Monday Mar 27, 2023

Did Mary Have Agency? | Kirsten Sanders – First Things


Womales and the Gender of God
by amy peeler
eerdmans, 286 pages, $24.99

 “If God is Male, the Male is God.”
—Mary Daly, 1973 

Twentieth-century feminist theology sought to recuperate the agency of Mary, which feminists declareed had been misplaced in A apply that privileged the maleness of Jesus. In native church buildings, this unbalanced system of worth depreciated womales’s participation in worship. However by deemphasizing An excessively patriarchal God in favor of A strong virgin, the church might right course and elevate womales. Such have been the argumalests made Inside the feminist theology of the Nineteen Seventies, Nineteen Eighties, and Nineteen Nineties. Amy Peeler’s Womales and the Gender of God likewise seeks To revive womales’s authority by way of the language Of womales’s agency. 

Peeler, an affiliate professor in New Testamalest at Wheaton School, has two primary considerations On this e-book. The primary is how gender Pertains to God—whether or not God is male, whether or not God is masculine, and whether or not “Father” language is solely utilized and needed. The second concern is with Mary’s agency and whether or not God powerens or undermines it. In This method Peeler provides modern questions of power and consent to the shopworn themes of feminist theology.

The Western theological custom has unequivocally afagencyed that God is neither male nor feminine, the Incarnation however. Organic intercourse is a constituent actuality of creatures, not of their Creator. Based mostly on Peeler, however, the Church is rife with thinkers who shirk this consensus. However examples evade her. She malestions Paul Mankowski and John Piper as culprits, but is in any other case content material to tilt in the direction of imaginary interlocutors. Nonetheless, she feels The drawback acutely: If God is male, then womales are worthd Decrease than males. If Jesus is male, his maleness should not be seen to picture God The daddy, So as To not exclude womales. 

God’s maleness Discover your self to bes of essential significance when Peeler turns to Mary’s agency. She notes that for “Pretty A pair of interpreters on reverse sides of the theological spectrum” (extra unnamed interlocutors), the “comparable caricature” is A precedence: “God is forged As a Outcome of the strong male reverse Mary the coerced feminine. She performs the adverse gender stereotype of femininity.” Later feminist theorists questioned such flat-footed views of patriarchy, arguing That womales’s agency typically seemed Simply like the power to coerce and persuade. They conceptualized “gentle power” as a foil to prime-dpersonal, “patriarchal” authority. If Peeler is Familiar with variants of feminism that emphasised The power inright herent in being pregnant, nurture, and care, she Does not let on. Instead, she duties herself with demonstrating that God Isn’t male and that Mary Isn’t coerced. 

The gravest drawback with Peeler’s work is that she misunderstands the theological packages at stake in her evaluation. Peeler seeks to match God’s power in Christ with Mary’s power in her feminine physique. However God’s relation to the world Isn’t aggressive, as if God acted as a human agent. God Isn’t a creature and so human language when utilized to God solely applies By Technique of analogy. Thomas Aquinas’s declare that “we converse of God as All of us know him” follows the biblical declare that we see “by way of a glass darkly.” Early in her e-book, Peeler acknowledges that divine actuality warrants A particular Sort of human speech, but she fails to heed her personal caveat, particularly when deciphering the Incarnation. 

For did God request permission in creating the world? Did the Son consent to his sending Contained in the Triune financial system? Must God, in turning into human, additionally Discover your self to be topic to our cultural assumptions? Rather than addressing the true boundary That is miraculously violated—that between heaven and earth—Peeler extols God as a gentleman:

The narrative consists of solely twelve verses (Luke 1:26-30), but even in brevity, it provides seemingly inexhaustible riches to ponder the character of each God and Mary. The extremely effective God approaches Mary with honor and blessing and waits for her response. She, the youthful circumspect feminine, with grit and self-respect, accepts. The commerce then Isn’t between one strong and one weak, one forceful male and one pressured feminine, but between one God and one human woman, who each act for her honor from the place of power.

Peeler models out to show that God Isn’t A particular person but succeeds merely in arguing that if he have been, the Zeitgeist would approve of him. She Desires to say that God is Boaz with Ruth instead of David with Bathsheba. However God is neither. It is true that Christians Ought to be involved To not worship a God who forces himself on womales. However it’s because Christians Do not worship a creature amongst creatures, However the very floor of being, of consciousness, of agency.

Theology subordinated to trendy sensibilities yields all method of absurdities. For event, Peeler declares that the conjunction of Jesus’s “virginally conceived physique” Collectively with his biological maleness makes his physique “inclusive” of each genders. As a Outcome of Jesus was male, had his conception been biological, womales Can be excluded from figuring out with the incarnate Christ. However because Christ is “born as a male from the flesh of a feminine,” each Men And ladies are represented in Christ’s male flesh. Peeler’s view mimics Gregory of Nazianzus’s axiom that “what Isn’t assumed Isn’t redeemed.” Gregory’s concern, however, was not for identification with Christ but for the exact redemption of the particular person. Certainly, mere inclusion in Christ’s particularity doesn’t concern the earliest Christian theologians, who have been apprehensive A lot extra about how God might Discover your self to be man than with how man might resemble God. 

Peeler additionally posits gender and its expression as important to our humanity and but rejects its teleology. She treats Mary’s capability to conceive and carry A toddler to time period as solely incidental to her feminineness. Her dismissal of motherhood As a Outcome of the quintimportant feminine vocation makes nonsense of her declare that feminine nature Is important. Worse, what issues most to Peeler is Mary’s agency, her choosing, her power—qualities extra Associated to the “patriarchal” maleness constructed by feminists. However tright here are factors that A particular person can’t do, and these are the factors that Mary by way of The power of the Spirit does—conceive and bear a Son. 

Mary’s “be it unto me” was an act Of religion In a single factor she Could not understand. By “treasuring This stuff in her coronary heart,” she bore not solely the Son of God However the promise That Every one Can be revealed to her in time, Whilst a sword would pierce her coronary heart. She consented to The will of God because she knew God and accepted the thriller that so typically attends his works. Even elevating the question of agency or consent betrays a reader inattentive to the textual content material’s core theological declares. 

Amy Peeler is to be recommalesded for her Try and show that the gospel Is candy For womales. However she lacks the theological creativeness needed To know that the God Who’s “good For womales” strikes our expectation from agency and consent to submission, holiness, and reward. God acquired here to Mary as a lowly woman and elevated her standing—and, sure, her agency—making her the Blessed One. Mary treasured all This stuff in her coronary heart. Tright here has since been no creature like her. Must we ask for extra? 

Kirsten Sanders is a theologian and author. 

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Image by The Met at Wikimedia Commons licensed by way of Inventive Commons. Image cropped. 


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