word making demands on them.

It is doubtful that any other ideological presumption could carry the sense of self assured authority and absolutism that feminism does. Were I, for instance, to state my views as a conservative evangelical with the same force within theological discourse, my approach would be ruled out of reason as being presuppositional and laden with bias. Feministic approaches seem to feel vindicated in steam rollering the text with little qualification.

This is not to mention the tragic view of fatherhood which such an approach embodies. There is no doubt that abuses by fathers in the past provide rich soil for criticism of fatherhood generally, but this is by no means the norm. Instead, God’s depiction as Father within Scripture is one of compassion, dignity, grace, and justice – a far cry from the ‘violence-laden situation’ which feminism describes. One wonders how far such a denigrating view of fatherhood has filtered down from feminism within the academy to family life in reality. As men we are given a pretty low bar to live down to, and it is little wonder that many have failed to see the fundamental dignity of godly masculinity, and fatherhood which follows the example of the Father.


Second Wind for Double Usefulness

18 06 2008

This is the second blog post I’ve written today – and the first one won’t see the light of day. It basically outlined why I should give up on Double Usefulness, and close the doors on what has been a fulfilling pastime since 2006. It cited a number of good reasons as to why I should say goodbye to blogging here, and how that the changes in our lifestyle will frustrate any attempt at keeping things ticking over. In my first post I also referenced the lack of posts which have appeared here in the past two months as a good reason for packing it.

It all made sense until I went to press the ‘Publish Post’ button – I just couldn’t do it!

You see, writing on this blog has gone beyond making my mind known to other people over the past year and a half. It has even gone beyond engaging in debate or conversation. The chief benefit to me in writing a blog is that it has given me somewhere to think out loud, and somewhere to try and keep my hand in at writing. It has also brought me great personal enrichment as I have persevered with reading right through some difficult books in order to give a fair review of them. I’ve also deeply valued the interaction with those of you have read and commented on what I have written.

And so, for all of these reasons (and a few more) Double Usefulness is back on track from today. I’m going to start placing regular posts here again, and trust that those of you who have been kind enough to persist in coming back to the blog to check for new material will continue to do so. There will, however, be a few changes.

Firstly, given the fact that I am currently writing my MTh thesis, there will be less book reviews for the next couple of months. Instead I’ll post excerpts from what I’m reading, which will take the form of quotes rather than extended reviews. Deeper analysis of what I’m reading will resume from September onwards.

Secondly, I’m going to make the blog a little more personal. I’ve recently become quite absorbed in photography, and will use this site to post some shots from time to time so that there will be pictures as well as word features.

Thirdly, I’ll use Double Usefulness as a portal to our ministry site, where updates will be given on our preparations for Peru, and our experiences when we get there.

Hopefully this will be a second wind for Double Usefulness. At the very least it is a relief to feel that I’ve made a decision about how to proceed.

Thanks for your patience!!!