FEMINIST THEOLOGY

Written by Natalie K. Watson Reviewed By Laura Nelson

This introduction to feminist theology is part of a series of introductions to areas of systematic theology that is produced by Eerdmans in association with The Christian Theological Research Fellowship. They aim to give a brief (in this case 61 pages) overview of the chosen field, followed by a fairly extensive annotated bibliography (Watson lists and comments on 265 works) to serve as an entrée to the topic. This is a very useful format and the bibliography is divided into helpful sections, with the notes indicating the particular perspective of the author (Catholic, liberal, lesbian, Hispanic etc.) and whether the book is appropriate as an introduction or assumes a grasp of feminist literary theory. This format makes it one of the best introductions to the literature I have seen.

In the first section Watson gives a good overview of the past thirty years in feminist theology, citing all the key thinkers and showing how they interact with one another. She rarely expresses her own views, but where she does she is obviously in agreement with much of what she reviews, only disagreeing with the more extreme ecofeminists. The chapter on history is perhaps the weakest; she makes a number of sweeping generalisations and is surprisingly generous towards Roman Catholicism, whilst condemning the Reformers out of hand.

A major (and very positive) difference from other similar books is a short section at the end on external critiques of feminist theology (she even lists some titles in her bibliography). However her treatment of such critiques shows the frustration that is inherent in any attempt to interact with the feminist theological enterprise. While claiming to be in ‘constant dialogue with the Christian tradition’ (3) they are actually ideologically unable to accept any critique which is not on their terms. They have rejected the validity of questions of truth and history as being inherently androcentric. Watson writes of two critics that ‘they apply scientific and theological paradigms in their critique that are not dissimilar to the ones that feminist theologians have sought to overcome’ (60). This leaves a picture of a so-called theological enterprise that preaches dialogue and ‘mutuality while in fact showing a lamentable absence of accountability.

As an introduction written from ‘within’ feminist theology this is a useful book, and the bibliography is a very helpful resource. However for an introduction to feminist theological thinking written from a more critical (biblical) perspective, readers would do much better to read the scholarly and balanced analysis of Mary Kassian in The Feminist Gospel (Crossway Books Illinois, 1992).


Laura Nelson

Paris