Friday, September 30, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 9

This is the last posting on "The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History."
In several days or perhaps a week I will follow up with an up-date and some extra thoughts about radical feminism in the church today.

“Jesus is Lord” is the first confession of the Church seen often in salutations to the church as in Romans 1:17. The church for two thousand years has understood Jesus Christ to be fully human and fully God. He is the unique, incarnate Son of God. All of the ecumenical creeds state the same. The Presbyterian Book of Confessions has no creed which in any way suggests that Jesus Christ is less than human or less than God:
We acknowledge and confess that this wonderful union between the Godhead and the humanity of Christ Jesus did arise from the eternal and immutable decree of God from which all our salvation springs and depends. (The Scots Confession 3.07, The Book of Confessions PCUSA)
The Scriptures name as antichrist and liar “the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. (1 John 2:22).”

Radical feminists hold differing views about Jesus, most of which do not measure up to biblical Christianity. But here the river is wide. Some Womanist theologians, (African- American women theologians), give greater honor to Jesus Christ than other feminists theologians. As Kelly Brown Douglas puts it, “From a Womanist perspective, Jesus Christ means that God is real. Christ brings God down to earth.” Douglas goes on to explain that for the Womanist theologian Jesus Christ is “a friend and confident,” a “co-sufferer,” a “healer and provider” and a “liberator." (38-39) (All emphasis is by author.)

Here however Jesus Christ is still defined by women’s experience and Jesus is seen as Christ because of his relationship to the African-American community in their oppression rather than Christ and Son because of his relationship to the Father. Other feminist theologians tear apart the biblical understanding of Jesus Christ.

Rosemary Radford Ruether states, “Christ, as redemptive person and Word of God, is not to be encapsulated ‘once-for-all’ in the historical Jesus.”5 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza holding feminist and liberation theology together emphasizes the feminist view that Jesus was the product of rape and views him and his mother as prophets of the Kingdom of God.6 Elisabeth A. Johnson states that the “biblical symbol Christ” cannot be restricted to the historical person Jesus,”7

Francine Cardman paraphrases the text from Rita Nakashima Brock’s book Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, “Any notion of Jesus as savior or hero (including liberator) is rejected … Neither does she consider Jesus to be the Christ. Rather, christology is centered in community and relationship.”(42)

Most Radical feminist’s views of christology, some in a mild way, many blatant in all ways, are a continuing reemergence of historical heresies. This includes the adoptionism of Paul of Samosata who believed that Jesus was adopted by God because of his obedience and so received the anointing which allowed him to become Christ, and a heresy of the medieval/ Reformation periods which involved a whole community of people being anointed by the Spirit to become Christs. They were sometimes called Ranters, sometimes Brethren of the Free Spirit, and took for themselves the title and office of Christ. As with radical feminists today they did not believe in a unique incarnation.8

Sin and Atonement:
The writers of the biblical text insist that because of the disobedience of the first man and woman humanity is fallen and in need of salvation. (Romans 3:23; 5:12) Humanity is under the wrath of a holy God because of sin, incapable of saving themselves. In Reformed doctrine this is referred to as total depravity. The sins which humans commit, whether individually or as a corporate body, are symptoms of humanity’s sinful nature.

The atonement is the biblical explanation of how God acted to save humanity. That is, Jesus’ death on the cross was for our salvation, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath to come. (Romans 5:8, 9)” Nothing could be simpler, yet more profound, Jesus Christ died for our sins. See (Mark 10: 45; Luke 24:25-27; Eph 5:1, 2; Heb. 9:11-28; 1 Peter 1: 17, 18; Rev. 5:9)

Cynthia Campbell when writing about redemption from a feminist perspective places liberation and feminist theology together and writes, “The emphasis is not on the essential helplessness of humanity but on the way in which human power and dignity are restored. Redemption is understood, then, as empowerment or becoming able to take responsibility for one’s own life.”9

Many radical feminists not understanding the Trinity see the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as child abuse. Two books which are often recommended by the Presbyterian Women’s ministry area, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, by Delores S. Williams and Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, suggest that redemption or the atonement has nothing to do with Jesus’ death on the cross.

Sallie Mcfague brings the Holy Spirit into the equation and writes:
The holy spirit’s (sic) work is not the forgiveness of sins for those who accept the atoning death of Jesus Christ but identification with the spirits of the oppressed, from the ‘the spirit of Amazon rainforest’s to the spirits of exploited women. (147)
Toinette M. Eugene referring to John15:15; Luke 7:34 and 2 Cor.5:15 writes, “These texts, so interpreted from a broadly feminist perspective, suggests that Jesus did not come to redeem humans by showing them God’s love manifested in the death of God’s innocent child on a cross erected by cruel, imperialistic, patriarchal power. Rather, the texts suggest that the Spirit of God in Jesus came to show humans life. (238)” In almost every way conceivable radical feminists reject both the biblical understanding of human sin and the redeeming and atoning death which Jesus Christ offered in his sacrifice on the cross.

Is the theology of radical feminism Christian?
Radical feminists fail to affirm the foundations of Christianity. They refuse to accept the otherness of God and instead find God in their own personality and actions. They twist the biblical understanding of the Trinity even at times replacing Father, Son and Holy Spirit with goddess language and images modeled after their own gender. They often deny that Jesus is the unique Christ, thus denying the true divinity of Jesus Christ. They change the meaning of human sin and blatantly disparage the cross of Christ turning his sacrifice into child abuse by the Father.

If one were to ask if individual radical feminists in the mainline denominations are Christian, the answer would have to be “Only God knows.” But if one were to ask is radical feminist theology Christian the answer must be a resounding “no!” The church must stand against this insidious teaching slipping into every crack and cranny of its structure. The church must also love, pray for, tend to and proclaim the cross of Christ to every woman caught in this theological web that denies the truths which would allow them to flourish within the saving love of Jesus Christ.

5 Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, 10th Anniversary Edition, (Boston: Beacon Press 1993), 138.

6 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus: Miriam’s Child Sophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist Christology, (New York: Continuum 1995) 185-187.
7 Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, (New York: Crossroad 1993), 162.
8 For a history of this movement see, Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, (New York: Oxford University Press 1961); Within the modern Pentecostal Movement a similar movement surfaces every so often called the Manifested Sons of God.
9 Campbell, Theologies, 33.

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