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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Monday, October 06, 2003

Systematics Journal Entry #2

The reading for today’s class was structured a little differently than the first: instead of reading one book in its entirety, we made brief inroads into three.

The first of these, Freeing Theology: The Essentials of Theology in Feminist Perspective, is a collection of essays written by Roman Catholic feminist theologians. The first chapter discusses the nature of feminist theology, and how it both follows and differs from more “traditional” approaches to theological study. As in secular society, there are a wide variety of viewpoints that fit under the umbrella of “feminist.” These range from a simple revisiting of “normative” interpretive practice, including women’s viewpoints and experience in areas where they were largely unconsidered; to actively employing feminine imagery and bias, including that from “extra-biblical sources,” designed to offset the overarching masculine tone of historic interpretation and thought.

The second text, Rowan Williams’ On Christian Theology, was also the most challenging read. This book arose from various essays he has written over time, and so begins, in the prologue, by offering some foundational definition of his approach in various chapters. There, he outlines the nature of what he terms “celebratory,” “communicative,” and “critical” approaches to theological writing, and the purpose and function of each. He then opens in chapter one with a discussion of the nature of and need for integrity in theological discourse. This he defines as “being able to speak in a way which allows of answers. Honest discourse permits response and continuation; it invites collaboration... by showing in its own working a critical self-perception, displaying the axioms to which it believes itself accountable.” In chapter two he moves on to a discussion of unity: what it is and is not, and where it may be found in Christian theologies from varying sources.

The third text we began this week was Daniel Migliore’s Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. Migliore approaches the subject from an unapologetically faith-based perspective. Moreover, he maintains that it is impossible to do otherwise; that “theological inquiry requires continuing participation in the common life of a community of faith, prayer and service.” (pg. xii) However, this perspective does not preclude honest questioning, does not insist upon a blindered dogmatism. In fact, the first chapter of the book insists that the quest for truth, the “continuous process of inquiry,” is in fact the purpose of theology, and a requirement for Christian thought:

"If we believe in God, we must expect that our old ways of thinking and living will be continually shaken to the foundations. If we believe in God, we will have to become seekers, pilgrims, pioneers with no permanent residence. We will no longer be satisfied with the unexamined beliefs and practices of our everyday personal and social world. If we believe in God, we will necessarily question the gods of power, wealth, nationality and race that clamor for our allegiance. Christian faith is thinking faith." (p. 4-5)

He then offers a series of questions which he believes are foundational starting points for theological discussion, and a short discussion of methodologies for seeking answers, along with examples of noted theologians who employ those methods.

These three books cover a fair portion of Frei’s range of theological approaches as Ford outlines them. And I found something to appreciate in all three: the feminist theologians’ willingness to dig through scripture for overlooked perspective; Williams insistence upon the importance of seeking unity while maintaining integrity; and Migliore’s approach of “eyes-open faith” as foundation for inquiry.


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