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Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Difference

Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Difference: A Contribution to Feminist Systematic Theology

Janice McRandal
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Difference
    Book Description:

    Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Difference argues that the most potent and resourceful theological response to the challenging questions of gender and difference is to be found in a retrieval of a doctrinal framework for feminist theology. In particular, it is suggested that a doctrinal narrative of creation, fall, and redemption—underpinned by the doctrinal grammar of the Trinity—provides resources to resolve the theological impasse of difference in contemporary feminist theology. The divine economy reveals a God who enters into history and destabilizes fixed binaries and oppressive categories. The biblical narrative discloses a subtle yet potent fluidity to the Triune relationships. As created subjects—precisely in our difference—we are sustained, affirmed, and drawn back into the Triune life. The subtleties of divine transgression are already recognized in the patterns of the liturgy, in prayer, and in practices of contemplation. Here, bodies not only encounter the transgressive love of God but are enabled to inhabit their differentiated humanity with distinctiveness and grace. The grammar of Christian faith cannot ultimately be uncovered except in prayer, opened beyond itself to a source of life and giving.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9424-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Feminist Theology, Difference, and Christian Discourse
    (pp. 1-18)

    It is hard to imagine a more optimistic beginning than the early movement of second-wave feminist theology.¹ Bolstered by the momentum of secular feminism² and by a boundless confidence in the critique of Christian orthodoxy, these pioneering scholars set about the task of liberating all women. It is easy to appreciate this initial enthusiasm. As Rosemary Radford Ruether notes, the fundamental impetus for change was at first simply to challenge the patriarchal notion that women are inferior.³ The fight for equality ensured that feminist scholars across all disciplines would argue for the status of women alongside men, especially in regard...

  5. Part I. Creation

    • 1 Creatio ex Nihilo and the Nearness of Difference
      (pp. 21-44)

      To suggest that a Christian account of human difference would find grounding in the story of creation is hardly surprising. That a narrative about Creator and creation may saysomethingabout the multifaceted forms of human difference seems self-evident. However, feminist theology has been squeamish about the biblical creation narrative, not only because of certain masculine notions of the Creator God,¹ but also because of the particularities of male and female in the creation account. There is the difficulty of the Yahwist creation account in Genesis 2—especially the provision of woman to man—and the overwhelming binary force of...

    • 2 Creaturely Freedom and the Desire for Selfhood
      (pp. 45-60)

      Contemporary theory is preoccupied with themes of autonomy, agency, and subjectivity. How are we to speak of the individual human in light of difference, and what difference does difference make to autonomy and subjectivity? In light of recent critiques of Enlightenment notions of freedom, it has become clear that any account of freedom must be constructed against the backdrop of difference and the space demanded for alternative conceptions of freedom per se. Moreover, a theological account of creaturely freedom needs to attend to the relationship between God’s agency in the world and human freedom. This chapter argues that divine sovereignty...

    • 3 From Twoness to Re-Creation The Transgression of God
      (pp. 61-78)

      In Christian doctrine, God’s creative act exnihilois held together with divine re-creation. This chapter will argue that one way of conceiving the re-creation is not merely as a secondary act to thecreatio ex nihilobut as the undoing of binary constructs. This divine transgression is seen most powerfully in the theology and practice of the Eucharist.

      In charging traditional theism with a deep patriarchal ideology, feminist theology has frequently cited the oppressive nature of binary constructs. The domineering nature of binary thinking, and its destruction of difference, is often taken for granted in the vast literature seeking...

  6. Part II. Fall

    • 4 Original Sin Prayer, the Presence of God, and Sin Interrupted
      (pp. 81-108)

      The doctrine of creation is at the core of any theological discussion regarding human difference. Theological distinctions regarding creaturely freedom and divine sovereignty are not always appreciated, and a tendency toward ontotheological categories can easily distort the divine and creaturely relationship. A Christian theological account of difference is most fertile and coherent when divine transcendence is understood to affirm the goodness of God’s creation and to challenge contemporary theoretical accounts of power and autonomy. However, theological accounts must also attend to the doctrinal language of the fall and original sin; otherwise whatever else we have said about creation will be...

    • 5 The Power of Sin and Epistemic Transformation
      (pp. 109-124)

      The hydra seems an apt metaphor for sin: a beast with many heads, so poisonous even its tracks are lethal. Sin is hard to define. It is naïve and dangerous to imagine sin with clear boundaries. And yet, in the sins we narrate against creaturely difference, there seems an inextricable relationship between sin and power. Perhaps no concept has received greater attention in postmodern discourse than that of power, and here no figure has loomed larger than Michel Foucault. Attending to the powerepistémèof modernity has enabled those concerned with difference and oppression—especially feminists—to face the full...

  7. Part III. Trinity

    • 6 Gendered Economy The Trinity and Subordination in Contemporary Systematic Theology
      (pp. 127-144)

      Ultimately, the Christian doctrines of creation and fall find their grounding in the doctrine of God. This has been implicit in every part of my argument so far. The significance of the doctrines of creation and fall for considerations of difference lies in the way these doctrines describe the relation between creatures and the Triune God. In the final section of this book, I will explore the critical importance of the doctrine of the Trinity for the problems of difference.

      Feminist theologians have been cautious of talk regarding the economic Trinity. Not only has the relationship of Father-Son-Spirit been used...

    • 7 Struggled For and Not Possessed Language for the Triune God and the Apophatic Turn
      (pp. 145-160)

      Naming God has enormous discursive power. The implications of “masculine” terminology for God were foundational for second wave feminism. Understandably, feminist theologians have sought to destabilize the gender rigidity of language about God. And yet feminist rearticulations often bring with them the same discursive rules that are criticized in the use of masculine language. When women’s experience becomes the basis of language for God, feminists risk ascribing a fixed symbol upon the divine name. However, in practices of prayer and contemplation the sheer otherness of God draws us to the limits of language, and causes a blurring of all fixed...

    • 8 Subject to Spirit The Promise of Pentecostal Feminist Pneumatology
      (pp. 161-176)

      I have already explored the way questions surrounding the reality and dignity of creaturely difference are inextricably linked to conceptions of the subject. While previously arguing that theological accounts of freedom and subjectivity must be cast in reference to the sovereignty of God, more must be said about the possibility of subjectivity for those made objects by normative “mankind.” In this regard, the emergence of feminist Pentecostal studies poses a sharp challenge to both systematic theology and gender studies. The experiences of Pentecostal women, often in non-Western contexts, confront common assumptions regarding women’s ritual experience and the emergence of subjectivity....

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-198)
  9. Index
    (pp. 199-203)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 204-204)