Who is she,

neither male nor female,

maker of all things

only glimpsed or hinted,

source of life and gender?

She is God,

mother, sister, lover:

in her love we wake,

move and grow, are daunted,

triumph and surrender.

So begins a recent hymn written from a feminist perspective. Two lines from a Jewish feminist doxology read:

Blessed is She who in the beginning gave birth …

Blessed is She whose womb covers the earth.

For most Christians, the impact of feminism is doubtless less extreme than these two examples. There are few of us, however, who have not heard the Lord’s Prayer begun, “Our Father/Mother, who is in heaven,” or have not noticed a “Timeless One” in place of “Father” in pastoral prayers.

Inclusive language and feminist theology: What is behind it, and where might it lead? Increasingly, our churches will be confronted by the issue. Is it possible to think about it and not simply be buffeted between the poles of convention and trend? Perhaps a look at the wider context of the issue will help.

Below And Above

In the last 50 years it has been customary in academic circles to do theology “from below.” From below means that we begin to speak of God from where we are rather than beginning “from above” with such things as the attributes of God or the Trinity, which can be known only by revelation. From below is primarily a method. It has enabled theologians to break away from older approaches, often rooted in rationalism, and freed them to discuss theology from contemporary perspectives, which today are largely social and ethical.

As a method, from below is both justifiable and desirable. Calvin began his Institutes by discussing how we can know God, Luther launched ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Issue: