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3Write what you know, the pundits say, and I agree, we are conditioned to take the road less traveled by with only the different drummer to keep us company. As a student, I often find myself stumbling around in the theological woods, feeling lost, losing hope and ending up with mud everywhere, but especially on my face. However, the journey, while it lasts, is more interesting than the interstate highway of common knowledge; it certainly has a way of keeping complacency at bay. For me, that seed has often been something theological. I also often find myself playing the ‘devils advocate’ asking, “What does God look like to those who belong to the rigid social order of the orthodox church, look like in the twentieth-first century?” When modern feminist theologians look at the text of the scriptures, they are quick to point out neglected aspects of the Word and are quick to challenge the “patriarchal” worldviews and assumptions that many consider to be biblical, but may indeed only be cultural. Evangelical feminists who uphold the integrity of the biblical text as the Word of God have done much to cause the Church to reexamine its views on the role of women in the Church.
The challenge has come not from social movements but from the biblical texts themselves. It is essential that we as students look beyond the hermeneutical value, to that which is ingrained in the text not because of truth but rather because of tradition. Professor Trible’s research on Adam and Eve notes that the Fall created an inequality in the family relationship that had not existed before. And if Christ has become a cure for us (Galatians 3:13), that curse of inequality is undone in Him as well as in the text in which she refers our attention. Feminist theologians have also recovered the neglected feminine references to God in scripture (noting: the word for Spirit, Ruach, in Hebrew, is feminine) and pointed out the roles of women in the Bible as deacons, co-laborers with Paul in ministry, judges of the nation (Deborah), and possibly even apostles (Junia of Romans 16:7). There are, of course, other things going on in Professor Trible’s writing, but the subtext of theological issues gives each story its texture as the abstract ideas intertwine with the actual plot.
If I write about nomadic Arabs in 1919 Palestine and describe the tents and daily tea ritual, how can I fail to bring in the Qur’an? We must examine context and use sensitivity, as students, when we examine religious issues and talk about anything that people may feel strongly about. This may be called political correctness by the cynical or good manners by those of us who place tremendous value in Biblical text, but it is simply not polite to wrench away humanities cloak, the very thing that keeps us warm and brings us delight, and use it as a means of keeping the feet of one’s story from touching the muddy ground. So that is why I place great respect in the feminist hermeneutic traditions that choose to write about theology with fear and trembling, with the recognition that important questions deserve important consideration.