Male Feminist Theology: Table of Contents


This is the dedicated post page for the Male Feminist Theology Series on this blog.

Male Feminist Theology: a Vision; a Proposal

This series is based on a white paper I wrote. It is more technical than these blog posts are and cites sources without giving introduction or explanation. The blog posts break it up into bite-sized chunks, and are heavily edited to (hopefully) make them more accessible to the casual reader. The full paper is posted below.

Background: Fear & Loathing
The How (and Why) of Christian Male Feminism

This series has been a long time in development and preparation. This was a post that summarizes the whole path leading to thought and process behind it.

God & Her Glory: A Table of Contents

Before we began, I felt I needed to explain why I, at times, would choose to use feminine pronouns for God. This caused such an uproar in my social media sites, it led to several posts in which I went more in-depth about this.

On Theology: Choose Your Own (Feminist) Adventure

This whole series employed a very particular perspective on theology, in which we can freely choose what true things about God to emphasize depending on our context and concern in the moment.

I. Passion: A Theology of God, Creation, & Humanity
The Suffering & Reconciling Feminist God

This whole Male Feminist Theology begins with laying out a doctrine of God that would motivate us to solidarity and action with women. This opening post lays out a vision in which God’s own nature is Suffering-Unto-Shalom/Goodness/Life

The Dying & Rising Christ

This Suffering-Unto-Life Nature of God extends from the Godhead and is exhibited in each of its Persons. In this piece, we talk about the centrality of Jesus, the Incarnate God, as the center of our theology, and what he can teach us about God.

The Grieving & Comforting Holy Spirit

In this post, we talk about how the Holy Spirit–within Herself–also suffers-unto-life, moving into the brokenness and injustice of the nitty-gritty of the world, to bring healing, life, and wholeness.

These Broken & God-Breathed Scriptures

Coming up next!

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The Grieving & Comforting Holy Spirit // #MaleFeminism

Anselm Kiefer-Landscape with a Wing

This is part of our series on Male Feminist Theology.

I’ve been arguing, at the outset of this journey into forming a Male Feminist Theology, that the way we think about God shapes and forms how we then live our lives. Further, God’s nature and character is so multifaceted that as theological musings enter new cultures, times, and situations, we must use particular language for where we are today. Just this weekend, I was reading Andrew Walls’ remarkable essay, “The Ephesian Moment”, where he talks about how this worked in the early church.

The transposition of a message about the Messiah to a message about the “Lord Jesus” must have seemed an impoverishment, perhaps a downright distortion. [But] Christian theology moved on to a new plane when Greek questions were asked about Christ and received Greek answers, using the Greek scriptures. It was a risky, often agonizing business, but it led the church to rich discoveries about Christ that could never have been made using only Jewish categories such as Messiah…. Crossing a cultural frontier led to a creative movement in theology by which we discovered Christ was the eternally begotten Son; but it did not require the old theology to be thrown away, for the eternally begotten Son was also the Messiah of Israel.

I see a similar thing today. Many issues of global injustice, the failure of 20th-century Enlightenment idealism, and (for our purposes) the abuse and marginalization of women gives a new prism through which to ask questions about God. We are not leaving old creeds and confessions behind; we are turning the Divine diamond of God’s nature and character to see through additional facets.

To this end, I have found it greatly helpful to focus on this idea that God’s very nature is one of Suffering-Unto-Life, or Suffering-Unto-Shalom. We’ve used these past few posts to talk about how we see this in each member of the Trinity, and today we turn our attention to the Holy Spirit. I’ve written about this before in general, but today we try to think of this in light of our sisters and their experience.
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Male Feminist Theology: The Dying & Rising Christ

This post is part of a series on Male Feminist Theology.

Just as the Godhead itself is Suffering-Unto-Life, so are each of its members. Today we look at the second person of the Trinity: Jesus, the Begotten of God.

It’s my contention that we need a concept of a God who both knows suffering within his essence as well as fights against it. This is the only conception of God that can actually move us forward in fighting against the marginalization and abuse of women.

More traditional views of God (often having their historical source in Greek thought rather than Hebrew) make God into a Transcendent Male, Kingly, Lording figure whose primary relation to us is as one to whom we are meant to submit. This is so common, many (most?) people that just read that sentence may have not disagreed with any of it.
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The Suffering & Reconciling Feminist God

Rothko-untitled-2We are now, finally, after a long time, starting our series on Male Feminist Theology. This is the first of many posts to come.

God is infinitely complex and beyond our articulations. It’s impossible to hold in our minds at any one time all the different paradoxical truths about who God is. (As I’ve described before) depending on the particular context, concerns, or questions at hand, there are different truths about God we should dwell on and emphasize a little more for that moment.

In our day and place, I think one of the biggest issues facing the church is our treatment of women, so this post will focus on what truths about God that we (especially men) should emphasize and hold in our minds when moving forward on this issue.
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Male Feminist Theology: a Vision; a Proposal

Adolph Gottlieb-rolling

Starting next week, I will be doing a blog series that walks through a framework for what I’m calling “Male Feminist Theology”. This series is based on a paper I wrote a few months ago. The paper itself is more technical than these blog posts will be and cites sources without giving any introduction or explanation. The blog posts will break it up into bite-sized chunks, and I will heavily edit them to (hopefully) make them more accessible to the casual reader.

But, if you don’t care about all the context and fuller explanation, and just want to jump to the end, I wanted to give you all a chance to read it in full if you wish. I’ve embedded it below, but you can also find it on Scribd and Let me know what you think! Continue reading

Back on Track: The How (and Why) of Christian Male Feminism


Remember the beginning of Lent, when I said I wanted to lay out a vision for how Christian men can think about God, the Church, and Theology in a way that takes into account the concerns of feminists? I said that these thinkers had been exposing the very real damage that has been wrought by us treating “White Male Theology” as default, neutral, objective “Theology”.

Well, believe it or not, we never actually got to what I wanted to write about. Full disclosure: that whole series was conceived because I had written a paper on this topic that I was proud of–a paper I wanted to edit down and make into a series of blog posts. And yet, before we could get to what amounted to a term paper, I had to take the reader through a lot of the other ideas that were in the rest of the class.
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God & Her Glory: A Table of Contents


As part of Lent in 2015, I built on my on-going series on Women and the Church, and did a little mini-series on using feminine language and images when speaking to and about God. This caused lots of discussion and disagreement, especially on Facebook. To help organize things, I wanted to put up this post to guide anyone who just now might be taking a look into this. I hope you find it helpful, and don’t forget to your thoughts below.

{1}: “Our Mother, Who Art in Heaven”

In this opening post, I give some background to my experience with this topic, as well as talk briefly about theological language itself and how it poses problems for us as we move forward in exploring this issue. I also introduce the main sources I used for this series, and try to mark a path forward.

{1b}: A Good Facebook Debate (for a change)

After that first post, I started seeing the passion many people had about this topic. The Facebook discussion especially had me thinking about angles and dynamics I hadn’t thought of before. So, because it was helpful to me, I thought it might be helpful to the blog readership.

{2}: How our Words & History Affect Women

Here, I showed the connection between gender and language, trying to talk about how the way we talk about God can subtly, unconsciously, even, affect not only women, but how we all think about God. I think tried to go through some history of how this has played out in the Church and the world.

{3}: The Biblical & Historical Evidence

Here, I simply lay out the best possible comprehensive case I can for the Scriptural and historical references to God in feminine imagery and terms. After going through Scripture and some historical context, we then look at important figures and references throughout the early church through the Middle Ages.

{epilogue}: MORE Faithful, Not Less

In this conclusion to the series, I acknowledge some of the prevailing critiques, and try and cast a vision for how brothers and sisters in the Church can move forward on this, both practically and in disagreement. I make the case that fighting for broader language when talking about the Divine is an attempt to be all the more faithful to Scripture and the Church, not to change things because of the wider cultural discussion.

BONUS: Does it Matter that Jesus was a Male?

This is a relevant post I had done another time. In it, we look at some art that depicts Jesus as a female and explore what theological significance (if any) there is that our Savior was a male. Again, the debate was feisty.

[image credit: “Vessel”, by Meinrad Graighead]

God & Her Glory {epilogue}: MORE Faithful, Not Less

ArtLinguistic Passion

Throughout this series on feminine language for God, I’ve been shocked at how incredibly passionate people have been about all of this. I promise I don’t try to write for controversy’s sake; I genuinely want to serve and help the people of God, not divide them.

But perhaps I was naive not to anticipate it. A friend of mine put it well on Facebook (edited for clarity):

In Postmodern thought, language always encodes how we see reality. One can only perceive reality with words because people always think in words. This…is probably a big reason why the fight over gendered pronouns is so fierce. Mess with the language and you mess with people’s narrative-making apparatus.

It’s true: language is reality. I don’t want to imply that language doesn’t matter, that people are making too big of a deal about it and should just lighten up, or that there should be a free-for-all in our language about God. Rather, my desire to broaden our words for God is precisely because I see the power of our language to shape how we see reality.
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God & Her Glory {3}: The Biblical & Historical Evidence


Having gone through this series on feminine language for God, I realize now I should have started with this post rather than ended with it. Following an almost Lutheran model of Law then Grace, I wanted to impress upon us the depth of the problem first, and then give us the “Good News” that the solution is both available and faithful. This may not have been the most helpful way to do it. My apologies.

Nevertheless, here I’ve tried to provide a comprehensive list of Biblical and historical references to the Feminine Divine. The Biblical texts are mostly in order that they appear in the Bible, the historical quotes are roughly chronological. Some pieces may seem stronger than others. I offer them with little or no commentary. Due to the length of this, significant quotes are in bold. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below and I can provide further sourcing, answers, etc. as needed. I hope this helpful. Continue reading

God & Her Glory {2}: How our Words & History Affect Women

Bartlett-The-Brooklyn-Crucifiction_BoBartlettI have been surprised about how strongly people have responded to this little series on using feminine language to talk about God. I want to make clear the audience I have in mind. I am talking to people that either haven’t really thought about this before, or feel a little weird about it but don’t have a strong opposition to it. If you believe that this is actually wrong, sinful, and deeply unfaithful to the nature of God, then these posts probably aren’t for you. We’d have to go much deeper into a theology of Scripture, Sexuality, Humanity, and Gender. I may do that another time, but not right now. Today, I want to talk about the way our language about God speaks to gender and some history of how we use gendered language.

Theology of Gender Language

For the longest time, the way I would have defended masculine language for God would be with an appeal to the idea of “headship”. This is the idea that different systems and ways of human relating have people that “head” them–like a “head” of State, for example. And as the “head”, this leader stands as the representative for everyone they lead and care for.

Conservatives on this issue (as I used to be) believe that husbands act as the “head” of their family unit, including their wives. Most of these conservatives would be the first to tell you that this does not mean that women in general should see men as their “heads” in general. And yet, there is still this idea that “maleness” serves as the “head” of “femaleness”. In other words, “maleness” serves as the representation of all humanity, whereas “femaleness” does.

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God in Her Glory {1b}: A Good Facebook Debate (for a change)

wwii-woman-we-can-do-it-feminismWow. I’ve actually been surprised at the response to the last post in this little mini-series on using feminine language to talk of God. I thought I was addressing one simple thing in the life of churches, but I misjudged the degree to which people would feel like this touched on everything from their thoughts on the Bible to the nature of Jesus himself. One of the best sets of exchanges was on Facebook in response to yesterday’s post. Below, I’ve reproduced a lightly edited version of the conversation. I hope you find it interesting as well. And let me know what you think!

DEBATER: Your post says, “The model of God as Father may be profound and true; but it is not the only model, and it does not render other models less true or profound.”  It’s Jesus’ own self-disclosure and revelation of God. It’s more important than any other ‘model’ and it isn’t really a model. “Father” is not a metaphor. Its a reality for Jesus. And I’m not talking about Jesus’ physicality like his weight or hair color. Jesus revelation is of God as Father. That’s the particularity. He said pray to God as father. And he’s the Son. That’s ontological. The feminine is redeemed in Jesus, but its redeemed not by Jesus taking on the sign of the feminine, but by taking on the sign of the masculine redeemer of the oppressed and abused feminine.

ME: Your last line especially uses terms and ideas entirely foreign to the Scriptures. I’m actually shocked that you saw no issue in writing that. Women need a male redeemer to be redeemed? Even if you point to the ancient cultural idea of the male kinsman-redeemer, surely you aren’t saying that this (clearly) cultural accommodation is some revelation of the essentially gendered nature of God and redemption? The Old Testament also had lambs being sacrificed, and not people. Does that mean that Jesus in some sense had to partly be an “actual” lamb rather than a metaphorical one?
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God & Her Glory {1}: “Our Mother, Who Art in Heaven…”

T78 INT 70

Well, they warned me.

It was my first year at my first seminary. I had the honor of being chosen for an “Inter-Seminary Seminar” course in which people from five very different seminaries got together, were given a topic they all disagreed about, and then spent a semester writings papers to and debating with one another.

One of those seminaries was a liberal Lutheran one. I was told ahead of time that the students (usually women) from this school, every year, always made a big, emotional deal about masculine language being used in the papers. And indeed, at the beginning of every single paper discussion, the first comment was always a tear-filled lament over the use of masculine pronouns throughout the paper.

And so, when it was my turn to write a paper, I tried to be sensitive to this. I changed “mankind” to “humanity”, “brothers” to “brothers and sisters”, etc. And yet, when my paper came up for discussion, they opened up once more with an impassioned complaint against the male-centered language. I told them that I had tried to be sensitive to that. They said, “no, the problem was in your use of the masculine pronouns for God!
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National Geographic (& a poem) on International Women’s Day

Sandorfi-KalfonariumToday is International Women’s Day, and to honor it, National Geographic has a powerful photo spread of women from around the world, called “Portraits of Strength”. While looking through some of the comments, I saw this beautiful poem posted by the poet herself. Read the poem, see the pictures, and listen to the stories of a woman today.

I am a tree
Helen Bar-Lev

Did you think I was a woman?
Oh no, I am a tree
rooted and immovable
impossible to conceive
the scenes
that I have seen

Now gnarled and warped
weathered and aged
wrinkled and withered
bent to the ends of recognition
too rigid to give in
to the whim of man
I stand true to the tune
of the wind echoing
my own inner rhythm
persistent, consistent, constant

Perhaps every tree
was once a woman –
only a woman could stand so strong
fall so proud
when the axe of age claims her
and earth sets a bed for her

© 10.2006 Helen Bar-Lev

[image credit: “Kalfonarium” by Istvan Sandorfi]

On Theology: Choose Your Own (Feminist) Adventure


I recently told some friends about this year’s Lent series on “Male Feminist Theology”. One of them looked at me suspiciously and said, “I know what each of those three English words mean by themselves, but I have no idea what they mean together; it sounds like you’re fitting together things that don’t naturally go together”.

People often hear phrases like “Black Theology”, “Liberation Theology”, or “Feminist Theology”, and feel like there is a profound arrogance at play–isn’t simple “Theology” enough? Why must each group have their own pet theological opinions that belong only to them? But this is to profoundly misunderstand these theologies.
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Quick Christian Feminism Quiz: What do you think of this image?


From Lynn Japinga’s excellent Feminism & Christianity: An Essential Guide (p.93):

Artist Edwina Sandys created a sculpture of a female form, arms outstretched as if hanging from a cross. The sculpture, entitled Christa, has created controversy wherever she is displayed. Critics say the statue defies the historical fact that Jesus was a man. Some viewers feel that the symbol of the cross is degraded or even blasphemed by a Christ in female form. Others are disturbed by the sexual overtones of the naked woman. Some people are troubled by yet another violent image of female suffering. A few people see in the sculpture the message that the death of Jesus symbolizes the pain of all human suffering.

The response to [this image] reveals various theological assumptions. Some people dismiss…the sculpture because they are literally false. Jesus was a man. End of discussion. Other people consider these images offensive and uncomfortable. It insults Jesus, and them as well, to think of him as a woman. These imaginative reconstructions of important events in the life of Jesus pose an important theological question: What difference does it make that Jesus was male?

Have at it. What do YOU think about this piece? What’s your first gut reaction? Why? What difference does it make that Jesus was male?

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