Amongst the major and to be welcomed changes in theological scholarship during my own years as a theologian has been the increasing presence of women in the discussions. In particular systematic theology has been dominated by male and western voices, some of them massively powerful and projecting a dominant model of theology as intellectually conceptualised, structurally coherent, often enough abstract and theoretic, speculative or dogmatically constrained. From Barth to Brunner to Jungel to Pannenberg, Otto Weber to Hendrikus Berkhof, Jenson to Moltmann, Rahner to Von Balthasar, McClendon to D J Hall, Oden to MacQuarrie, Karkkainen to Schwarz, I've spent decades wading, swimming and sometimes drowning in those vast pools of thought.
Now two series of Systematic Theology written by women are launched, offering quite different perspectives and expressing with freshness and confidence, approaches to theology that hold much promise to take us beyond the accepted and at times tired paths of everything else on offer. It isn't that women haven't been present in the discussions until now. Names like Catherine Lacugna, Elizabeth Johnson, Kathryn Tanner, Ellen Charry, Frances Young and Dorothee Soelle have been gifts to the church for years. But to my knowledge Sarah Coakley, and now Katherine Sonderegger, are the first women theologians to attempt multi-volume projects of sytematic theology.
Coakley's first volume, God, Sexuality and the Self. An Essay on the Trinity, is an exploration of human desire for wholeness, intimacy, completion and love. Augustine's cry of the heart, "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee", is a recognition that human longing, desire and ache for union with others reflects the same attraction and longing for God. Now of course her account is more sophisticated and developed than that shorthand, but what I find intriguing is a theologian unafraid to do theology not only with the cognitive but also with the affective ways of knowing that are part of a whole human experience of understanding and wisdom.
This is theology forged, self-consciously and intentionally, in contemplation, prayer and lectio divina, and shaped against the realities and intricacies and ambiguities of our very human experience. Part of my question arises from the hunch that this is one of the gains when theology is written by a woman who has undoubted intellectual credentials, but who uses them in conjunction with other valid and viable ways of knowing God and reflecting on life experience in the light of God's revelation in Christ.
In May this year, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, Katherine Sonderegger will publish the first volume of her systematic theology, also on the doctrine of God. Having heard her yesterday she will provide an account of God as creator, redeemer and as love in the eternal relations of Father, Son and Spirit. I sense in her whole style of doing theology another step back from the monumental intellectual constructions of Barth, Pannenberg, Jenson and the rest of the theological pantheon that often illumines and sometimes obscures the landscape of modern theology.
There is more of this to come on the blog here; for now I am contentedly excited at the thought of engaging with these two works in progress.