1. Julia Gatta, "The Catholic Feminism of Holy Mother Church" ( )
2. Luke Timothy Johnson, "Decision Making as a Theological Process" 39.4 (Michaelmas 1996)
3. Ellen T. Charry, "Biblical Preaching as Subversive" 38.1 (Christmas 1994)
4. Stephen Sykes, "Richard Hooker and the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood"36.2 (Easter 1993)
5. John Polkinghorne, "Is Science Enough?" 39.1 (Christmas 1995)
The Samaritan woman's rightful pride as a descendant of Jacob emboldens her request, but her desire bespeaks a need deeper than she realizes. What begins as a mere wish to be included is transformed by her continuing contact with Jesus into an instance of salvation. The grace of the gospel descends not only upon her, but upon the city she evangelizes with missionary zeal. Living water for the woman quenches everybody's thirst.
In delineating the "Catholic feminism" of the Church, I hope to indicate some springs of refreshment for thirsting women and men available in Church tradition. For if the movement for women's ordination began like the Samaritan woman's request - as the simple desire to share in a common opportunity - it has come to signal deeper needs and possibilities yet to be fulfilled. We have still to understand fully how the spiritual authority of contemporary churchwomen builds upon that of previous generations. We need an anthropology with broader definitions of masculinity and femininity. We need a wider range of symbols to express our experience of the mystery of God. And we need some practical direction for the graceful incorporation of women, especially ordained women, into the mainstream of contemporary ecclesiastical life.
The feminism I am proposing is decidedly "catholic." I mean this in no narrow party spirit; still less, I hope, as naming that sort of universalism characterized, as a friend of mine once quipped, by "something to offend everyone" (though it may do just that). By catholicity I mean a commitment
to hold the diverse elements of Christian life together at the center, and in particular to seek expression for such an all-embracing fellowship as the Communion of Saints, the blessed bond uniting all who belong to Christ: men and women; and, as I shall stress later on, the dead as well as the living.
Perhaps the most definitively catholic characteristic of my recommendations is the attitude towards history that shapes and informs them. The essential premise here is that the centuries standing between our times and those of Christ form a connection, rather than a barrier, to the Incarnation. The successive generations represented in Christian history not only link us sequentially to the apostolic age, but also in themselves show forth God's abiding, tabernacled presence among us. Sacred history does not end with the New Testament, even if the canonical texts set fairly definitive standards by which the beliefs and spirits of subsequent ages must be tested.
In examining the past, especially the pre-reformation period with which I am most familiar, I am struck by certain modes of spirituality and models of anthropology considerably more comprehensive than those generally familiar to contemporary Christians. It seems that here, buried in our own history, lies a channel to that living water the Samaritan woman, and we ourselves, most deeply crave.
But the conduit of history is also an undeniably crude vessel. Like the story of the people of God contained in the Bible, Church history is as much a record of human fallibility as of divine fidelity. The pipeline to the spring of incarnate grace is, in places, rusted, twisted and bent; the water is often enough contaminated by human pollution. Yet still it runs into the well of Christ, where we may drink deeply and be satisfied.
How, then, shall we tap this artery for our present use? Since the task is not a simple one, I would like to delineate four principles that might lead to a richer integration of past and present experience within the Church. These principles I would name as follows: The Recovery of Instructive Tradition, Symbolic Plentitude, Generosity Towards the Past, and The Bold Appropriation of Traditional Symbolism.
1. The Recovery of Instructive Tradition
By now it is clear that the history of women in the Christian tradition is not a monochromatic tale of misogyny and subordination, relieved only by moments of female empowerment in gnostic or heretical sects. On the contrary, historians have begun to take notice of a significant undercurrent in women's history that challenges the picture of unmitigated oppression. We now see how the pursuit of holiness through asceticism - an ideal espoused by both sexes in the patristic and middle ages - particularly served women by creating an institutional space where they could enjoy a much greater degree of autonomy and personal development than society at large accorded them. It may be hard for contemporary people to view the renunciation of sex as liberating, but Christianity, like all major world religions, is essentially paradoxical. Freedom and discipline, self-fulfillment and self-abnegation, are dynamic, mutually inferential polarities. Historically, the high regard accorded celibacy by the Church gave women institutional support when they sought to define themselves against traditional roles. God could make claims on women that superceded those their families made to provide useful alliances and progeny through marriage1
Nor should we imagine that religious women merely traded dominance by father and husband for that exercised by bishop and priest. On the contrary, women's communities often enjoyed an astonishing measure of independence in ordering their own affairs. This is especially true of early medieval foundations and twelfth-century Cistercian convents.2 Double monasteries governed by abbesses such as St. Hilda of Whitby offered women administrative jurisdiction comparable to that of bishops, as well as internal authority over the men and women in their charge. In the later middle ages, women could embrace the vita apostolica popularized by the friars, and a less restricting form of religious life, as tertiaries or beguines. In any case, monasticism provided for the socialization of women by women; and there is evidence to suggest that women who grew up in a monastic setting were less influenced by demeaning cultural images of their sex, and more apt to see themselves embodying a full spectrum of human possibilities and activities that mirrored the operations of God.3
What is perhaps more germane to our contemporary situation is the eminent authority accorded women of holiness. When the authority of clerical office was denied women, another avenue of authority remained open: that of charismatic validation. The Church recognized that the pentecostal gift had been poured out upon the "menservants and the maidservants" (Acts 2:18), and affirmed prophecy as a spiritual charism available to women. Consequently, women of outstanding wisdom and holiness have been sought throughout Christian history for their discerning counsel.
In the patristic period, the spiritual mothers of the Egyptian and Palestinian deserts gathered devoted disciples around them. Macrina, sister of the Cappadocians Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, organized her household around a patterned schedule of prayer, Scripture study, and charitable work that is probably the basis for the Basilian Rule. Melania the Elder founded a monastery on the Mount of Olives, where she was free to devote herself to labors of painstaking biblical erudition. It was she who converted the future desert father and theologian Evagrius of Pontus to a life of asceticism when he visited her monastery in the 380s.4
The Celtic Church employed women as lay confessors; and even as late as the thirteenth century, when confession to a priest had become the Church's rule, Gertrude the Great of Helfta claimed authority to pronounce forgiveness on the basis of a vision in which Christ breathed upon her, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" John 20:22-23). And so greatly was Gertrude esteemed as a woman of spiritual authenticity that her quasi-sacerdotal power was accepted and revered.5 The reputation of Julian of Norwich in the late fourteenth century as an eminent spiritual director stands, then, within a long tradition of pastoral care exercised by women.
In the early twentieth century, and in a non-monastic context, the Anglican Evelyn Underhill perhaps best exemplifies the graceful entry of a woman into traditionally clerical ministries, with her tireless work as a spiritual mentor of clergy and laity and as a director of retreats. From Underhill as from her medieval predecessors, the Church called forth gifts of prodigious theological learning and singular holiness for the cure of souls.
However, it should not be thought that the influence of charismatic women was limited to the relatively private sphere of spiritual direction. The mystics' passionate love for God and the Church impelled them into the public arena as missionaries and reformers. Of the latter, St. Catherine of Siena is the most notable example. A Dominican tertiary, Catherine emerged from a three-year period of contemplative withdrawal to serve the poor and sick of her city. Gradually a group of disciples gathered around her to learn about living on close terms with God. In her middle twenties she' became involved in Italian and papal politics, serving as an ambassador from Florence to the Pope, and negotiating the end of the Avignon Papacy. Catherine was admired and feared by popes, bishops, cardinals, and the Italian aristocracy; she was a personality to be reckoned with. But it was not stubborn self-will that made her such a towering figure. It was the intensity of her love, experienced inwardly as a mystical marriage to Christ, and expressed outwardly as fierce devotion to God and the Church. Her radical obedience challenged prelates to be the pastors their offices signified.6
But it is not only in the recognition of women through holiness, wisdom, and prophecy that we can observe an emerging catholic feminism, but also in feminine images for God and figures of authority. Although today Julian of Norwich is best known for her development of this theme, it is well rooted in biblical and patristic tradition, and was most fully elaborated by male writers in the twelfth century.
The "Motherhood of God" has a long history. Second Isaiah portrays God as nursing, playing with, and maternally comforting the children of Israel (Is. 49:15; 66:11-13). Jesus compared himself to a mother hen gathering her wayward brood under her wings (Mt. 23:37). Patristic writers who mention the motherhood of Christ include Origen, Irenaeus, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Augustine. In his Paedagogue Clement of Alexandria develops at length the image of Christ as spiritual milk drawn from "the Father's breasts of love": "The Word is everything to His little ones, both father and mother, educator and nurse."7
In the middle ages St. Anselm picked up the theme of Christ's motherhood
in his "Prayer to St. Paul." After elaborating the maternity of the Apostle
suggested by Galatians 4:19 ("My little children, with whom I am again
in travail until Christ be formed in you!"), Anselm turns to Christ to
apply the image to him:
And you, Jesus, are you not also a mother?
Are you not the mother who, like a hen,
gathers her chickens under her wings?
Truly, Lord, you are a mother;
for both they who are in labour
and they who are brought forth
are accepted by you.
You have died more than they, that they may labour to bear.
It is by your death that they have been born,
for if you had not been in labour,
you could not have borne death;
and if you had not died, you would not have brought forth.8
As Caroline Walker Bynum has shown, the twelfth century witnessed an efflorescence of this theme, in conjunction with the "motherhood of the abbot," among Cistercian monks.9 As architects of the new affective spirituality, and as men concerned to imbue paradigms of authority with the virtues of tenderness, comfort, and nurture, the Cistercians developed the twin motifs of divine and abbatial maternity. In his famous set of sermons on the Song of Songs, for instance, St. Bernard of Clairvaux interprets the swelling of the beloved's breasts as readiness for pastoral responsibility. Here Bernard uses the interplay between bridegroom and bride as a metaphor for the relation between the active and the contemplative lives. The kiss of the lover, which is the grace of contemplative prayer, makes the soul a pastor--that is, a mother--one able to feed others from her "milky abundance." For Bernard the two enlarged breasts of the beloved signify the double aspect of pastoral care, compassion and encouragement: "For if she were not prompt to rejoice with those who rejoice, and ready to be sad with those who sorrow, her breasts would still be undeveloped; she would be no more than a girl too immature to marry. Should a person devoid of these affective qualities be confided with the direction of souls, or the work of preaching, he will do no good to others and great harm to himself''10
The Cistercian Guerric of Igny also uses imagery derived from the Song of Songs to discuss pastoral maternity. In a sermon for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, he considers the bride's two breasts as the two great apostles of the Church. Because Peter and Paul nursed the infant Church with the milk of doctrine and consolation, they are the two breasts of Mother Church. But the maternity of the apostles rests, in turn, upon that of Christ, for:
The Bridegroom himself in the days of his earthly life had begotten some children by the word of truth and as long as he was with them he had suckled them at the breasts of edification and consolation.... The Bridegroom, I say, has breasts, lest he should be lacking any one of the duties and titles of loving kindness. He is a father in virtue of natural creation or of the new birth which comes through grace, and also in virtue of the authority by which he instructs. He is a mother, too, in the mildness of his affections, and a nurse because he is so attentive to the care such duty imposes. 11
For the Cistercians, feminine images of the divine expressed both their experience of God as one who feeds, instructs, and comforts, and their longing for mystical union. At the same time, maternal imagery for abbots, prelates, and others holding pastoral office, applies this divine model of authority to life within the Christian, or monastic, community. Just as God was both father and mother, judge and savior, disciplinarian and upholder of the weak--so was the ideal abbot.
Variations on the feminine theme are manifold in the middle ages. Compared with Cistercian monks, women who employed maternal imagery for God generally reflect less predetermined notions of either sex than their male colleagues. Gertrude of Helfta, for example, considers God as both father and mother, but mothers in her scheme of things are as apt to chasten as to console.l2 For Julian of Norwich, God's fatherhood and motherhood reflect the respective operations of the First and Second Persons of the Trinity in the economy of salvation. The motherhood of Jesus functions for her as both a theological and affective vehicle for describing our incorporation into Christ. 13 Both male and female mystics explore the implications of Christ's nuptial relationship to the Church and to the individual soul, as tradition developed these motifs from the Song of Songs, the Epistle to the Ephesians, and the Book of Revelation.
I have suggested that the example of charismatic leadership exercised by women and the abundance of feminine imagery for God, for pastors, and for mystical souls is "instructive tradition." How do I propose that we recover this catholic feminism and use it today?
First of all, and most modestly, I would hope that more translations of saints' lives and their writings become available for reading and study.
What would happen if Christian people drew upon the spiritual writers I have cited, and many more, for their meditation and prayer? I suspect that the theological and affective power of the mystics would open doors for us into the mystery of God, as one who both transcends and fulfills all sexual categories. Under the guidance of the mystics, preachers might begin to incorporate feminine imagery for God, the Church, and the soul into their sermons and spiritual counsel. Attention to this richer language and symbolism brings me to my second point for the recovery of tradition: namely, the principle of symbolic plentitude.
II. Symbolic Plentitude
Feminists in and out of the Church are concerned today to redress the sexual imbalance in our categories of perception. For Christians, this entails assessing the symbols and language we use for God and for human beings. The question is: how might a better equilibrium be achieved, and what are the larger implications of the various strategies currently proposed? Symbols are, after all, multi-dimensional; they are inevitably freighted with overtones, some intentional and others not. Before we attempt a shift in the symbols we use, it is prudent to examine other, perhaps uncalculated, symbolic ramifications unavoidably occasioned by such changes.
What, for instance, is suggested by the repudiation of traditional Trinitarian language and the biblical, albeit patriarchal, images for God--Lord, king, governor, father? That God is not male, and that the fulness of the divine cannot be expressed by masculine images alone? Fair enough; but is not something more suggested by changes that in themselves betoken a radical break with the past? Are we not implying that neither biblical nor church tradition upholds the equal dignity of the sexes; that, as the opponents of women's ordination contend, the ordination of women is something altogether new and in no sense the organic development of a potential latent in the Church from the start?
As a catholic Anglican, I am troubled by the attempt to sever ourselves symbolically, linguistically, and theologically from the generations of Christians who have lived before us. The faith is that which is "passed down": paradosis. We stand indebted to those ho have communicated the word and sacraments of life to us. To be sure, our forebears, like we ourselves, carried this treasure in earthen vessels. Human beings never articulate or live the gospel in utter purity. And although God is continually renewing the Church, her reformation occurs within history, not apart from it. The past, whether individual or corporate, can be redeemed; it should not be amputated.
Hence, the posture of revisionist history that underlies the so-called ''Inclusive Language Lectionary" project of the National Council of Churches seems sorely at odds with a religion that claims to be historical and incarnational. In this case, the operative hermeneutic seems to be: if the text offends, pluck it out--or rewrite it according to one's own notion of how theology and history should have been. But the Bible is not a mere "resource," an ancient ruin whose treasures we are free to quarry for the building of our shrines. Among the manifold and complex duties of a translator, it seems to me, is fidelity to the received text--not because every word of it is inspired, nor because people today like it or can "relate" to it, but simply because the past was what it was, for good and ill. Sacred history, its events and literary tradition, stands over against us, challenging us to discern God at work in the confusing, sinful, and sometimes glorious lives of our ancestors. We cannot walk around this stumbling block without missing the scandal of particularity, the cornerstone which is Christ himself
But is there a way at once to affirm our essential connectedness to tradition, and to seek wider horizons for our conceptualizations of God and humanity? I think there is, and what we need to begin this task tradition itself provides.
As I have said, medieval mystics articulate a remarkable range of metaphors for God. For instance, Julian of Norwich can, in two sentences, speak of God as "father," "mother," "spouse," "brother," and ''saviour.''l4 No single metaphor exhausts the mystery of God; no one image is absolute. Each expresses some aspect of divinity the others cannot do as well. And, most important of all, Julian's language for God arises out of prayer, from her actual encounter with God in Christ. She does not use feminine language self-consciously, to make a point about herself or other members of her sex. Julian uses divine names theologically, not anthropologically. Anything else, of course, would be blasphemous: using God to serve creaturely ends.
The mystical tradition, then, furnishes us with paradigms and guidelines for our quest. Its symbolic plentitude is open to our prayerful exploration: feminine images for God, for the Church, and for the soul. We might begin with meditation upon Mary, who as Theotokos, has provided Christians since the patristic era with an inexhaustible icon of the Church, Mother of believers, whose vocation is carrying and bearing Christ to the world. As such, Mary is an exemplar of the priesthood, fruitful in the works of the Spirit. She is also every Christian soul, who knows what it is to be invaded by God, to be fearful of divine favor, to suffer through compassion, to have one's own soul pierced, to surrender.
Then again there is the tradition of marital imagery, in which the soul, the feminine anima, seeks and attains union with Christ the Bridegroom. Although critics tend to censure bridal mysticism for its implicit model of marriage--one in which the female is the inferior and receptive partner--they are apt to overlook its use of woman as representative humanity. In any case, as Julian of Norwich might remind us, no one image can "say it all." All metaphors have limitations. Nuptial imagery, in which women and men alike assume a feminine persona before God, is extraordinarily rich in spiritual possibility, suggesting intimacy and fulfillment through union with God in a covenant of everlasting fidelity.
In its conception of the human person, pre-Reformation spirituality is also instructive. Medieval anthropology is astonishingly comprehensive and, in its own way, relaxed. Medieval monks could see themselves as brides of Christ or babes at the maternal breast of God. Abbots strove to be mothers as well as fathers to their charges. Conversely, women found it natural to appropriate male typology. Female martyrs were styled "athletes" or "soldiers" of Christ. Medieval nuns identified with saints of both sexes, and thought of themselves as "preachers," "apostles," and princes leading armies. 15However this transference of sexual imagery corresponds to actual relations between the sexes, such flexibility in thought and expression does at least point to a readiness to employ metaphors whenever pertinent, and to an appreciation of metaphor as indeed metaphorical, not literal.
In contrast to medieval plentitude and pliability, modern attempts at comprehensiveness are frequently marked by symbolic meagerness and rigidity. Trapped in semiotic literalism, men, presumably, can no longer identify with feminine symbols, nor women with masculine symbols. Sexual connotation is reduced to safe and bloodless neutrality. Hence, the "handmaiden" of the Magnificat is collapsed to "lowly servant"; "sons" shrinks to "heirs"; and God becomes not "Father" or "Mother" but a nebulous "Parent." The Church is not "she" but "it." And Mary is either ignored, disdained as a figure of feminine passivity, or evoked as the patron saint of assertiveness training. Her embodiment of a central Christian paradox--that God's power is made perfect in weakness--is missed when the prophetic woman of the Visitation is divorced from the obedient woman of traditional piety.
The symbolic plentitude of catholic tradition, on the other hand, offers a more fertile climate for our spiritual and psychological growth. It is important that we appreciate and employ a wide range of apposite symbols to search deeply our relationship to God. It is healthful for men and women to enter imaginatively and sympathetically into the situation of the other sex, and to affirm those parts of their own psyches that are both feminine and masculine. But we shall never recover the feminine imagery for divine mysteries that exists in tradition and needs to be known until we pass beyond our nervous and defensive literalism to an appreciation of metaphor distinguished by literary sophistication and psychic adaptability.
III. Generosity Towards the Past
I recently found myself, as a spiritual director, comparing methodology with a friend of mine who is a practicing clinical psychologist. Scrutinizing the past, he told me, begins the therapeutic process. It then continues with a frank admission of wrongs and hurts. Your parents, say, did not give you the attention and affection you needed: your younger brother got it all instead. That wasn't fair; it wasn't right. You were denied a basic human need. That primal injustice must be faced and felt.
But for healing to take place, one has to find some other source of love and acceptance so the past can be released of its unfulfilled obligation. In classical psychological theory, this need is transferred to the therapist. But, my friend assured me, this process is furthered substantially if the patient is a person of faith. When God is seen and experienced as our utterly faithful, ever-sustaining Lover, our iron grip on the past, and its hold on us, can be relaxed. We might even begin to feel compassion for those who failed us, while discovering in them virtues previously hidden from our eyes.
It is in this spirit that I advocate "generosity towards the past": not to whitewash the sins of history, not to dismiss or trivialize the injustices our forebears perpetrated upon women, and many others. Why was the early Church so quick to accommodate herself to the cultural status quo? Why did she decide so soon that the eschatological state of equality between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female could only apply in the present dispensation to ethnic difference? Why, in the high middle ages, was there a predisposition to accept the Aristotelian definition of woman as a misbegotten male, an intrinsically inferior human being, when other aspects of "the Philosopher's" scientific theory were criticized as incompatible with Christian doctrine? We will not come to peace with the past or within ourselves by flights into historical revisionism or historical romanticism. In the Christian scheme of things, sin--whether personal or corporate--must be acknowledged and confessed.
At the same time, we all know how an exclusive focusing upon defect in others blinds us to goodness and beauty. I have tried to indicate how much of Christian tradition, including women's history, is instructive and nourishing for our symbol-starved culture. And the past also judges us. The biblical, patristic, and medieval sense of community, for instance, stands as an indictment of, and alternative to, American individualism. The medieval sense of joy in God, its esteem for contemplation, contrasts sharply with our overworked, harried lives, in which we tacitly practice a species of justification by works more pernicious than anything that plagued the late middle ages. We are not without our blind spots; we cannot throw the first stone.
Likewise it is unfair to paint the sins of the past blacker than they actually were, or to take offense where no offense was intended or really given. In the past ten or fifteen years, the English language tradition has itself become a focal point for feminist reformist efforts. "Man" and "men," we are told, are "gender-specific" words; they presume to define women solely in relation to men, and make women feel excluded. Consequently, other words--person, humanity, human being--or new words yet to be invented--that are not male-oriented need to be employed and substituted.
That the generic use of "man" or "men" has it origins in the values of an androcentric culture is undeniable. "Man" as a generic term is linked to "man" in its specific reference. The male is, in etymological history, normative. The same criticism could be made, however, of the word "woman"--an augmentation, obviously, of the primary word "man." Those who seek etymological purity ought to follow the example of radical linguists and call the female of our species "woperson." But even here etymology is murky, for by "person" do we really intend its original connotation of "mask"?
I hope that "man" will be retained in English usage as a generic term for the human race and the individuals who comprise it, and not be shrunk to a meaning that really does exclude women. For one thing, the generic "man" is an extremely useful word. It is pithy and succinct and, more importantly, has the unique ability to denote the generic singular and universal at the same time. No other word can do this: "humanity" and "human race" are collective terms; "person," "human being," or "individual" are singular. This gives "man" a linguistic utility in the philosophical and theological disciplines especially, for which we have no substitute. How else could George Herbert address God saying--"Wilt thou meet arms with man, that thou dost stretch / A crumb of dust from heav'n to hell?"--and still convey the cosmic, yet personal senses suggested by his usage?
Besides, even given its androcentric origin, the word "man" is not, in traditional usage, "gender-specific." "Woman" is gender-specific; but "man" is gender-ambiguous . Its meaning depends upon context. of course, the need for context to illumine meaning is true of a host of other words, in English and other languages.
Here again I would like to press the question of symbolism. What are we doing, what are we saying, if we limit the word "man" to males only? We are, as I have argued, narrowing our range of verbal expression. But we are doing more: we are erecting a barrier between our generation and all English writers prior to 1970. We are rendering the English spiritual, theological, and literary tradition less accessible--the very tradition that has so much to offer our contemporary as well as our perennial spiritual hunger. Will we be able to read Julian of Norwich, Richard Hooker, George Herbert, Evelyn Underhill, or T.S. Eliot without taking offense at their putative male bias? Or can we see that when they use the generic "man," women are included, not excluded, in their thinking. Should we not consider, before we create a verbal wall of separation between ourselves and past writers, whether we are honoring the comprehensiveness implied by the doctrine of the Communion of Saints? Will women be self-confident enough to claim their just place in our linguistic and religious heritage, and not permit themselves to be excluded from it by zealous literalism?
IV. The Bold Appropriation of Traditional Symbolism
The recovery of instructive tradition, and the creative appropriation of its symbols and models, opens possibilities for our generation that are genuinely new. But in some cases, we have yet to recognize what these occasions of grace are. In the pre-Reformation period, as I have already indicated, exceptional learning and holiness of life gave women authority in the Church that was sometimes even greater than that exercised through clerical office. Yet something about our post-Reformation mentality seems to prevent us from recognizing sanctity among modern women. Lesser Feasts and Fasts, for example, commemorates no women after the fifteenth century. Surely this is not because the Holy Spirit departed from the female sex five hundred years ago Those of us of an ecumenical temper might wish that the great mystical theologian, Teresa of Avila, be included in our calendar; but even if we limit ourselves to Anglicans, are there not numerous candidates? What about courageous women like Marion Hughes, Priscilla Lydia Sellon, and Anne Ayers who, before the men, revived religious life within Anglicanism in the nineteenth century? Perhaps we might also remember our saintly deaconesses and missionaries; vigorous reformers like Florence Nightingale; and scholars, spiritual directors, and mystics like Evelyn Underhill.
It seems that the recent revision of the Book of Common Prayer also missed an opportunity to honor the woman regarded as the greatest of the saints in the propers appointed for Various Occasions. While one notes with appreciation the expansion of Marian feasts to include the Visitation, and the commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Eucharistic Prayers B and D, and the Prayers of the People: Form V, still it seems odd to have propers designated to honor the Holy Angels but not she who is "higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim." If this omission signals a desire to avoid rekindling Reformation polemic regarding the appropriate place of Mary in liturgy and Christian devotion, we have missed the signs of our own times. The veneration of the Mother of God is properly exercised in relation to Christ and the Church. If in the past a distorted and exaggerated Marian piety tended to obscure the Incarnation, the danger today is exactly the reverse. By failing to honor or even acknowledge the woman from whose human flesh the Word became flesh, our incarnationalism is liable to fall into the self-contradiction of existing only in the realm of ideas.
But if some opportunities still await fulfillment, the rich potentiality latent in women's ordination is finally beginning to flower. I refer here not so much to the enhanced possibilities for leadership and service ordained women now enjoy, though these are manifold. What I wish to point out, rather, are the new and marvelous resonances struck within tradition when women boldly and thoughtfully appropriate its symbols.
Let us consider, most simply, the layers of symbolism present when a woman stands at the altar and celebrates the Eucharist according to the "doctrine, discipline, and worship of this Church." Unlike those who tamper with the Prayer Book, seeking to expunge male pronouns and traditional symbols for God, this priest, like holy women and men before her, keeps the prayer of the Church focused on God, not God's human representative. She is deliberately situating herself in the generations of priests before her, exercising the same priesthood of Christ as did the apostles, Athanasius, Augustine of Canterbury, Lancelot Andrewes, and Samuel Seabury.
If she happens to be wearing a chasuble, certain other, visual resonances are set in motion, for the unisex chasuble appears on both sexes on traditional eastern iconography. A chasubled woman standing in the "orans" position at the Great Thanksgiving renews the famous icon of the Virgin Orans, and also our Lady of the Sign, mystically interpreted as an icon of the Church. It shows Mary, hands raised in prayer, and carrying Christ within her in glory. Like the Church herself, she expresses the mystery of the finite containing and manifesting the Infinite.
I could multiply my examples: the woman preaching, the woman offering spiritual counsel, evokes Sophia, Holy Wisdom. When I administer the Sacrament on Christmas Eve, I recall Mary receiving into her hands for the first time her Incarnate Lord. At a recent baptism, I reminded my congregation that they all had been born anew from the womb of Holy Mother Church. The bold appropriation of highly traditional symbolism situates women in their rightful place of glory as God's handmaidens, and makes tradition for all of us living faith, living water.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article with Eleanor McLaughlin urging women priests to consider adopting the title ''Mother.''l6 I wish now to report: it works. The two things congregations wonder about most when they first encounter an ordained woman are: how will she dress, and what will we call her? These are superficial matters, in a way; but they are also deeply symbolic. The Church needs women who can meet the challenge of assuming the traditional symbols of priesthood with grace, forthrightness, and dignity.
Title and dress bespeak our sources of authority and sense of continuity. There are times, of course, when it is natural and appropriate to call clergy by their Christian names, or for them to assume secular dress. But the secularization of the priesthood--the tendency to regard the priest as a sort of middle-management executive or an ecclesiastical "facilitator"--needs to be firmly resisted. In returning to our holy history, women can help all priests be spiritual fathers and mothers within the eschatological family of God. The titles "Father" and "Mother" for priests signal not despotism or authoritarianism, but true spiritual authority lovingly exercised in the context of mutual responsibility. As icons of the Church, the Theotokos, as icons of God whom tradition calls "Father" as well as "Mother," women priests who boldly claim the symbols of tradition do so for the sake of all of us in the Church: "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).
--Julia Gatta SLJT, December 1985, Volume XXIX, Number I. [Return to Top]
1. Rosemary Ruether, "Mothers of the Church: Ascetic Women in the Late Patristic Age," Women of Spirit: Female Leadership in the Jewish and Christian Traditions ed. Rosemary Ruether and Eleanor McLaughlin (New York: Simon and Schuster 1979) pp 72-73. [Back to text]
2. R. W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, The Pelican History of the Church, 2 (1970; rpt. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972), pp. 315-18. [Back to text]
3. Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 182), p. 185. [Back to text]
4. Ruether, pp. 73-74, 83-85. [Back to text]
5. Bynum, pp. 205-07. [Back to text]
6 . Eleanor McLaughlin, "Women, Power and the Pursuit of Holiness in Medieval Christianity," Women of Spirit, pp. 115-19. [Back to text]
7 . Clement of Alexandria, Christ the Educator, trans. Simon P. Wood, Fathers of the Church, 23 (New York, 1954), pp. 40-43 (Bk. I, 6, par. 34-52). [Back to text]
8. The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm, trans. Sister Benedicta Ward S.L.G. (1973; rpt. New York: Penguin Books, 1979), p. 153. [Back to text]
9. Bynum, pp. 1109. [Back to text]
10. "Sermon 9" and "Sermon 10," On the Song of Songs, trans. Kiliam Walsh, in ne Works of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 2, Cistercian Fathers series, 4 (Spencer, MA., 1971), I, 58-81. [Back to text]
11. Guerric of Igny, "The Second Sermon for Saints Peter and Paul: Sermon 45 ," Liturgical Sermons, trans. the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Cistercian Fathers series, 32 (Spencer, MA., 1971), II, 154-55. [Back to text]
12. Bynum, pp. 189-90. [Back to text]
13. Revelations of Divine Love, Chap. 58. [Back to text]
14. Revelations, Chap. 52. [Back to text]
15. Bynum, p. 251. [Back to text]
16. Julia Gatta and Eleanor McLaughlin, "What Do You Call a Woman Priest" Episcopal Times, October 1981, p. 4. [Back to text]
In these three papers I want to invite you to a way of thinking about faith, theology, and the church that appears filled with risk and even some danger. It is also, I have become convinced, the way we must begin to think if we ate to be faithful to the One who calls us. I propose to do this by thinking with you about a particular ecclesial practice, namely, making decisions. Making decisions is as ordinary and bothersome as weeding a garden; we do it all the time. This is, then, an exercise in practical theology.
Practical thinking is often despised by theoreticians because it is not easy. Theory, after all, stands still. Thinking about real life is a slippery business and requires quick feet and an agile mind. One of the things of which I want to convince you, in fact, is that rather than being the stepchild of the theological disciplines practical theology is the very essence of theology upon which all other modes of theological thinking depend and to which they must refer.
My overall topic is decision making in the church. I will argue in this first presentation that decision making in the church is a theological process in which the exercise of discernment is critical; in the next two papers I will try to show that while discernment certainly is dangerous and difficult, it does have definite dimensions, and since "biblical reflections" is an important aspect of this series of papers, each will also engage some part of the New Testament.
How shall we get to this new way of thinking which is actually a very
old way? There really is no shallow end where we can splash ourselves bit
by bit until we grow accustomed to the chill. We shall have to dive in
and splash about full body until we find ourselves swimming. So I will
begin by proposing a series of propositions that will be our first plunge.
Then we will splash about in the text of Acts for awhile, and finally we
will try a couple of laps with this concept of discernment.
One. Our faith is in the living God. This really is "first" in every respect, the grounding of everything. Faith is not a matter of right belief as though it involved only the mind but a matter of right response, involving the whole person in trust, obedience, hope, and loyalty to another. More significantly, the "other" in this case is the living God. God is not a remnant concept, referring to what is left over when everything else has been taken into account. God is the living reality that makes it possible to take anything into account. God is the source of all things, not simply by a creative act of the past, but by a continuing and constantly surprising creation in the present not simply the creation of gases and stars in the firmament overhead, but the creation of every human person at every moment, in every breath and heartbeat. God is the One who precedes us and presses on us at every moment. God is the one who, in creating and sustaining us now, also places a demand on us now and at every moment. That demand is a call to decision: whether to accept our being and worth from God as gift or to reject the ground of our being in the blind endeavor to create for ourselves our own life and value. And because creation is at every moment new, because God's immediate presence to creation at every moment places a demand on human freedom, faith must necessarily be an open-ended, never-ceasing, always-renewed response. At no moment before death can we say, "Stop. No more. I am finished," because at no moment before death does God stop creating us and thereby stop calling us to new belief, trust, obedience, hope, and loyalty.
Two. Theology is the articulation of faith. Theology articulates faith by bringing it to expression through prayer and worship, yes, but by narratives of faith spoken in the assembly through which the church hears declared what God is doing in the world. Theology also articulates faith by providing it with a structure, revealing how such experiences of God in the world are connected with the community's scriptures, creeds, and traditions. Finally, theology articulates faith by connecting our understanding of God with all the other ways of thinking about reality through philosophy, social sciences, poetry, art, and so on. The starting point for theology, however, is giving expression to God's work in the world, apprehended through faith. Since faith is open-ended and called always to respond to the God who never ceases to work in the fabric of human freedom, then theology also must be open-ended, always changing, and always responsive to the living God. In such an understanding the notion of "systematic theology" is a contradiction in terms since it suggests a stasis that one's faith in the living God rejects.
Three. Theology is an ecclesial activity. To say that theology is an activity of the church is to imply that it does not find its first or best home in the academy where, since the medieval universities, it has too often been located. The doing of theology is appropriate where faith lives: in communities where narratives of faith are spoken and where the activity of God in the world is recognized and praised. Theology is an ecclesial activity also because it is the church's faith not just that of the individual, however learned or bright that is articulated. The church's faith includes, of course, its scriptures, creeds, and tradition all of the ways in which its understanding of God's revelation in creation and history has been articulated in the past and this "faith" as symbolic world is of fundamental importance for the doing of theology. It is the church's faith also in that the church as community encounters the presence and power of God in the lives of its members, and is called to respond at every moment to the call implicit in such an encounter. Finally, theology is an ecclesial activity because everyone in the community of faith participates in its practice. Theology is not an activity only for the learned or the ordained. It is a practice to which all who have faith are invited; only if all are capable of articulating their faith can the church truly learn what God is up to in the world.
Four. Decision making is a hermeneutical process for any community. Whenever groups as groups make decisions, they engage in a process of self-interpretation. If groups are defined primarily in terms of the tasks they perform, decisions about ends and means are usually the most taxing. Groups whose identities are defined in terms of a certain way of being or a certain way of living find that decisions concerning membership, boundaries, and leadership are defined interpretively. In either case, communities more definitely become themselves by the decisions they make. They do so partially in terms of the process itself: Whose voice is heard in the making of the decision? How are voices coordinated? How are decisions reached, promulgated, and enforced? For groups as well as for individuals it should be noted that most decisions are of the upkeep and maintenance variety, that is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The interpretive yield in such a situation as this will be low. On the other hand, picture an association of scientists, "Physicists United." Up until now it has been male-only, but a female with a doctorate in physics applies for membership. It is the new which forces interpretation. In this case, is it a men's club that happens to fool around in physics, or is it really an association of scientists in which intellectual credentials are all that matters? Deciding this issue demands some sense of the group's tradition and purposes, but reaching a decision inevitably sharpens that identity in one direction or another: accepting the qualified woman means that we really are scientists; rejecting her means that we care less for science than for exclusively male companionship.
Five Decision making in the church should be a theological process. There is a "Q.E.D." here somewhere: if every group's mode of reaching decision reveals something about its true identity, if the church is a community constituted by faith in the living God, and if theology is the articulation of that faith, then it would seem to follow that the way in which the church as a human group reaches its decision ought to articulate its faith.
Six. Decision making in the church is a hermeneutical process. just as with other groups, most of the decisions made by the church fall into the upkeep and maintenance category. The precedents set by tradition and scripture are so strong that inertia is at times overwhelming. If God is the living God and breaks through our precedents and procedures, however, then God does confront the church with newness and with challenge. Indeed, if God did not so confront the church, we should have cause to worry whether it was really the living God with whom we are concerned. When God presses upon the church's precedents through the narratives of faith told by believers, narratives which in a disciplined and structured fashion witness to how God has acted in their experience, then the church's faith is challenged to respond with trust, obedience, hope, and loyalty. Its response must involve the reinterpretation of its normative symbols in light of the activity of God that it encounters through such narratives. This hermeneutical process by which the experience of God drives the community to reread its symbols of faith is what we mean by theology.
Seven. The gift of discernment is the key to making this process
of decision an articulation of faith. Since the church is moved to decision
by the activity of God brought to its attention through narratives of faith
even though God's activity is scarcely ever unambiguous and human narratives
seldom completely transparent the precise shape of the church's trust,
obedience, hope, and loyalty in specific instances can hardly be presented
to the community with utter and unassailable clarity. As each individual's
faith in the living God is filled with risk and danger, so is the church's
faith. The necessity for discernment is obvious, yet the difficulty of
discernment at least for those of us who have tried it is at least equally
as obvious. But God has apparently willed that we rely on this slippery
and shaky gift. The options are simple and unattractive: without discernment,
the church might say "yes" to every narrative spoken to it, to the destruction
of its tradition and scripture; even more frightening, the church that
was merely set on protecting its tradition and scripture might fail
ever to hear the word of God spoken in present circumstances.
The Church Reaching Decision: A Biblical Model
The understanding of theology that I have sketched derives from my reading of the New Testament. In Christianity's normative texts we find precisely the same combination of elements that I have elaborated and in the same sort of dynamic tension. Indeed, the birth of the New Testament itself can best be understood as resulting from the effort to resolve the cognitive dissonance caused for the first believers by the contradiction between Jesus, whom they experienced as the risen Holy One and the source of the empowering Holy Spirit, and their scriptures (the texts of Torah), which appeared to exclude the possibility that one who died a death cursed by God could ever be "messiah," much less Lord. From beginning to end the writings of the New Testament show the signs of the generative matrix from which they emerged that is, the struggle to resolve experience and symbols in the midst of cultural realities and concrete circumstances that were no less complex than ours. This matrix is what gives to these writings both their distinctive energy and their capacity to instruct every generation.
It is above all in the narrative account of the apostolic council and the events leading up to it in Acts 10-15 that I find the best and most useful antecedent for the model of theology I am proposing. There is no time, and I hope no need, to work through this text in detail here. It is, I am sure, familiar to you all. I would, however, suggest that a careful reading and rereading of this sequence can have a powerful effect on our perception of what decision making in the church should be like and, therefore, what theology as an articulation of faith might be like.
Let us consider first the enormity of the decision itself, as Luke reports it. The decision to allow Gentiles to enter the messianic community and, more importantly, to allow them entrance without the requirements of circumcision and the ritual obligations of Torah is the single most important decision ever made in the history of Christianity's self-definition from its beginning until now. That decision defined Christianity in its first generation as an inclusive and world-wide religion, and had as its corollary the perception of Jesus not merely as a Jewish messiah but as the beginning of a new humanity.
As great as the significance of this decision is the mystery of how it was reached. To appreciate this we must remember the ancestral antipathy between Jews and Gentiles. For most pious Jews in the first century, an association with Gentiles was at best a necessity and at worst a profanation. The Gentiles were the pigs before whom pearls should not be cast. In Torah, to be sure, there are intimations of universality, of a "light to the Gentiles," but this was always conceived in terms of adherence to Israel and always involved coming within the symbolic and ritual world of the Law. The Jesus movement, likewise, had stayed within the bounds of Judaism, and the earliest followers of Jesus after Pentecost clearly thought of themselves as the restoration of Israel.
Looking back at those first decades from the distance of two thousand years, and at a cultural distance from our Jewish roots so profound that we must exercise great energy even to imagine them, the decision to convert Gentiles and accept them into table fellowship without requiring circumcision or the observance of other aspects of the Law may easily appear to us to have been natural, perhaps even inevitable. That is why it is important to immerse ourselves once more in Luke's narrative. One thing he makes abundantly clear is that, while the inclusion of the Gentiles was in God's plan from the start, no humans had a clue that this was the direction in which God was going. Indeed, Luke's narrative shows the tension between God's initiative moving ahead of the human characters and the human characters trying to catch up with what God was doing.
It is important, as we ponder these events, and especially Luke's telling of them, that we realize the stakes. First, as I have said, we need to understand as best we can how the antipathy felt by Jews toward Gentiles found its focus in table-fellowship. Gentiles were, after all, "by nature" ignorant idolaters whose lives were impure and corrupted. To share a meal with them was to risk one's own status among God's holy people. The world we live in is obsessed by sexuality; the ancient world was preoccupied with the significance of eating together. For a Jew to eat with a Gentile meant something larger than we can any longer imagine. We must remember, too, that the weight of Torah was entirely on the side of those Pharisaic Christians who resisted the inclusion of the Gentiles except on the condition that they be circumcised and keep Torah. The Pharisaic Christians had far more tradition and theological precedent on their side than did those who wished the Gentiles to be accepted as they were. In fact, the only argument that could be made in favor of such inclusion was: God seems to want it because that is what is happening in our experience but I anticipate the narrative to which we should now briefly turn.
Although from the start of his story Luke had shown his readers that God planned to call the Gentiles, so that "all flesh might see the salvation of God," his account of how God set about accomplishing that, and how the human disciples struggled to decide for God's action, begins in Acts 10 with the conversion of Cornelius. The narrative from Acts 10 builds toward the decision that is finally reached and announced in chapter 15. I cannot interpret the many exquisite details of Luke's narrative (truly one of the masterpieces of biblical storytelling), but I would like to point out some of the salient elements. Before starting, though, it is critical to recognize that Luke's narrative can function as a theological model for us precisely as a narrative it is the process he describes that has exemplary value.
I would ask you to remember how quietly it all begins: with the prayer experience of two individuals. The first is that of a Gentile, Cornelius. He has a vision in prayer that he should send for Simon
(10:1-6).He calls trusted associates, tells them what has happened, and sends them to seek Simon (10:7-8). Notice how experience starts to become communal through narrative: they hear the story, believe it, and act on it. At the same time Peter has his famous lunch-time vision of the sheet descending filled with all sorts of beasts and the voice telling him to "kill and eat" (10:10-17) . Although the vision is twice repeated, we note that its meaning remains uncertain. Was it because Peter was hungry that he had such a dream? Was it a temptation? At this point Luke tells us that Peter was "puzzling" over the vision. He cannot figure out what the message "Do not call common what God has made clean" might mean.
Two people have what we could call classic "religious experiences." Like so many such experiences, however, their significance remains unclear. Luke draws the two experiences together by narrative: the messengers arrive, Peter receives them, they tell Peter of Cornelius's vision (now slightly and tellingly amplified), and Peter "without doubting" or "discriminating" decides to go with them to Cornelius's house (10:29). Peter allows Cornelius's experience to interpret his own, and follows that lead to enter into a communal experience.
When Peter arrives at Cornelius's house, his insight has already advanced to the point where he knows that God was not telling him about food but people: he has come to recognize that God is no respecter of persons, but that in every nation those who fear God are acceptable to him (10:34). What a remarkable distance to have traveled in a day, not from Joppa to Caesarea, but from a smaller to a larger vision of God! We know what happens: Peter proclaims Jesus to Cornelius's household (10:34-43), and God acts again by pouring out the Holy Spirit on all present (10:44). Peter and the Jewish Christians he had taken along with him now decide in favor of God's activity. If God has shown his acceptance of these people through the Holy Spirit, should not the church accept them by baptism (10:47)? The experience of God's activity has moved from private prayer to a meeting to a public display of power in the presence of both Gentiles and Jews.
Peter must next defend this decision before the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, who call into question his associating with Gentiles (11:1-18). This gives Luke the chance to tell the story again, suitably amplified to show the growth in Peter's understanding. In 10:47 he recognized that the Gentiles had received the same gift as had the original disciples. He repeats this in 11:15, but now he interprets it in light of a saying of Jesus concerning the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. New experience gives Peter deeper insight into the meaning of Jesus's words, and into the fact that God is at work in these experiences: "If God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us . . . who am I that I could withstand God" ( 11:17 ) . The incident shows the role of narrative in decision making. Peter does not argue or plead. He simply tells the story "in sequence," and it has a convincing quality. The Jerusalem leadership agrees that "to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life" (11:18). So Gentiles are accepted into the restored people in principle. What has not been decided, however, is on what grounds they are to be accepted.
In a piece of brilliant narrative construction, Luke then shows us how the Gentile mission became general through the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas by the Antiochean church and their first missionary journey during which the message was repeatedly rejected by diaspora Jews but eagerly accepted by Gentiles (13:1-23). When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, they "gathered all the church together, and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles" (14:27). What a few months previously would have been unthinkable has now become a massive reality. God is indeed pressing upon the church through experience. Now the church as Church needs to decide.
We are all familiar with the account of the apostolic council in Acts 15. The council determined not to burden the Gentiles and issued the so-called "apostolic decree." We note that Luke is neither ashamed nor embarrassed by controversy and debate. It is necessary for the process of decision making in such matters of great moment. The opposition posed by the Pharisees, as I have pointed out earlier, was neither silly nor trivial: if God was faithful to God's promises to this people, then surely it made sense that Gentiles should become part of this people by circumcision. It is the position of Paul and Barnabas that is radical and dangerous, a position that seems to go against Torah. The question of table-fellowship is scarcely minor. Gentiles lose nothing by eating with Jews, but pious Jews lose their identity by eating with Gentiles. Here, indeed, is a case of multi-culturalism with a vengeance: how can Jews assent to a universality that ends up canceling their identity? The compromise position reached by the council (that Gentiles avoid idolatry and things connected with it) was not a compromise of principle, but rather a concession to those Jews who had everything to lose by open table-fellowship with Gentiles. The decision did not place a burden on Gentiles, and it lifted a burden from messianic Jews.
Our interest here, however, is less in product than in process. We see how local churches gather into a larger assembly, how the assembly as a whole is present for much of the debate, and how the leaders of the movement themselves testify rather than simply preside or dictate. Notice also the role of the narratives of faith. Paul and Barnabas relate what God has done. Simon Peter tells once more how God "looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name" (15:14). Peter's insight now, however, has gone even deeper: he sees that "we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will" (15:11). In other words, his new experience of God's work among the Gentiles leads him to a new perception of the very grounds of salvation even for Jews! It is on the basis of these narratives that James, spokesperson for the Jerusalem church, reinterprets the scripture. He finds in the Septuagint text of Amos 9: 1 1-12 a reading that supports the inclusion of the Gentiles as an extension of the restored Israel but we should note precisely how Luke has him introduce the citation. He does not say, "This agrees with the words of the prophets" (as the NRSV incorrectly translates it), as though scripture by itself set the framework for God's activity; rather, he says, "With this the words of the prophets agree," implying that God's activity is itself the thing that generates new readings and understandings of the text of scripture ( 15 :15 ) .
There is much more that could be said about this powerful passage, not least concerning the way in which the decision is promulgated and ratified by local communities through the ministry of prophets. I have mainly, however, wanted to indicate the way in which Luke's narrative can be read as providing a narrative exemplar for the understanding of decision making as a theological process. I have tried to show how faith is a response to God's action in human lives, how human experience moves from the private realm to the public through the telling and hearing of narratives, how these narratives progressively encompass more of the church through a process of further testing and experience, how there is the necessity of disagreement and debate, how formal decision is required when something new forces the reinterpretation of previous understandings of God's work or the community's identity, and how the experience of God communicated through narratives generates new interpretations of scripture. What I have left implicit here is, however, the role of discernment, and yet discernment is the essential component within each of these stages. Discernment is at work in the perception of experience as an encounter with God, in the articulation of faith in narrative, in the hearing of narratives by the assembly, in deliberation over conflicting theological positions, and in the act of interpreting scripture and tradition. Discernment will, therefore, require our more careful attention in the following papers.
[Luke Timothy Johnson's papers were presented at the DuBose Lectures in Sewanee on October 10-11,1995. So far as is possible the papers seek to preserve the informal style of the original presentations.]
[Return to Top]
[This paper is from a series papers published in the Sewanee Theological Review based on three lectures given at The University of the South on September 19 and 20, 1994, sponsored by All Saints' Chapel. So far as possible, the articles seek to preserve the informal style of the original presentations]
The question I want to ask is, "Is science enough?" I have spent most of my adult life working as a physicist. I enjoyed that work very much. I did not leave it because I was disillusioned; I left it because I felt that I had done my little bit for physics and the time had come to do something else. I want, therefore, to take science absolutely seriously. I believe that we learn from science many things of great significance about the structure and history of the physical world in which we live, but I could never say that science by itself is enough.
Why do people do science? You will sometimes hear it suggested that people do science in order to be able to manipulate the world to get things done. "Getting things done" is not, however, a description of science but of technology. Technology is important for us and has brought us many benefits, as well as some problems. Nonetheless, people who work at fundamental science do not do it to manipulate the world. They do it to understand the world. Let me illustrate that by telling you a parable.
A black box was delivered to a certain meteorological office. With the black box came an instructional manual that said, "Feed in through slot 'a' the details of today's weather, turn the handle, and out of slot 'b' will come an accurate prediction of the weather next week." Well, the promise seemed pretty unlikely to be fulfilled, but they were open-minded people in this particular meteorological office, so they decided to try it. They fed in the information, they received the prediction, and they waited to see what would happen next week. It worked! They did this many times, and it worked every time. With total success, it predicted the weather. (As I shall explain later, this is actually impossible; but let us suppose for the sake of the story that it could happen and did.) What happened? Do you think that the scientists at the meteorological office just went home? Not a bit of it! Their technological function, weather prediction, was totally fulfilled but that was not enough. These people were scientists, which meant that they also wanted to understand how the earth's weather arises from the interaction between the seas, the atmosphere, and the land masses. Within a few weeks, I promise you, they were tampering with the seal on that black box and taking it to pieces. They were trying to find out just how it was able to model the earth's weather system accurately.
.True scientists are essentially people who want to understand the world in which we live, not merely to make it work for us.
The main point I wish to make in this lecture, however, is that this thirst for understanding that is so natural to scientists can never be quenched by science alone. Science can tell us a great deal about the world, but it cannot tell us enough.
First, science cannot tell us enough because, although it is immensely successful within certain areas, it is successful chiefly because of the modesty of its ambition. True science limits itself as to the type of questions it is prepared to ask and answer about the world, and it limits itself as to the type of experience it is prepared to put on its agenda. Science trawls experience with a very coarse grained net. Many things slip through those wide meshes which are very significant if we are really to understand the world in which we live. Science asks the question, "How do things happen? By what process do things come about?" and this is an important question to ask. But asking it by no means precludes the possibility of asking further questions, such as, "Why are things happening? Is there a meaning and purpose at work in the world?" and these are essentially, of course, religious questions.
I do not have to choose which of these questions I am going to ask and answer. "Why is the kettle boiling?" "The kettle is boiling because the burning gas heats the water." True. "The kettle is boiling because I want to make a cup of tea and would you like to have a cup with me?" True. There is no conflict between those two answers; they are in fact complementary. In an exactly similar way I don't have to choose between science and religion. "The universe sprang into being about fifteen billion years ago through the fiery explosion of the big bang." That is true, but it does not preclude my also saying, "The universe came into being and remains in being because of the Word of a Creator whose mind and purpose are behind all of the scientific truths that we perceive."
Science looks at only one type of experience, namely, impersonal experience. In other words, science treats the world as an object, an "it." That is why science is able to pursue its investigations using its great secret weapon, which is the weapon of experiment. I was myself a theoretical physicist working, so to speak, with paper and pencil but I gladly acknowledge the indispensable role that my experimental colleagues play in the advancement of our subject. Now the point is, so long as we are treating things as objects, as "its," we can kick them around and pull them apart and put them to the experimental test. However, we all know that there is another aspect of reality, the "I and thou" aspect of reality, the personal aspect of reality, in which testing has to give way to trusting. If we are to know each other we must take the risk of a trusting encounter. If I am always setting little traps for you to see if you are really my friend, I shall in time destroy the possibility of friendship between us. It is not only the Lord our God whom we must not to put to the test. We can, in fact, only know each other on the basis of trusting, not testing.
There are forms of knowledge which are clearly non-scientific in character, and which are yet, I think, possessed by us as certainly as we possess any form of knowledge. I believe that I know as surely as I know anything that torturing children is wrong. I do not think that this idea is merely a social convention produced through a cultural process. I think that to understand that torturing children is wrong is to possess an actual insight into the nature of reality. I know that torturing children is wrong. That is a form of moral knowledge. There also is a form of aesthetic knowledge coming from our encounter with beauty, and there are other kinds of knowledge but they all slip through the coarse mesh of the scientific method.
So, the first reason why science is not enough is that there is just more to the world than that with which science can cope. Science is a very limited way of looking at reality.
Second, and more interestingly, there are some questions that arise directly from our scientific experience, but which science cannot answer questions not themselves scientific in character, but nevertheless meaningful questions, questions to which we need to seek answers. Let me make myself perfectly clear. I believe very strongly that all questions that can be stated in scientific terms must, in principle, be answerable in scientific terms. We may not, for one reason or another, be able to find a particular answer to a particular question, but if it is a scientific question then we know what kind of an answer it would be, and we should know if we had found it. I think we have learned not to play the card of the so-called "God of the gaps" using "God" as an explanation of last resort when we cannot quite succeed in figuring something out scientifically.
There are, however, certain other kinds of questions that arise in science and from science, yet by their nature go beyond science. These are the kinds of questions that I am talking about, and these, too, I believe, are questions we must try to address if we are serious about seeking to understand the world. Let me give you two examples of these meta-questions (that is, questions going beyond science).
The first meta-question centers around a fact about our physical world that is extremely familiar to us, and that we take for granted most of the time. It is the fact that makes science possible, and it is this: The physical universe is transparent to our inquiry. Not only is it transparent, but it is mathematics that turns the key to unlock its secrets. I worked in elementary particle physics, and it is an actual technique in fundamental physics of any kind to seek equations which in their mathematical character have about them the unmistakable characteristic of mathematical beauty. Not all of you perhaps will know about mathematical beauty, but, believe me, it is something that those of us who happen to speak that language can recognize and agree upon; and we have found time and again in the history of physics that a theory expressed in terms of beautiful mathematics turns out to be the theory that best describes the world in which we live. So it is an actual technique of investigation to look for beautiful equations.
One of the greatest theorists whom I have known personally was Paul Dirac. He was at Cambridge many years and was one of the founding fathers of quantum theory. Dirac spent his life in a very fruitful search for useful equations, and he once said that it is more important to have beauty in your equations than to have them fit the experiments!
Now that was, of course, a slightly odd thing to say. Naturally he did not mean that it did not matter whether your theory fitted the experiment no physicist could possibly say that but he did mean that if, on first examination, your equation did not fit the experiment, then there were possible explanations for that. You must solve equations, and maybe in this case your solution was wrong. Usually you have to solve them approximately, and maybe in this case you made the wrong approximation. Maybe the experiment itself was wrong. We have known that to happen more than once in the history of physics. So what Dirac was saying was that if your equations did not fit the experiment, but were beautiful, there was some hope for you; but if your equations were ugly, there was no hope for you at all.
Eugene Wigner, another great theoretical physicist (who was, as it happens, Dirac's brother-in-law), describes all this as the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics." Why is mathematics the key to unlocking the secrets of the physical universe? What, after all, is mathematics? Our mathematics is the free exploration of the human mind. Mathematical friends sit in their studies and out of their heads they dream up the beautiful patterns of pure mathematics. If mathematics by any chance is not your subject, just think of it being a pattern-creating and pattern-analyzing subject. What I am saying to you is that many of the most beautiful patterns that mathematicians can conceive are then found to occur are realized deep in the structures of the physical universe that is around us. There is a deep-seated relationship between the reason within us that is, the mathematical explorations of our minds and the reason outside us that is, the rationally beautiful and rationally transparent order of the physical world in which we live.
Why should this be so? You can always, of course, shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, that is just the way it happens to be: a bit of good luck for you chaps who are good at mathematics!" but my instinct as a scientist, my instinct as someone who wants to understand things, is not to be so intellectually lazy as that. I should like to know why mathematics is so unreasonably effective. Einstein was puzzled by it. He said once, "The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."
"Well then," you might say, "surely evolutionary biology would explain it? If our minds didn't fit the world around us, we would hardly have survived in the struggle for existence." Now that, of course, is absolutely right, but it is only right up to a point. If we could not make generalizations such as, "It is a bad idea to walk off a high cliff," then obviously we would not have been able to survive very long. However, it by no means follows from this that our minds should go on, as Isaac Newton's mind went on, to discern that the force that makes it unwise to step off a high cliff is the same force that holds the moon in its orbit around the earth and the earth in its orbit around the sun, or as Albert Einstein's mind went on generalizing and extending Newton's theory of gravity to explain gravity in terms of the curvature of space itself, and hence to construct a theory that describes not merely the solar system but the whole universe. Einstein discovered the general theory of relativity as the result of a seven-year search for a beautiful equation. That was how he found it. The point is this: Newton's and Einstein's ability to penetrate the deep secrets of the physical world surely far exceeded anything that could be explained purely in terms of survival value or evolution.
Now there is no knock-down, step-by-step, demonstrably and undeniably correct answer to the question, "Why is the world so rationally beautiful and so intellectually coherent?" There is, however, an answer that is coherent and intellectually satisfying, and it is the answer that says, "The world is intelligible precisely because there is a Creator whose mind is behind that world." You could summarize what I have been trying to say about the rational beauty of the universe by saying that the science of physics discerns a physical world shot through with signs of mind, and it is a coherent possibility that it is the rational mind of the Creator that is being discerned in that way. People like Stephen Hawking who like to talk about "the mind of God"' partly as literary device and partly, I think, as a wistful engagement with the possibility of there being a God such people are speaking, perhaps, rather better than they know.
Science is possible, I believe, because the physical world is a creation and because we are creatures made in the image of our Creator. As I say, that is not an irrefutable statement. I cannot say, "Mathematics works, and therefore God exists," but it is a satisfying insight. It provides, I believe, a deeper answer and a fuller understanding of the meta-question "Why is the world so open to our scientific inquiry ?1 than is offered by the suggestion that it is all merely a result of survival needs or evolutionary necessity. That is my first example of a meta-question, which needs answering and which religion can answer.
My second example of a meta- question is related to a more detailed property of the physical world in which we live something scientists have discovered in the last thirty or forty years and that they find very surprising. You all know, of course, that according to our best observations it now appears that the physical universe as we know it started in the fiery explosion that we call "the big bang" about fifteen billion years ago. Now, the very early universe was an extremely simple physical system. One reason why cosmologists speak with great boldness about the early universe is because it was so simple. It was an expanding, virtually-uniform, ball of energy, and you really cannot get a physical system much simpler than that.
Yet the universe that started by being so simple has after fifteen billion years become immensely rich and complicated with you and me, actually, as the most rich and complicated results of that history known to us. Holmes Rolston, an American writer, has said that an astronomer peering through a telescope at some distant galaxy should remember that the most interesting and complex physical system in the whole universe is just six inches this side of the eye piece.2 Now that in itself is an interesting thought that the world has such a fruitful history, and of course it has had that fulfill history through a series of those evolutionary processes. I wish to talk more about evolutionary processes later on.
One of the things we have learned which is surprising, however, is that in explaining the fulfill history of the universe, evolution whether we are talking about the evolution of life here on earth, or the evolution of stars and galaxies, or the wider scene in the universe as a whole evolution by itself cannot explain the fruitfulness and complexity of the world. It is only a very particular, a very special, a very "finely-tuned" sort of universe in its given physical fabric which is capable of evolving into complex systems like ourselves. It would not happen in just any old universe. That is a very surprising discovery. As you may know, it is called the anthropic principle: that a universe capable of producing anthropoi not necessarily literally humankind, but at any rate creatures of a like complexity is a very special universe indeed.
Let me try to explain why we think that. When I speak of the "given physical fabric of the universe," I mean the specification of what the universe is going to be like in terms of its fundamental physical laws. Imagine then that God has lent you a universe creating machine. As you approached this (no doubt) very impressive piece of equipment, you would find that there were certain knobs that you could adjust in order to specify the kind of universe you would like to create.
For example, there would be one knob that would control gravity. Do you want to have gravity in your universe ? If so, how strong would you like it to be ? It may surprise you to learn that in our universe gravity is a very weak force indeed, given the scale on which we measure these things. I admit that, if you have ever walked out of an upstairs window, you might be rather surprised at that statement. The reason for that is that there was nothing canceling gravity out, but the fact remains that gravity, in itself, is in our universe a very weak force indeed. So, you have this knob on the universe-creating machine and you can adjust it: you can set it to zero and have no gravity at all, you can set it to something like the very weak gravity that we have, or you could have a world with stronger gravity just as you like. You specify that aspect of the physical universe that you want to create.
There are on the machine a whole row of these knobs that correspond to what we call "the forces of nature." Another force of nature is electromagnetism. Electromagnetism is the force that holds matter together. It holds together the chair on which you are sitting, and, in fact, it holds you together. It is a much, much stronger force than gravity. Very well what do you want the level of electromagnetism to be in your universe ? Again you adjust the knob. And so on through the forces of nature.
There will also be some knobs that will be marked according to what we might call "circumstance." As you know, we live in a very large universe. Our sun is just an ordinary star among the hundred thousand million stars of our galaxy, which is the Milky Way. The Milky Way itself is nothing particularly remarkable among the hundred thousand million galaxies of the entire universe. We live in a universe that is dauntingly big unimaginably big. Maybe you would prefer to create a more cozy, domestic-sized universe. Very well. You set the knobs accordingly. All of these adjustments will be the way in which you specify the given physical fabric of the world that you want to create. You then pull the handle, and out comes the universe that you have created. You then have to be
a tiny bit patient you have to wait billions of years, in fact but you watch to see what happens in your universe.
Now, what scientists have discovered is that unless in specifying the physical fabric of your universe you have chosen to be close very, very close to the settings that specify our universe, your universe is going to have a rather boring history. It will not evolve into anything of interest or complexity certainly nothing comparable to ourselves. That is a very surprising thought. Let me give you three examples of why we think, nonetheless, that it is correct.
Let me first try setting the knobs exactly the same as for our universe, except for the gravity knob. I am going to turn the gravity knob up a bit. I am going to have a stronger gravity in my universe. Otherwise it is going to be exactly the same as this universe. Well, I might have supposed that a universe like that would have a fruitful history, evolving something interesting, such as a form of living being. Of course, it would not produce human beings exactly like us, but perhaps little green people (little because of the gravity being stronger and it being harder to grow tall). That is what I would guess and I would be absolutely and totally wrong. The reason I would be wrong is this: it is very tricky arranging for life to be able to evolve.
One of the things you absolutely must do if there is to be life in your universe is to have the right sort of stars. Stars have two essential roles to play in a fruitful universe. The first role they play is that they are the reliable, steadily burning energy sources that enable life to develop. Our sun has been burning pretty steadily for about five billion years, and will bum pretty steadily for about another five billion years before it explodes into a red giant and burns everything to a frazzle. Life took something like three and a half billion years to evolve on earth that is the natural time scale for life so you have to have these reliable, long-time energy sources around to supply the energy that it needs. We understand very well what it is that makes stars burn in such a reliable way. It depends on a balance between gravity on the one hand and electromagnetism on the other. If I turned the knob so as to make the gravity a bit stronger than in our universe, then the stars will burn much more brightly and much more quickly. They will not live for billions of years but only for millions of years, and that simply will not be long enough for the evolution of life. As a result, there will be no little green people: in fact, there will be no people, and no life at all. That is one very simple example of what goes wrong if you change the setting of one of the knobs. There are lots of pitfalls in designing a fruitful universe!
Another indispensable role that stars have to play in a fruitful universe is that they have to make the raw materials of life. As I have said, the early universe is very simple, and so only very simple things go on in it. In fact, it only makes
the two simplest chemical elements, hydrogen and helium. These do not have a rich enough chemistry to sustain the growth of life. For life you need, for example, carbon with its amazing ability to form those long, complicated molecules that are the basis of life. Now you cannot make carbon in the early universe. In fact, it appears that the only place where you can make carbon is in the nuclear furnaces of the stars. Every atom of carbon inside your body was once inside a star. We are all made from the ashes of dead stars. Now the process by which elements are made inside stars is extremely subtle and extremely interesting and, incidentally, unraveling it has been one of the great scientific triumphs of the twentieth century.
So, how then do you make carbon? You do so if you can get three helium nuclei to stick together. It is, however, very difficult to make three nuclei stick together. In fact, it is only possible at all because there is a particular enhancing effect scientists call it a "resonance" producing just the right energy in just the right place to make those three helium nuclei stick together to make carbon. That was discovered by Fred Hoyle. As a matter of fact, no one knew about this resonance in carbon, but Fred Hoyle predicted that it had to be there since he just could not see how the element could have been made without it. Then the nuclear experimentalists went out and did some actual measurements and found lo and behold ! there it was. ( It was, of course, a very great triumph to make this prediction. At this point Hoyle, who had always been antagonistic to religion,3 began to get worried. He began to feel that perhaps something more than he had supposed was going on in such a very precise process!)
Very well you need this "resonance" in the right place if you are to make carbon. But even then, if you want to create life as we know it, you cannot rest on your laurels. You need some more elements. You need oxygen, for example. How do you make oxygen ? You take some carbon, and you stick another helium nucleus onto the carbon, and that changes carbon 12 into oxygen 16. To produce life in our universe we need a situation in which such a change is possible but not too possible because if it were too possible we should end up with all the carbon changing into oxygen, and then of course we should have lost the carbon.
So we need a universe that will produce a very delicate chain of nuclear reactions that will just succeed in making acceptable amounts of the elements that we need for life up to and including iron. Iron is the most stable of the nuclear species, and you cannot get beyond iron inside of the stars.
So you have two problems left. You have made some (potentially) useful elements, but they will not be useful unless they get out and about and become available for life. It is no good leaving them locked up and useless in the cooling core of a dying star. So you have to make sure that some of your stars as they come to the end of their lives will explode into supernovae, and these will scatter abroad the elements they have made so that when a second generation of stars and planets condenses there will be the right chemical environment for life to be possible. If we are all made of star dust, then there must be some dust from stars around, which means there must be some supernova explosions.
If you are very clever, you also will be able to arrange the forces of nature in your universe so that the two nuclear forces, weak and strong, that are relevant are such that those explosions will also make the elements beyond iron (such as iodine and zinc) that you could not make inside a star. These are also necessary for the development of life.
Now, I hope you can see from all this that there is an amazingly complex and very beautiful chain of reactions running from nuclear processes inside the stars to stellar explosions and the results of those explosions. This chain of reactions just succeeds in making the raw materials of life, and it depends very precisely on the fine tuning of the nuclear forces to bring it about. One cannot fail to be impressed when one notes these remarkable and fruitful coincidences.
Let me give you one more example of how careful we have to be in designing our universe if it is to produce life. It has to do with size. What would be wrong with choosing to have a domestic, small-sized universe, perhaps about as big as our Milky Way, rather than the big universe that we actually have? The flaw would be that there is a direct connection between how big a universe is and how long it lasts. A universe only the size of the Milky Way simply will not last long enough for life to be possible. The natural time scale for the evolution of life requires fifteen billion years or so, and if a universe is to last fifteen billion years, it has to be as big as the one in which we live. So when at night you look up into the sky and see all of those trillions and trillions of stars, do not be upset or daunted by them. The fact is, if they were not there, you would not be here to be upset by the thought of them!
So you see, if we are going to produce life, we require a very complicated and delicately-balanced universe. Just any old universe will not do. Only a one-in a-trillion universe will really do the trick. What does that mean? Again, you could shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, here we all are! It just happens to have worked out that way, and there's nothing more to be said about it." But that does not seem to me to be a very sensible attitude to take.
Let me illustrate what I mean by stealing a story from a philosopher, John Leslie, who is at Guelph University in Canada, and has written what seems to me to be by far the best book available about the anthropic principle.4 He is an unusual philosopher for two reasons. First, he gets the science right which is fairly unusual among philosophers and, second, he does his philosophy and gets his points across by telling stories, and that is very nice for those of us who are not philosophically trained. This is a paraphrase of one of his stories:
You are about to executed. You are tied to a stake and your eyes are blindfolded. Ten highly-trained marksmen all level their rifles at your chest. The officer gives the order: "Fire ! " The shots ring out and you find you have survived! Now what do you do? You are hardly likely just to shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, here we are. That was a close one, but here we are!" No. Your survival is so remarkable that it demands an explanation, and there are only two rational explanations available. One possible explanation is that many, many, many executions are taking place today, every marksman misses sometimes, and this just happens to be the particular execution when they all missed. The other possibility is, of course, that more was going on than you realized. Perhaps the sharpshooters were on your side and chose to miss you. They missed by design.5
Now you can see how that parable applies when you are thinking about our finely-tuned, fruitful universe. First of all, some explanation seems to be necessary. It hardly seems enough just to say, "Oh, well, here we all are!" Leslie is suggesting and I think he is right that there are, basically, only two possible explanations, both of them metaphysical, both of them conjectural.
One is that maybe there are many, many, many different universes, separate from each other and each with their own given laws and circumstances. And if there are enough of them, then it is perfectly likely that one of them will be just within that narrow band in which life will be likely to evolve. That, of course, is the universe in which you and I live because we could not possibly have appeared in the history of any other. That is a perfectly logical explanation and, of course, parallels the "many-executions" explanation for the person who survived the firing squad.
The alternative explanation, paralleling the "sharpshooters-were-really-on our-side" explanation, is that there is only one universe, but more is going on in its fruitful history than we have realized. This is just not any old universe; this is in fact a creation, and it has been deliberately endowed by its creator with those finely-tuned laws that enable its history to be fruitful.
Leslie says, in relation to understanding the anthropic principle, that there really is not a lot to choose between the two explanations. Either explanation, "many universes" or "a designed creation," is equally probable. Both explanations are conjectural and metaphysical. The "many-universes" idea is, incidentally, quite often presented as if it were in some way more "scientific' than the alternative, but if we analyze it we find that it, too, is in the final analysis a metaphysical guess. We only have scientific evidence about the one actual universe of our experience.
I think if that were the whole story, then one would have to say, in weighing the relative possibilities of the "many-universes" or the "designed-creation" explanations being correct, that in fact they were about equally possible given we had nothing else to go on. Of course, if you think that there are other reasons for believing that there is a divine mind and a purpose behind the universe, then the anthropic considerations become part of a cumulative case and simply offer additional support for the other considerations that might push you in that direction.
This, then, is my second example of a question arising from science but going beyond science's power to answer. It arises from the fact that science assumes the given physical fabric of the world. Ever explanatory discipline and every form of human knowledge, needless to say has to have something assumed and unexplained on which it bases itself. Nothing comes from nothing, and of course that statement includes science, just as it includes theology. For science the basis of its explanations are the physical laws of the universe; science describes and seeks to understand the processes of the world and the history of the world in terms of those laws.
The essential meta-question is this: "Is simply taking the physical laws of the universe as a brute fact sufficiently intellectually satisfying?" Some, like David Hume, have thought that it was. Hume recommended that we simply take brute matter as the starting point of our explanations.6 However, in view of the remarkable specific properties of brute matter that are necessary for a fruitful universe, do we really feel comfortable in saying that it requires no further explanation, or rather does not a universe possessing such qualities seem to point beyond itself? In my view it does point beyond itself, and the will of an agent appears to me to be the more satisfying ground of explanation for these properties than the brute fact of physical law itself.
So, the search for understanding drives us to look beyond science, and in particular to look beyond science with regard to these two questions the intelligibility of the world and its finely-tuned fruitfulness. Both are questions that receive coherent and intellectually-satisfying (even if not logically inevitable) answers in terms of theological response. It is not just pious scientists like me who ate impressed by that. There ate many scientists, mainly physical scientists, who are not engaged with conventional religious belief but who are nevertheless struck by the rational beauty and fruitfulness of the universe, and feel that these are signs that more is going on in it than meets the scientific eye. Some of you, I am sure, will be aware of the writings of Paul Davies, notably God and the New Physics,7a book that had considerable success about ten years ago. Davies has no time for conventional religion, and not, in my view, much understanding of it. He says, notoriously, "It may seem bizarre to say so, but I believe science is a surest road to God than religion."8 I think it is indeed bizarre to say that, but there is a revival of natural theology taking place today, not just among the pious and not particularly, I have to say, among theologians but certainly among scientists.
Today's natural theology is, however, not only revived but also revised. If we compare it with the two great flowerings of Christian natural theology in previous centuries, in the later middle ages with Anselm and Aquinas9 and then at the turn of the eighteenth-nineteenth century with Paleyl0 and others, we see that the new natural theology is different in at least two important ways.
First, the new natural theology is more modest. It does not talk about proofs of God. It offers not demonstration but insight. It does not say that atheists are stupid,l1 but it does say they explain less than those who are theistic believers. I think that is right. I think that we have learned actually that "proof" is a rather limited category for investigating reality. You cannot actually "prove" even the consistency of mathematics a fact, I dare say, that is unlikely to keep many people awake at night worrying! My point, however, is that an act of faith is required even to do mathematics, and if you cannot do mathematics without an act of faith, it seems very unlikely that you could prove or in the nature of things expect to prove the existence of God. So, in the new natural theology, these ideas are generally presented not as demonstrations but as intellectually satisfying insights, and that, I believe, is a the right way to think about them.
Second, the new natural theologians do not point to specific events in the physical world and say, "Those prove there is a God." They do not, for example, say, "Only the direct invention of God could produce life coming out of inanimate matter." In actual fact we do not understand the biochemical pathways by which life developed, but we have no reason to think that this question, which can be stated in scientific terms, will not eventually receive an answer that can be stated in scientific terms.
So the new natural theology is not rivaling science on its own ground by bringing in the "God of the gaps" as an explanation of last resort. It is not looking to explain the occurrences of the world, which is science's job. Rather, it is looking to reflect on the laws that underlie those occurrences, and that underlie the possibility of any occurrence, and it is pointing out that those laws in themselves are not so self-explanatory that we can treat them as just a brute fact without seeking an explanation beyond them. Hume's criticism of eighteenth-century natural theology was that it made God too anthropomorphic: it presented a God who made the universe as carpenters made a ship. The new natural theology, however, is looking to the given physical fabric of the world as the basis for its reflections, and that has no human analogy. In Hebrew terms it really is bara' (create) and not 'asah (make) that is being talked about here.
So I think that we are living in the start of a new period of natural theology in this revived and revised form, and I hope that theologians will soon come on board to help us with it. I regard this as part of the proper interaction between science and theology, and, moreover, as a gift from theology to science. Theology humbly accepts the insights of science, but deepens those insights, making them more profoundly intelligible, and sets them in a wider complex of meaning than science itself can provide.
Finally, I want to talk about a gift that science offers to theology. The gift that science offers to theology is, I think, the insight that we live in an evolutionary universe a universe that has been making itself, as is to be seen not just in the familiar story of the biological evolution of life here on earth, but also in the story of the evolution of the universe as a whole as it condenses into stars and galaxies. And then those stars and galaxies developed as cosmic history continued. We live in an evolutionary universe, and theology can accept that because theologically it is not difficult to understand an evolutionary universe as a universe allowed by its Creator to make itself within certain limits, no doubt.
That is a very important insight for theology because Christian theology has always tried to steer a course between two unacceptable theological extremes: namely, absolute free will and absolute determinism. In fact, all parents face a practical form of this problem. The parents of little Susan and little Johnny want to keep them safe, which means exercising a measure of control, and they also want to give the children some independence. So they will not allow John and Susan to ride their bicycles in the traffic until they have taught them to ride well, and also seen that the children know something of the rules of the road. On the other hand, these parents also know very well that at some point after the children have learned to ride their bicycles, they will have to be allowed to go out into the dangerous traffic on their own. One cannot retain an unrelenting grip, and yet give the loving gift of life.
In the same way God is not (as the deists thought) simply an indifferent or impotent spectator merely watching the history of the world. God interacts with the world but does not overrule it (and I wish to say more about this interaction in the next lecture). The point I wish to make now, however, is that an evolutionary world is a world theologically understood as given by its Creator a degree of independence whereby it is allowed to make itself to explore and realize the fruitfulness with which its Creator has endowed it.
The most important consequence of that insight is that it affords us help with what is the most perplexing theological problem of all which is, of course, the problem of the existence of evil and suffering in a creation that is alleged to be expressing the will of a benevolent Creator. An evolutionary world cannot help being a world in which there are malfunctions and blind alleys. The exploratory process cannot be guaranteed to be one-hundred percent successful every time. The biochemists tell us that the cellular processes that enable some cells to mutate and by their mutation to create new forms of life in other words, the very biochemical engine of the fruitful evolutionary process these are exactly the same biochemical processes that allow other cells to mutate and become malignant. You cannot, it seems, have a fruitful world that is free from cancer. That is a hard message, but I think it is a true message.
I am not suggesting for a minute that one can comfort someone facing a terrible disease or disaster in their life or in their family simply by saying, "Well, it was an evolutionary necessity." That would be incredibly insensitive. What I am saying is simply that and of course the problems of evil go much deeper than that and ultimately, I believe, only find their answer in the cross of Christ, who was with us a fellow participator in the sufferings of the world at this cerebral level we can see that physical evil is not gratuitous, nor is it necessarily a result of callousness, carelessness, or oversight on the part of the Creator. Physical evil is a necessary part of a world allowed to explore and realize its own potentiality. I find that helpful, in a limited way.
Austin Farrer once put the question, "What was God's will in the Lisbon earthquake?"12 referring to what happened in Lisbon on All Saints' Day in 1755 when everyone was in church and a great earthquake killed fifty thousand people in one day, a massive natural disaster that reverberated through the rest of the eighteenth century. "What was God's will in the Lisbon earthquake?" asked Farrer. His answer was hard, but I thin it was broadly correct. Farrer's answer was, "God's will in the Lisbon earthquake was that the elements of the earth's crust should behave in accordance with their nature. They are allowed to be. We are allowed to be." I believe God does not will the act of a murderer, but God allows it to be.
I have been talking about a certain aspect of the relationship between science and theology. What I have been trying to illustrate is that each has things to say to the other, that there are ways in which each can be helpful to the other. Theology can take the insights of science and provide a wider and deeper context for them. Science can make the process and character of the physical world more intelligible and, by that, help theology to have a truer thought about the creation and the will of the Creator.
I stand before you as someone who is a physicist and a priest, and I wish to hold those two aspects of myself together. Not, of course, without leaving myself with some puzzles, but also without dividing my life into compartments. I do not want to be a priest on Sunday and a physicist on Monday. I want to be a priest and a physicist all the time, and I believe that I can do that with honesty, and even find that the two parts of myself can interact with a degree of mutual help and enhancement. I believe that is possible precisely because theology and physics have in common the search for truth about the very rich and many-layered reality in which we live.
So, is science enough? Certainly not. It is a part of the story, but only, actually, quite a small part.
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1Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York / London Bantam Press, 1988), passim. [return to text]
2Holmes Rolston , Science and Religion ( Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987 , 66. [return to text]
3 See, for example, Fred Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe (New York: Harper, 1950), especially 115-8. [return to text]
4John Leslie, Universes (London Routledge, 1989). [return to text]
5 Leslie, Universes, 13-4. [return to text]
6See, for example, David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature: Book I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896). [return to text]
7Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983). [return to text]
8Davies, God and the New Physics, ix. [return to text]
9For example, Anselm, Proslogion 2-4; Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theological 1, Q.l., A. 1 -3. [return to text]
10William Paley, View of the Evidences of Christianity (Cambridge, England: University Press, 1850), Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature(Philadelphia: Printed for John Morgan by H. Maxwell, 1802). [return to text]
11"Dixitinsipiens in corde suo non est Deus": "The fool has said in his heart there is no God" (cited from the Vulgate by Anselm's Proslogion 1.101.5). It should be noted, however, that Anselm speaks about God while addressing God (Prosl. 1.101.3-4). In other words, he is clear that the knowledge his "proof" seeks to impart is the kind of knowledge that is peculiar to faith. [return to text]
12Austin Farrer, A Science
of God? (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1966), 87. [return
The mandate for biblical preaching is old news, but one that takes particular urgency in the contemporary context. The mandate is this:
we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake . For it is the God who said, "let light shine out of darkness" who has shone in our hearts to give the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:5-6)
This meditation on these words of St. Paul falls under three headings:
One. The church authorizes the preacher to speak to people. This authority is both more delicate and more urgent in this age of Christian disestablishment. (That is the context.)
Two. The authority of the ordained to preach biblically derives from the call of the church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as it comes to us through scripture. (That is the old news.) There may be other types of preaching, but these are not our focus here.
Three. The challenge to the preacher is to invite the faithful into
scripturally-authorized life with God. (That is an ascetical task.)
The first point about the context has two subpoints. The first is that preaching in the context of sacramental worship is as important now as ever because it remains the chief opportunity to speak to people. That is, it is perhaps the last authorized opportunity for edification remaining in our society. As a disestablished voluntary organization, the church competes with other authorities for the hearts and minds of those who pass through its doors. Some people wander in and wander out again, and we must be concerned with why they leave. Others will stay and allow themselves to be Christianized, even if they would not quite put it that way, saying instead that they like the music, the social outreach, or the wholesome friendships available at church. Still, they present themselves before the power of the preached word of God and the sacraments. Personally, my uninformed hunch is that some people are growing more willing to entertain a third possibility: intentional life with God. They are more open to engaging with the Word of God than was the case in the 1950s or 1960s. This third group will come and stay-or return after sojourns elsewhere-because the Christian life is intellectually, socially, and morally superior to other possibilities. The first subpoint, therefore, is a reminder that the ascetical function of preaching remains as important as ever for all three groups.
The second subpoint is that preaching is more important than ever because, in addition to being an instrument of Christian formation, it is the sole corporate mechanism for human formation based on Christian precepts. Formation of public values and mores rests in the hands of political handlers, the advertising and entertainment industries, political interest groups, and the news industry. That means that preachers are not only Christian catechists, they are also-so to speak-human catechists; they articulate norms of civility in a society that confusedly tells the young that guidance from any source but the self is wimpy, while at the same time subliminally forming their minds with images of Madonna and Michael Jackson.1 Amid this confusion the preacher who speaks with the authority of the church articulates an alternative, authorized by God: conformation to the image of Jesus Christ.
Even with slightly older people, we can no longer safely assume that the home, school, or workplace build up the moral integrity and intellectual dignity of those to whom we preach. Just the opposite may be happening. Home, school, and work- not to mention television, the mall, and the streets-not only do not form but may, in fact, deform, deny, or destroy the moral and intellectual integrity of the mind and heart. This means that speaking to people in the act of preaching is simultaneously a work of Christian catechesis and of human formation, even if subversively so. In fact, preaching has always served both of these functions, but now we must recognize the civilizing function more self-consciously than has generally been the case in the past when other societal institutions contributed to human civility. How do we go about the delicate task of speaking to people in an age when simply being addressed is frequently considered an invasion of privacy of the sovereign self?
At the same time let us not presuppose that there is an easy relationship between Christian and general human formation. Needless to say, the Christian life-grounded as it is in God's self-humbling and self-sacrifice for our sake undertaken in the death of Jesus, and in our exaltation to a transformed and unending life in God-are not exactly the American way. Hence, preaching in the context of sacramental worship is a pastoral activity because it is the primary catechetical means of forming human persons as Christian persons; it is a subversive pedagogy because at significant points it must educate against the culture. At the same time it is a public-spirited pedagogy because it lifts the mind to the highest intellectual and moral integrity that Western civilization can offer, connecting the faithful to enduring patterns of thought and behaviors that foster social harmony and true civility.
Let me register a second caveat here, lest this sound like a fresh wave of Christian imperialism. We should surely note that the church has played its part in denying and distorting the moral dignity and intellectual integrity of women and racial minorities even among its own. What has been termed "Christian malpractice" has damaged many, including white males. To prevent further hurt we must do what we can to redress genuine grievances and repair or replace unhealthy language. One should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water because-unless Christians still claim that to know Christ and the crucifixion is medicine for the world-they have nothing distinctive to add to the plethora of spiritual counsels filling the public square.
In sum, preaching as simultaneously subversive and public-spirited catechesis uplifts and dignifies the mind and heart by recalling that we have been taken into the very life and body of God; we take his body and blood into ourselves regularly in order to feed that realization. The marketplace manipulates individuals as instruments of financial gain; the church dignifies the baptized as the children of God. A life dedicated to the knowledge and love of God is a life that is both Christian and deeply human.
Preaching Jesus Christ is once more a rescue operation, as it was in the Patristic period when the church rescued people from paganism one at a time. Life with Christ is an alternative, not a complement, to other so-called "lifestyles." The Christian life demands amendment of life precisely because it incorporates people into God's life, first gaining their trust through the forgiveness of sin.
The Old News
Surrender to God is as threatening now as ever, and people are understandably ambivalent at the prospect. This leads to the second point-that the church is called to preach the gospel. On one hand, the moral and social confusion of our day may be for many people a preparation for release through the gospel. On the other, these same people find some traditional doctrinal formulations incoherent and the Christian scriptures incredible. How do these two situations obtain simultaneously?
Some of the reasons behind the psychological readiness and vulnerability to the gospel have already been identified: satiation with materialism, unease with cultural relativism, ethical perplexity. Perhaps we will soon see the beginnings of a recognition that issues of gender, race, class, and sexual identity are penultimate and inherently divisive too. All this contributes to a climate more hospitable to preaching the gospel. The intellectual underpinnings of this hospitality come from an intellectual openness associated with what is being called post-modernism.
Post-modernism (perhaps an already-overused term) rests on the very Kantian-and therefore quintessentially modern-realization that there is no such thing as unconstructed reality. In the post-modern view myth is not a dirty word. We recognize that democracy, communism, capitalism, socialism, feminism, environmentalism, and the other "isms" are all cultural construals of reality (i.e., myths) upon which, against which, and through which people think and act. Like them, Christianity is a construal of reality that brings with it a story2 that directs thought and action. In short, many are coming to realize that there is no such thing as an unstoried life of pure reason or objectivity. There are only concentric circles of stories or traditions in which one is embedded, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily. Natural science, medicine, and technology are also traditions that live within stories of their own, and these are not without moral ambiguities that defy rational adjudication.
Being a Christian means voluntarily submitting the stories within which one lives (nationality, gender, race, class) to the scrutiny of what Christians take on faith to be God's story in Jesus Christ-because that story offers guidance for our perplexities and principles of humility, justice, and reconciliation by which to steer our private and common life. In short, a chastened intellectual climate is ripe for the preaching of the gospel, especially among the so-called sophisticated classes.
At the same time this readiness for Jesus Christ is counter balanced by a crisis of confidence in the chief source for Christian preaching: scripture. The crisis about the Bible is now two centuries old and, although it shows no sign of abating, it has changed shape somewhat over the course of time. To put it simply, in the eighteenth century, with the growing realization that the biblical texts are historical documents like any other, the crisis focused on the human elements in and behind the text. If the text was no longer the dictated words of God, how could it function as the Word of God? And how was the church to be guided without that divine Word? Now the crisis is not so much how the church is to live without the absolute certainty of prior ages, but how it is to live with a text that is encumbered by history and tradition, neither of which is respected. In short, the Bible has become a burden. The problem is not so much the miracles, repetitions, and inconsistencies that threatened early moderns. The problem is deeper because it involves the Bible's ideology: its militarism, sexism, classism, environmental rapacity, and anti-Semitism.
The Bible no longer threatens the authenticity of the church because, for the most part, like the children who are taught that self-creation is the only respectable formation, the church sees itself as self-authenticated, selecting for itself the norms of its life. Yet Christian authority does clash with the reigning ideology of relativism, individual autonomy and self-directedness, and self-guidance that mainline churches have uncritically adopted. Scripture is silenced because it is judged to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution to current problems. Among some marginalized groups this stance is acted upon by substituting alternative canons of scripture for the Bible, creating post-Christian traditions in reaction against Christianity.
The rejection of the Bible as scripture should stir the church to examine closely the relationship between scripture and church. The use of non-biblical literature as scripture has been encouraged by the realization that scripture is the church's book, that is, that the church treated as authoritative much of the religious literature of Israel and the early followers of Jesus. While it is true, however, that the church authorizes scripture and so presumably might de-authorize it and substitute alternatives more to its liking, it is also true that the church belongs to scripture. Scripture and church mutually define one another. The preacher's task is to assist the church in listening to scripture that it claims so that Christians can define themselves scripturally.
If it is not, finally, Christianity appropriate for Christians to treat as authoritative only those texts that meet their felt needs, by what standard are they to preach? There is no such thing as a preacher not located somewhere, defined by the ideas and conventions that construct his/her reality. One is regularly reminded of this week after week upon hearing sermons that begin not with the text but with a personal anecdote from the preacher that is eventually (more or less) linked with the text.
Contrary to the conclusion one might draw from this rhetorical strategy of beginning with one's personal experience, Paul reminds us that "we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5). The authority for the Christian life is not our personal experience; it is of God's making. The authority for biblical preaching comes from the preacher's confession that God "reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them" (2 Cor. 5:18-9). When the preacher's experience and character are formed by faith in that truth, personal authority will follow.
Post-modern scholarship may be liberating us from the error of thinking that there is such a thing as objective reading, and that should free us for Christian reading. Sadly, it seems to be freeing some from the notion that there is a text there at all-let alone a text that has authority. Christians are not free to select an extra-Christian standpoint for scriptural interpretation, but are ordained to proclaim by word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me add another caveat, lest this call be misunderstood. To preach scripture based on Christian norms is not to suggest a forced choice between the authority of God and the authority of the world. Such a dichotomy conceals a false sense of security in that it assumes an easy division between the two when, in fact, we have internalized both and cannot divide ourselves. The issue is not one of choice but of balance. The choice is rather which set of norms controls one's reading and preaching.
With this context in view I want to suggest three prerequisites and three guidelines for biblical preaching. The prerequisites can be summed up in the unexceptional thesis that authentic biblical preaching derives from one's knowledge, love, and need of scripture.
Knowing scripture means feeling comfortable around it. It includes knowing how to find one's way through the canon so that upon opening the book one immediately feels safe and at home. This knowledge differs from familiarity, that is, from repeated hearings that wash over one mindlessly like the pledge of allegiance, and in our society that almost means possessing secret knowledge. It means having a personal acquaintance with the many characters who populate scripture, so that there are those one likes and those one dislikes and avoids. Knowing scripture so that it becomes a part of one's personality and life includes holding the incidents narrated, the phrases coined, and the behaviors condemned and commended so close that when analogues occur in the course of one's comings and goings, their biblical antecedents render them familiar. It means being able to identify people as loyal as Ruth, as sly as Jacob, as spoiled as Joseph, as courageous as Daniel, as cowardly as Peter, as threatened as Herod, and so on. It means knowing that the Sanctus comes from Isaiah 6. It means knowing that the miracles of Pentecost in Acts 2 is an undoing of the curse of Babel in Genesis 11, and that nowhere in scripture does it say "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy," as Matthew appears (on a superficial reading) to say it does.3 It means knowing which psalm will meet a specific need. Scripture is intimidating.
In addition to knowing scripture, one must love it honestly, through the 'hard' sayings of Jesus, the stupid and embarrassing behavior of the disciples who cannot recognize an allegory about bread when it is thrust under their noses, the militarism and violence of Joshua and Samuel, the apostasy of Kings, and the patriarchalism of the whole. One must love the characters in their failures, and be able to laugh at the jokes it makes-like the seemingly-odd remark, easily lost on us, that a prophet could never come from Galilee (John 7:52; cf. 2 Kings 14:25). Loving scripture includes raising one's eyebrows when Jesus is strangely abrupt with his mother at the wedding at Cana.4 One must love scripture with a sense of humor, even as one finds one's self, family, and congregants described therein, and even if one is repulsed by the vindictiveness of some psalms, the foreignness of some of the parables, and the threatening vengeance of God in the prophets.
The final prerequisite I suggest for authoritative biblical preaching is that one must need scripture. Now, in a world that finds scripture embarrassing and prefers novelists and film-makers (both talented and tacky) to help us interpret our world, that is not easy. Perhaps one cannot need scripture unless one both knows and loves it. This is not to say that one can know, love, and need all parts of scripture equally, but it is to suggest that-by savoring the stories, hymns, anecdotes, parables, and differences among the gospels, by meditating on the details that escape a quick reading, by pondering the incidents that do not fit together, lingering over perplexing allusions that escape us because of the paucity of our experience and our cultural alienation from their time and place, by smiling at its innuendoes and snide comments-one can begin to partake of the living, breathing, now-agonied, now-exalted words that can become for us the Word of God. One knows the need for scripture when one flees to it to escape the television, advertising, sports, and many films (although some films may preach the gospel very effectively indeed).
Preachers must continue to make scripture their own through continuous study and reflection. There are three simple guidelines to encourage biblical preaching.
One. Preaching the Word of God requires that one respect the text. The text is alive. It bubbles with issues and concerns-some of which we grasp clearly, some dimly; some grow on us only slowly, others escape us entirely. Respecting the text requires setting our selves aside and allowing the voices and texts within the text to work on us, drawing us into their conversation. Both historical-critical scholarship and literary criticism can be helpful in this; of course they can also be unhelpful. What is more difficult than sifting through biblical scholarship, however, is peeling off the layers of familiarity with the text that make us deaf to its concerns. One has to change one's position with regard to the text in order to shake off ingrained hearings so that it may be heard. One common complaint about biblical criticism is that it alienates us from the text. On the other hand, if being a Christian is an acknowledgment that we cannot form ourselves but rather present ourselves to be formed by the words and actions of God, we must acknowledge its distance from us.
Each preacher will, of course, have various strategies for doing this. One question to keep in mind as one seeks to reclaim the urgency of the text is what fire in the author's belly brought this to written form? What threat did Luke warn of to have Simeon say to Mary: "This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:34). What anger burned in Matthew's breast that he wrote of ews who took a different view of obedience to God that they were snakes, a "brood of vipers" sentenced to hell ( Matt. 23 :3 2-33 ) ? What betrayal had the psalmist experienced that he could write, "It is not adversaries who deal insolently with me-I could hide from them. But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend" (Ps.55:123)? What grudge had he been harboring that 3 Isaiah could write that God "put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle" (59:17)? What incredible hope and passion resided in Paul that he could write: "you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you . . . if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you" (Rom. 8:9-11)?
Respecting the text, fighting against the temptation to think that one understands it, is the first step in being able to discover its life and allow it to speak freely. When it does, there is the possibility that what needed to be heard then also needs to be heard now.
Two. Trust the text. Assume that the writer is doing more than simply handing on what he received to a fresh audience, more than spilling his guts in a cathartic gesture of self-understanding, more than securing posterity. The preacher must assume that the text is taking the reader somewhere worth going, that it has a world worth discovering and thoughts worth savoring. Assume that the writer is as intelligent, insightful, and sophisticated as you are.
Often the text, especially if it is a New Testament passage, relies upon another earlier text. The intertextuality of the text, its reliance on earlier texts for its own authority, is reassuring. It tells the listener that it is not good to be alone, and that the text itself is part of an organic tradition that is self-interpreting. The modern listener to the text is not required to find a contemporary application of the text. Rather, not only the sense but the meaning of the text discloses itself through its self-location in a tradition. Similarly, we do not have to invent our own meaning for our texts. Meaning arises from the fact that we locate ourselves in time and space by them. They delimit who we are and are to become in light of who God is, what God has done for us, who God has become for us, what God is doing and, we trust, will do with and for us.
When Matthew tells us that God led Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and the baby to escape Herod's wrath, he is telling his readers and us that danger does not always reside in the same locality; the location of Egypt may change. Though danger is one of life's constants, God provides warnings and protectors along the way. When the beatitudes cite and allude repeatedly to Psalm 37, Matthew is reminding his audience and us that we are the tail of a serpentine legion of those who tend to develop attitudes of entitlement, forgetting that God demands constancy in meekness, humility, and purity of heart, regardless of the claims of class or education. When John 7 tells us that Nicodemus had gone before Jesus seeking to become a disciple and was also one of the Pharisees who tried to intervene to stop Jesus from being lynched, the passage is surely offering us a model of a person who genuinely struggles to come to terms with both sides of a momentous contention, who refuses to become polarized and vilify either of the opposing sides, and who offers to become an instrument of reconciliation to both parties.
Trusting the text, then, means being willing to be led by it. The authority of the preacher comes from imparting that risk to the church seeking to be led by the Word of God.
Three. Be instructed by the text. The phrase "be instructed by," intends to express the pastoral function of preaching, the practical task of intellectual, moral, and spiritual formation. The preacher who respects the text enough to risk letting it speak is unafraid when it contradicts contemporary dogmas and ideology because coming to scripture merely to be confirmed in the predilections of our day offers little hope of building up the body of Christ. If we listen for our own word, we will surely hear it.
Paul, for example, teaches, "let every person be subject to the governing authorities: for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God" (Rom. 13:1). Perhaps the Roman Christians believed that, because they stood apart from society on the grounds of their faith, they owed no allegiance to the governing authorities. Let us assume that we stand to be instructed by Paul in this matter, despite the awkward fact that Christians today hold positions of serious authority and power in society, far more than in Paul's day. To teach Christians to pay taxes and respect governmental authority "as instituted by God," a point noted by John Calvin, places a strong burden of responsibility on those who hold those offices as trusts extended to them by the grace of God and for the welfare of the people.
Concomitant with this focus on authority comes another possibly irritating text, Ephesians 5:22-3 1, on the Christian household which counsels the subjection of wives to their husbands. The main point is made in verse 21: "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." The dynamic the author advocates is the obedience of the wife for the husband and the love of the husband for his wife as his own body. The passage concludes: "Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband." As grating as this passage is to many, the author is making the point that respect and love are not the same thing. Although he only sees the dynamic working in one direction, whereas we are more apt to see it as mutually operative, the principle of the need for both love and respect, the need to subordinate one's own needs in marriage, is necessary in any balanced relationship. We may not want to hear it, but we cannot afford to bypass the message.
These brief examples reflect just a few instances of coming to the text
with respect and trust in order to be instructed. For professional advice
on biblical preaching, though, let us turn to a preacher who was convinced
that God provided formative guidance through scripture.
The Ascetical Task
The third item for consideration in reclaiming scriptural preaching is the challenge to the preacher to invite the faithful to recognize themselves as those who participate in the life of God by virtue of their baptism and by means of their faith.
One of the most eloquent spokespersons for that calling is St. Augustine of Hippo who made the ascetical task central to his theology and preaching as he administered the sacraments and affairs of the church for thirty-five years. Augustine's theology was informed by his call to speak to the faithful of a life devoted to growth in the knowledge and love of God made known in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Biblical preaching-even in the midst of his theological treatises-was a vehicle of his art. Augustine believed that his job as preacher, theologian, and bishop was two-fold. First, he had to convince the faithful that scripture tells of God's outpouring of love for his people; on that basis, entrusting one's life to God is a safe thing to do. That is a trick in itself. The second half was even more challenging. He had somehow to get across to people that they had too low a self-estimation, a distorted self-image, and that-unless and until they grew into a deeper self-dignity-the goodness, truth, and love required of the children of God would never be forthcoming.
Augustine saw his people walking around with their heads down. Perhaps there is nothing noteworthy in that; most of us walk with our eyes on the pavement too. Like other congregations of his day, and of our own today, his people were preoccupied with lawsuits, love triangles, the ravages of illness and natural disaster, and the economy. In the last two decades of his life, his people were additionally burdened with a daily struggle to survive as they watched Greco-Roman civilization disintegrating before the invading northern barbarians. Some today would say that our situation offers parallels to these urgencies.
Be that as it may, in this circumstance Augustine continuously reminded his people that Jesus Christ had come into the world to bring them happiness, happiness that Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus believed one could acquire on one's own. Augustine disagreed with these philosophers and explained why and how to obtain happiness in detail.
First we had to be persuaded how much God loved us, in case out of sheer despair we lacked the courage to reach up to him. Also we had to be shown what sort of people we are that he loves, in case we should take pride in our own worth, and so bounce even further away from him and sink even more under our own strength. So he dealt with us in such a way that we could progress rather in his strength; he arranged it so that the power of caritas would be brought to perfection in the weakness of humility. (De Triniate, 153, 4.2)5
To lift their eyes and minds to God, Augustine believed it imperative that the leader emulate the same positive and encouraging approach taken by God. Perhaps knowing that actions speak louder than words, God "did nothing by violence, but everything by persuasion and warming" (De Vera Religion, 239, 31),6 so that we might see our failings in the light of another.
The human condition is such that each of us is exiled from happiness. Although we want to be happy we are not. Augustine's point was that his people were looking for happiness in the wrong place and with "an attitude." To teach us that God is the way to genuine happiness, God employs a myriad of strategies, mostly in the form of gifts, from the commonplace to the extraordinary. Examples are gifts of the physical world, like rain, the Incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection.
One gift Augustine discussed in the De Trinitate is rain. Rain, when we understand it as a gift from God, displays God's strength and love toward us, thereby simultaneously assuaging our despair and humbling us. Every gift commends God's love to us and therewith, no doubt, commends loving as a means to happiness. Gifts of the physical world, however, do not seem to do the trick, and so God sent a more dramatic and direct gift to teach us the way to genuine happiness: Christ.
De Vera Religione begins with a reflection on happiness which "is to be found entirely in the true religion wherein one God is worshipped." Yet everywhere people were bound by the "New Age" spirituality of the day. Most people were absorbed in pursuing or grieving over the loss of evanescent pleasures. They were not turned toward the dignity that comes with taking pleasure in things that cannot be lost, and sought a false happiness in power, fame, or sex. To sever people from their superficial joys and toys, scripture teaches that God sent a "bearer and instrument of the wisdom of God on behalf of the true salvation of the human race," the Word of God, "in order that [we] may receive the Word, love him, and enjoy him so that the soul may be healed and the eye of the mind receive power to use the light" (De Vera Religione, 225-8, 1-4).
Scripture, which tells of the life of the Incarnate Word, speaks a word to the greedy (Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth-Matthew 6:19),the proud(All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted-Luke 14:11), the wrathful (If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also- Matthew 5:39), the belligerent (Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you-5:44), the superstitious (nor will they say, 'look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you-Luke 17 :21), the curious (because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal-2 Corinthians 4:18), to everyone, in order to turn them from frivolity of misapplied craving (Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world-1 John 2:15) (see De Vera Religione, 228, 4). One purpose in the sending of the Incarnate Word is, no doubt, to get our attention, to refocus our minds on what is truly important, and thereby to reshape our present lives as training for life with God.
The fact of the Incarnation itself as God's chosen therapy speaks of human dignity and teaches self-respect for our bodies and our sexuality, not as ours to control but to cherish as gifts from God. The Incarnation not only teaches physical and sexual self-respect, but Jesus' life teaches us how to conduct ourselves in relation to one another (De Trinitate, 357,13.17). Jesus' commending his mother into the care of the beloved disciple, his poverty, his refusal to be crowned king, his scorn for heirs, his bearing of insults and injuries, "all the things which [we] sought to avoid and [in so doing] deviated from the search for truth, he endured and so robbed them of their power over us.... His whole life on earth as Man, in the humanity he deigned to assume, was an education in morals" (De Vera Religione, 240, 31 ). He went first to carve a path for us to true happiness.
The cross, too, gently speaks to us. In sharing death with us, Christ commends humility (Conf., 219, X43 7; De Trinitate, 8.7). The cross brings about the death of our sinfulness and calls us back to a life of justice. "We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin"(Rom. 6:6).By the crucifixion of the inner person is to be understood the sorrows of repentance and a kind of salutary torment of self-discipline, a kind of death to erase the death of ungodliness in which God does not leave us. Thus, it is by this sort of cross that the body of sin is canceled so that we should "no longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness" (Rom. 6:13) (De Trinitate, 156, 4.6).
When the cross turns us to repentance and self-denial so that we undertake godly attitudes and actions, it destroys ungodliness. Augustine believed that the death of ungodliness was the key to genuine happiness. Perhaps many of us have a more cynical assessment of humankind than Augustine did. Augustine believed that grasping the death of Christ properly could effect a process of spiritual transformation (of what he called the inner person) that would affect behavior (of what he called the outer person). The effectiveness of the cross, in this exegesis, is not extra nos but intra nos.
Augustine wrote an extended account of the didactic function of the cross and resurrection in De Trinitate 13 . The death of Christ implies that God did not have the power to overcome the devil (who held humans in thrall) any other way. (Perhaps we still in some sense believe in the devil, but have depersonalized him so that he is represented in society, peer pressure, cultural disadvantage, or the quest power. One difference between Augustine and ourselves is that he believed God's grace could assist each individual to conquer the devil, whereas we seem to believe that the devil is too strong (or God is too weak to fight off the devil successfully). Augustine's answer was purely practical. That is, God's therapy of choice was to use the cross (an instrument of justice) first, and then the resurrection (an instrument of power)-for two reasons. First, as an example as to how we are to conduct our business, since on our own we are most likely to neglect or even detest justice and studiously devote [our]selves to power, rejoicing at the possession of it or inflamed with the desire for it. So it pleased God to deliver [us] so that [we] too might imitate Christ by seekingto beat the devil at the justice game, not the power game. Not that power is to be shunned as something bad, but that the right order must be preserved which puts justice first. (De Trinitate, 356, 13.17)
The second reason is that justice is a virtue to be cultivated; when we live in accordance with justice, we are happier. Certainly, the vulnerable person who cannot overcome a fault needs power first in order to become just; yet God realizes that "[we] hardly ever want to be powerful in order to overpower these [faults], we want it in order to overpower others." The divine strategy, therefore, puts justice before power to the following end:
Let a person will to be sagacious, will to be brave, will to be just, and by all means let him want the power really to manage these things, and let him seek to be powerful in himself and in an odd way against himself for himself (De Trinitate, 357, 13.17). In this way the justice of humility was made more acceptable, seeing that [God] could have avoided the humiliation if [God] had wanted to; and so by the death of one so powerful we powerless mortals have justice set before us and power promised us. (De Trinitate, 357,13.18)
Christ's death is God's calculated strategy to get us to use power as power over self, and to develop a fresh commitment to justice. Following the cross and the resurrection-the symbols of the promise of power that God bestows-enables us to overcome the fear of our most powerful enemy, death itself. The cross teaches humility and justice; the resurrection teaches hope and power.
The second task Augustine faced as a preacher was to help his people internalize a stronger self-image based on the scriptural teaching that they are the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Now that is very audacious. Augustine repeatedly pointed out to his people that he knew that they knew what justice was, what truth was, what love was, what goodness was, and that they were capable of stretching into lives built around these windows into God, and as they did so, little by little, and deeper and deeper, they would come to know God better and better and become more like God as they stood up for truth, pursued justice, and loved their neighbors.
In short, Augustine preached the following: ( one) scripture, which is trustworthy, teaches that we are properly equipped for happiness, which is life with God; (two) scripture-and the discipline of church's prayer and sacraments-also teaches believers how to transcend the unhappiness caused by preoccupation with the petty jealousies and rivalries of daily life, confronting us with God's gifts; and (three) scripture provides models of humility, love, and justice in Jesus Christ who paves the way for our happiness.
Now Augustine was not so parochial as to think that life with God could be pursued without adequate attention to basic human needs for physical and emotional security. At the same time, however, he understood that preoccupation with physical and emotional security as ends in themselves was unable to provide happiness. He knew that happiness comes from the dignity of becoming one's best self, and one's best self is a humbled self shaped by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the mind stretched up to the truth, justice, and love of God. This concludes my contextualizing of the "old news" of preaching the gospel. Even if the language Augustine used to invite hearers into life must be emended for our day, it is not farfetched to conclude that his concerns are our concerns. And if we respect and trust scripture, it may yet speak to us too. The task is not easy, but neither are we without guides. In closing, here is a word of hope from Augustine's predecessor and guide:
the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom. 8:18-19)
This paper was originally delivered to the bishops of Province I on December 4, 1990.
1Young minds of every gender, race, class, and ethnicity are in the hands of the entertainment and advertising industries. See Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind (New York Simon & Schuster, 1987). (Return to text)
2N. T. Wright, ''Holy Can the Bible Be Authoritative?" in Vox Evangelica, volume 21: Biblical and Other Essays from London Bible College (London: Paternoster Press, n.d.), 7-32. For example, compare N. T. Wright, New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1993). (Return to text)
3For correct interpretation of the passage, David Daube's remarks are still the locus classicus: sdd D..Danube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (Salem, N.H.: Ayer, 1984; London: Athlone, 1956), 55-62, especially 56. (Return to text)
4On John 2:4, compare , for example, C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd edition (SPCK, 1978), 191: Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (i-xii) (Garden city, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1966), 99. (Return to text)
5 For a translation of De Trinate, see Augustine, The Trinit, Edmund Hill, trans. (Brooklyn: New City Press, 1991). (Return to text)
6Augustine, "Of True Religion (De Vera Religione)," in J. H. S. Burleigh, ed., Augsane: Earlier Works, The Library of Christian Classics, vol. 6 (London: SCM Press / Philadelphia: Westminster, 1958), 225-83. (Return to text)
7 Augustine, Confessions, Henry Chadwick, trans. (Oxford/NewYork, Oxford University Press, 1991). (Return to text)
A more dutiful and religious way for us were to admire the wisdom of God, which shineth in the bewtifull varietie of all things, but most in the manifold and yet harmonious dissimilitude of those wayes, whereby his Church upon earth is guided from age to age, throughout all generations of men.l
Official Roman Catholic teaching deems the ordination of women to the priesthood not to be in accordance with God's plan for the Church.2 When Anglicans confront this teaching, they are obliged to reflect on their own understanding of the Church. There are some Anglicans for whom the opposition of the Pope and the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a serious obstacle. Among these will undoubtedly be some who hold more or less secretly that the churches of the Anglican communion have no basis of authority independent of the Papacy, and for whom, therefore, a Papal veto is simply final. Their identity as Anglicans will, of course, be severely tried by a decision to ordain women to the priesthood. But since they make no intellectual case for their present allegiance, they can hardly complain of any inconsistency in such an Anglican development. A much larger and more serious number of Anglicans, however, hold strongly the argument from tradition, in which Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox agree, and will feel on ecumenical grounds the inadvisability of any movement that increases the gulf between Anglicans and the non-Protestant world.
I have on a number of occasions attempted to point out how misleading is the mental map that simply spreads the denominations out in a straight line, and places Anglicanism midway between Rome and wherever it is thought the headquarters of undifferentiated Protestantism may lie.3 There have been at least three versions of via media Anglicanism. In the sixteenth century, Anglicans, together with Lutherans ,save themselves as midway between Rome and Anabaptism. By the mid-seventeenth century the Church of England was developing an apologetic self-understanding over against independency and Presbyterianism, as representative of left-wing Protestantism, which in the Tractarian recession became the via media between Rome and "popular Protestantism," as defined by John Henry Newman. The history of these variations demonstrates the instability and inadequacy of the model, which is, in any case, on any rational reflection unacceptably crude. It has, moreover, inhibited Anglicans from the necessary attempt to articulate their own understanding of the Church. Knowing that some Anglicans are "virtually" Protestants and others "virtually" Romans, the straight line model has suggested that Anglicanism can be "comprehensive" by the simple expedient of adopting the ecclesiologies of others. The poverty of such thinking is rapidly disclosed by ecumenical contact; one discovers that the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Lutherans all claim "comprehensiveness"- and accuse Anglicans of mere incoherence. Anglicans have to learn that a comprehensive church needs to articulate a doctrine of the Church precisely in order to justify its omprehensiveness.4
One needs, therefore, an Anglican doctrine of the Church in order to understand what it is that Anglicans are doing in ordaining women to the Church's priesthood. An "Anglican doctrine of the Church" is not the same thing as a doctrine of the Anglican Church. The latter would be, however useful in practice, inadequate for the task of interpreting what it is that is done when people are ordained to the "ministry of Christ's Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."
What is required is a Christian doctrine of the Church, making claims to evangelical and catholic truth, which Anglicans, who are as a matter of fact a distinct denomination in Christendom, can accept as true. Whether such a doctrine strikes other people as "distinctively Anglican" is for them to judge. What is needed is an understanding of the Church corresponding to the norms of catholic doctrine as Anglicans believe them to be, and which makes sense of their witness, experience, and hope.
One part of such a reflection should entail the examination of the acknowledged classics of Anglican theology. The acute failure of theological nerve precipitated by the violent internal polemics of the nineteenth century assuredly did not afflict Anglicans of earlier centuries. Among the theological justifications of the stance of the Church of England offered then, Richard Hooker's apologia for the Elizabethan settlement, of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, is preeminent. Moreover, Hooker is precisely that kind of theologian against whose understanding of the Church Anglicans should test these modem proposals, since his encounter with what has recently been named "moderate puritanism"5 made him sensitive to those particular issues relating to tradition that cause modem Anglicans such anxiety when confronted by the innovatory ordination of women to the priesthood.
The thesis of this paper is that it is entirely consistent with Hooker's
theological method that women should be ordained to the priesthood. It
is an argument whose intention is to take seriously the objection that
such ordinations constitute a break in the invariable tradition of the
Church from the days of the apostles. I have two further objectives in
mind. The first is to exhibit the thought of a major Christian theologian
wrestling with the problem of church order in such a way as to show how
it can and should be related to particular times and places. And the second
is to demonstrate that it is possible to hold both that a particular church
order is divinely ordained and also that it is not immutable. The severing
of this particular connection is especially important for those who, like
myself, cannot draw from the conclusion that the Church must today ordain
women the inference that it was in error not to do so in earlier centuries.
The genesis of this paper lay in a question and a hunch. Based on the realization
that Richard Hooker and William Shakespeare were contemporaries, the question
arose whether the theologian showed any signs of interest in the debate
about women that so fascinated Tudor and Elizabethan society.6
On the speedy discovery that virtually all Hooker's references to women
were of a sturdily conservative kind, as we shall see, the hypothesis presented
itself that, despite this standard sixteenth-century patriarchalism, the
position espoused by Hooker on the broader issue of order in the Church
might lend itself to serious treatment of the grounds for the ordination
of women. What follows is the result of the pursuit of this hunch. Begun
perhaps in a somewhat lighthearted desire to enlist the support of one
of the supposed "fathers" of Anglo-Catholicism, it has resulted in an increased
respect for the profundity and subtlety of Hooker's theological stance,
and especially for his readiness to take seriously the social reality of
the Christian Church in time and history; so that I have found my growing
conviction of the importance of the study of social history for the Christian
Church at every stage of its life to be met and deepened by Hooker's insistence
on the dual character of the Church, "being both a societie and a societie
There are three pages in the Laws in which Hooker makes passing but explicit references to the status of women. The first is in the Preface, where Hooker acknowledges the fact that women were prominent as recruits to the puritan cause, but takes this to be an indication of the inferiority of the rational grounds for puritanism, on the assumption that the judgments of women are "commonlie weakest by the reason of their sex."8 Hooker admits the "eagernesse of their affection" and their "naturall inclination into pittie," but observes with some disdain the opportunities women enjoy "to procure encouragements for their brethren" and the delight they take "in giving verie large and particular intelligence, how all neere about them stand affected as concerning the same cause."9 They are, in a word, gossips.
In the second passage the point at issue is the emergency baptism of infants by women, especially by midwives. The immediate background to this was the objection of the Admonitioners that the Prayer Book had not specifically forbidden such baptisms, as had Calvin and Bullinger, on the grounds that it was a superstitious use of the sacrament.10 Hooker's view followed Luther, Tyndale, and the general Catholic tradition in accepting the legality and validity of baptism by women, as part of his defense of the view that baptism is "generally [i.e., universally] necessary to salvation." Lay baptism in cases of urgent necessity is consistent with this stance, and Hooker strenuously resists the apparent corollary that women can be "ministers in the Church of God" which, he tartly remarks, would be a "grosse absurditie" in the light of the Apostle Paul's injunctions not to let women teach (quoting 1 Timothy 2:1 and I Corinthians 14:34). Here Hooker refers to the (fourth-century) document titled the Apostolic Constitutions, which he held, together with the majority of his contemporaries, to have been written by Clement of Rome in the first century. In this document we find a specific injunction that a woman may not baptize, which Hooker is at some pains to gloss as a prohibition designed to deter the rash and presumptuous from turning what is lawful in necessity into something more common.11
The last example of a reference to women occurs in the section on matrimony in Book V, where Hooker is attempting to meet Puritan objections to the ceremonies retained in the Anglican rite. Here Hooker invokes a highly traditional argument concerning the divinely appointed end or goal of matrimony, namely the replenishing of the earth with blessed inhabitants and ultimately of heaven with saints. If the having and bringing up of children is the goal, the means requires the "subalternation" of women to men. This is naturally grounded upon the inequality of the sexes, "because thinges equall in everie respect are never willinglie directed one by another." Woman is thus not merely brought into being after man, but is "inferior in excellencie" to him. Thus, the delivering up of the woman by her father is one of the customs which have a true and sufficient reason, rooted as it is in the ancient authority of husband, father, or tutor over all women. The ceremony accordingly reminds women "of a dutie whereunto the verie imbecillitie of theire nature and sex doth bind them, namelie to be allwaies directed guided and ordered by others, although our positive lawes doe not tie them now as pupils.''l2
These uncompromising expressions of female subordination to male power are, nonetheless, utterly incidental to the course of Hooker's argument. He is apparently not in the least interested in the theoretical questions about the status of women which had already surfaced in European discussion.13 Hooker is a traditionalist for whom no serious question arises that might lead him to place women in any other position than that accorded her in the standard theory. The subordination of women was integral to that theory, as it was for the most leading Roman Catholic and Protestant writers of the age.
It is essential to the argument of this paper to note the interlocking character of the disciplines whose arguments contributed to the theory of female inferiority. This theory was composed of a variety of elements from law, philosophy, ethics, and medicine as well as from theology, as Ian Maclean's impressive treatment has demonstrated.14 One example will suffice. Hooker's reference, noted above, to women's "imbecillitie" is not a gratuitous insult, but a standard piece of legal theory deriving from the Digest, where women's disbarment from succession, office, and privilege, the legal consequence of her deterior conditio, is justified by her alleged levitas, fragilitas, imbecillitas, and infirmitas.l5 The French jurist, Andre Tiraqueau, compiled in his seminal treatise on marriage law a list of occurrences of these words in Roman Law. But the work itself is full of references to theology, medicine, ethics, and ancient literature, as well as to law, all in support of female inferiority.'16 The marriage of Aristotle's anatomical and ethical theories to the patristic understanding of the creation and fall had contrived to produce a synthesis according to which woman was an incomplete version of the male (a mas occasionatus).l7 Her weaker powers of reason are the grounds for her being deceived, this explanation cohering with the deterior conditio of woman in law.18 Maclean describes the relationship between the disciplines as "molecular" as well as ''hierarchical.''l9 Thus, although Aristotelian medical theory provides a basis for morality, and medicine and ethics underlie law, the synthesis of Aristotelian and Christian theses is full of ambiguities, apparent and real contradictions, and open possibilities that make it responsive to slow change. Hooker's participation in the synthesis was total, informing every aspect of his minimal references to women. But he wrote at a time when for the first time the scholastic synthesis came under attack as a whole. And his significance is that he provides the Church with a way of understanding what it might mean to come to new terms with the new view of woman that was shortly to develop in modern Europe.
The case that can be argued in this connection rests on Hooker's awareness that certain aspects of church law can properly vary with time and place. But it is important not to overstate the point. His thought is permeated with Aristotelian assumptions and there is nothing to suggest a willingness in him to entertain in relation to the place of women even contemporary ideas that conflicted with the scholastic synthesis. As we have seen in Hooker's treatment of marriage the necessity of a relationship of superiority/inferiority, which is ultimately derived from Aristotle's dualities, is simply assumed as axiomatic. Although we now have been forced to separate Aristotle's ethics from his physics in order to give any kind of future for Aristotelian thought at all. 20 Hooker could not have envisioned how this could be done. The most that can be said is that just as our treatment of Aristotle is likely to be eclectic, so was Hooker's though in different proportion; it is perhaps relevant to add that we are no more obliged to accept or reject Hooker's scholasticism in toto, than Hooker was to adopt Aristotle's entire political philosophy.
The issue, then, that we have to investigate is Hooker's approach to church polity. As is well known, he adopted from Jewel, Whitgift, and other Anglican writers the distinction between things necessary to salvation and matters indifferent.2l It was already conventional Lutheran apologetic that rites and ceremonies belonged to matters indifferent. Hooker agreed, and it is the purpose of Book III of the Laws to carry his point against the Puritans, who, he holds, insist that discipline and church government belong to things necessary to salvation.
Hooker's position as it unfolds is differentiated and subtle. At first sight it looks as though he is going to argue quite simply that what he prefers to call "churchpolitie"22 is a matter of indifference to be decided by each national or regional body for itself. In fact, by means of a fundamental analysis of different types of law, he shows to what extent the Church must rely on scripture and to what extent and how she must develop her own positive regulations. In chapters one through four of Book III all that is in mind is the sharp distinction, which he needs for polemical purposes, between what he calls "the verie essence of Christianitie" (the earliest use in English known to me of this phrase), by which he means one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,23 and ceremonies, such as marrying with a ring, the use of the sign of the cross at baptism, kneeling at the Eucharist, and so forth.24 From ceremonies are excepted "Sacramentes, or anie other the like substantiall duties in the exercise of religion."25
In chapter five Hooker turns his attention to the Puritan use of the phrase "commanded by the word of God," and askes the pertinent question, What is the proper use of scripture?
When that which the word of God doth but deliver historically, wee conster without any warrant as if it were legally meant, and so urge it further then wee can proove that it was intended, doe we not adde to the lawes of God, and make them in number seeme moe then they are ?26
The argument is plainly ad hominem in that it represents the Puritans as multiplying "lawes" without due grounds, the very charge they brought against the conformists. But we should note that the exegetical sensitivity that refuses to quote "by-speeches in some historicall narration or other" as though they amounted to the "most exact forme of lawe" is the precursor of a type of historical relativism.
"Commaunded by the word of God," then, is an inadequately refined tool for the proper use of scripture, and Hooker uses this fact as a pretext for a general argument in favor of the use of reason in scriptural interpretation. The church, he says, first instructs us to treat the scripture as authoritative, which inquiry and experience then confirm. Reason in this context can both refute error and build up faith, aided and directed by the Holy Spirit. Reason, therefore, can also be used in the same context for the formulation of the laws of church polity. This is precisely the point which Hooker desires to make. No church polity is good unless God be the author of it. But God may be the author of it in two ways, either by supernatural revelation or by the Holy Spirit's guided use of the natural light of reason ("those thinges which men finde out by helpe of that light, which God hath given them unto that ende").27 Thus, though scripture itself contains many laws, there are a number of matters
for which the scripture hath not provided by any law, but left them
unto the carefull discretion of the Church; . . . and what is so in these
cases, partely scripture and partly reason must teach to discerne.28
At this point Hooker brings to bear on his argument the analysis of
the different types of law that he has already provided in Book 1. The
three types of law that concern this argument are the law of reason (which
Hooker also calls the law of nature),the divine law revealed in the Scriptures,
and human law. The last of these, which includes all church constitutions,
is subject to the criterion of the former two.29
The complicating factor is the evident fact that Scripture contains a variety
of material, both precedents and examples, natural laws and "positive"
laws. The last are called positive, rather than human law, to signify the
fact that their role is not merely to instruct, but to enjoin and constrain.30
There are two kinds of "positive" laws, those that are "mixed," which amount
to the ratification of natural law, and those that are "merely" positive,
that is, are within the province of human societies to determine as seems
convenient.31 But, and here
is the nub, it is not self-evident from scripture itself which kind of
material is which.
When scripture doth yeelde us precedents, how far forth they are to bee followed; when it giveth naturall lawes, what particular order is thereunto most agreeable; when positive, which waye to make lawes unrepugnant unto them;yea though all these shoulde want, yet what kind of ordinances woulde be moste for that good of the Church which is aimed at, all this must be by reason founde out.32
Church polity is the area of "positive law," but it is not, for that reason, arbitrary or, in the modern sense, a matter of indifference. But positive law is mutable, and Hooker is at pains to do justice to the complexity of this issue. The mere fact that a law is given in scripture is not itself a decisive consideration. Sometimes positive law is given with an indication as to how long it is to remain in force. If not, we can only judge the question of whether change is permissible or not by considering "the ende for which it was made, and by the aptnes of thinges therein prescribed unto the same end."33 The three types of Jewish laws show these principles at work. The moral law is unchanged because the matter of it continues as before. The ceremonial law is at an end because, although the matter continues, the end or purpose has ceased. The judicial law is mutable, because though the end continues, yet the matter is in some respects altered.34
By these means Hooker reaches the paradoxical sounding conclusion that
God never ordeyned any thing that could be bettered. Yet many things he hath that have bene chaunged, and that for the better. That which succeedeth as better now when change is requisite, had bene worse when that which now is chaunged was instituted. Otherwise God had not then left this to choose that, neither would not reject that to choose this, were it not for some new growne occasion making that which hath bene better worse. In this case therefore men doe not presume to chaunge God's ordinance, but they yeelde thereunto requiring it selfe to be chaunged.35
The importance of this principle of change for our argument is obvious. According to it, it may be agreed that the restriction of the priesthood to males at one time was the ordinance of God. But at some "new growne occasion" that same positive law may become the worse course for the Church to follow. The fact that the first law was indeed the law of God, and given by his authority, by no means demonstrates its unchangeableness.36 The question would be whether or not the positive law given in the Scriptures had such a connection to natural law that its maintenance did not acquire the extra force of universality. But whether that is so or not, would, on Hooker's own argument, be a matter for reason itself to determine.
How would Hooker himself have interpreted the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood? The answer is hardly in doubt, and precisely illustrates his method of argument. The idea that women would be "teachers in the house of God," he holds as we have seen, to be "a gross absurdity" in the light of the apostolic injunctions. This would be, in other words, an instance of scripture giving a clear positive law. Moreover, for Hooker, such a law would undoubtedly have been a case of "mixed" positive law, since natural reason also taught women's inferiority. Such at least is clear from his traditional handling of the place of women in marriage, which closely follows the terms of the scholastic synthesis. But if Hooker's own position on the question, had it occurred to him to raise it, cannot be in doubt, neither can the fact that it was being undermined, even as he wrote, by the fact of the rule of Queen Elizabeth, whose supremacy in the Church as monarch was likewise a matter of positive law. Hooker must surely have known of the fierce debate about the propriety of the government of women such as not merely Elizabeth 1, but also Catherine de Medicis and Mary, Queen of Scots.37 He can scarcely have been ignorant of the argument produced in 1 5 88 by an Oxford scholar, ohn Case, in favor of feminine rule where the ability is present, and denying that the distinctively feminine humors adversely affect the mind.38 He lived at a time when the Aristotelian doctrine of inherent female inferiority, rooted in logic and physiology, was already proving itself to be impermanent.
But what of the question of ordination? Was that, too, for Hooker a matter of positive law, or was it a sacrament covered by the faith content of the gospel? Although Hooker does not give ordination the explicit title of a sacrament, he sings a paean of praise to the authority and power of the ministry, which God alone can bestow.39 By the time he came to write Book V, Hooker had come to accept the doctrine which was relatively new to Anglican apologetic that the origins of episcopacy lay in the distinction which Christ had made between the Twelve and the Seventy.40 This had been argued by Hadrian de Saravia in his De DiVersis Ministrorum Eangelii Gradibus of 1590, and it proved increasingly attractive to many Anglicans (including Hooker) in place of the Jeromian theory held by most Elizabethan divines that episcopacy was first introduced after the death of the Apostles.4l But he makes abundantly clear that his argument does not depend on the former view, since we may claim the ministry to be of divine origin even if it be of human institution, provided that it has divine approbation.42
It is, therefore, quite consistent with Hooker's basic theory for him to say that there are conditions under which it would be legitimate to vary the form of church polity. The Tractatians found it a difficult passage to swallow, and Anglo-Catholics have choked on it ever since, but it is plain enough. Compared with matters necessary to salvation, the Scriptures are not so insistent or clear on matters relating to ecclesiastical polity that "much which it hath taught [might] become unrequisite, sometimes because we need not use it, sometimes also because we cannot."43 Then follows the admission that the failure of the reformed churches of France and Scotland to retain episcopacy, though a defect, could not be considered a cause of serious reproach or blame. This is a clear example of Hooker's readiness to judge of times and seasons.
A similar interpretation can be given to Hooker's discussion of the
Jeromian theory. Even if it is by custom that bishops hold authority in
the Church, nonetheless what has long continued in the Church without alteration
is an integral part of its being considered a divine institution. The conclusion
is that the power of bishops may be taken away if their behavior becomes
"proud, tyrannical and unreformable."44
or Hooker, ever sensitive to the exigencies of history,
the whole body of the Church hath power to alter, with general consent and upon necessary occasions, even the positive laws of the Apostles, if there be no command to the contrary, and it manifestly appears to her, that change of times have clearly taken away the very reasons of God's first institution.45
Likewise, in particular emergencies the church may ordain someone where there is no bishop who could do so.
We are not simply without exception to urge a liniel descent of power from the Apostles by continued succession of Bishops in every effectual Ordination.46
In these exceptional cases-and Hooker, we should note, draws their conditions very tightly-the crucial factor is the consent of the Church. Hooker did not believe in episcopal govemment of the Church, nor even in clerical govemment. The power of the government, he lays down in Book 1, apart ftom the consent of the govetned is no bettet than tytanny, and is a ptinciple he applies to both church and state.47 It is for this reason that he gives Patliament as well as Convocation a tole in the making of ecclesiastical law. Hooker by no means anticipated the secularization of the Church; as Cargill Thompson pertinently observes, "had he done so, he would hardly have approved of the continued survival of Parliament's right to make laws for the Church."48 But it cannot seriously be doubted that he would have regarded the participation of the laity in synodical government as a normal and desirable state of affairs, conducive to that testing of consent without which no form of government is secure.
Nothing in Hooker's treatment of ordination would lead us to the conclusion that it could be an area of church polity exempt from the general considerations relating to positive law that he advanced. He anticipates the fact that diffetent contexts will give rise to different decisions, and this he labels an "harmonious dissimilitude."49 What is permanent in the ministry is the task of teaching the gospel of Christ. As an example of what may properly be considered a temporaty measure he instances Paul's insttuctions to Timothy conceming the choice of widows ( I Tim. 5:9). God's clergy are a permanent state to carty out the laws goveming the administration of the word and sacraments. To this necessity he adds the hierarchical distinction of degrees among the clergy so as to secure order, and the necessity of ordination. The rest are matters on which the Church has the right to make positive law in accordance with scriptural principles and right reason.
The point of this inquiry is that it shows Hooker to be the architect of an understanding of church polity that can seriously consider the necessity of change, even in an institution as traditiomtl as an all-male priesthood. It does not, of course, turn Hooker into an advocate of women's ordination. But on his own principles Hooker would undoubtedly have been ready to consider an argument that destroyed the status of the doctrine of women's subordination as a deliverance of natural reason. The point can be made more precisely. The issue is not patriarchy (the rule of the father in the household), but male dominance. Aristotelian physiology and psychology are entirely genetal in their application to womankind, and are the basis upon which the impropriety of female dominance can be urged. Once this generalized basis was abandoned (and it must be said to have lingered in psychology long into the twentieth century), the support from "natural reason," essential to Hooker's prescription for a mixed positive law, evaporates. When generalized female subordination ceases to make sense medically or empirically, the route must be open for a reappraisal of the scriptural positive law concerning the impropriety of female teachers.
This is not merely a matter of the ordination of women. A consistent modern application of the scholastic synthesis would be such as to preclude the participation of women in any form of public office or leadership role. Those who urge the Church's tradition as an argument against women's ordination are inconsistent with that tradition in failing to deplore female monarchs, prime ministers, members of parliament or members of church synods, heads of church colleges, and chairpersons of bodies of great power in state and church. To have capitulated in this arena in order to preserve a cordon sanitaire around the Church's ministry is absolutely to have abandoned Hooker's position.
What we discover, then, in Hooker is an undeniably Anglican doctrine of the Church that enables us to reflect seriously on the implications for church polity of a new understanding of female/male relationship. It is a position that has no obligation to be unremittingly hostile to church tradition in order to satisfy the instincts of radical feminism, nor, on the other hand, is it obliged to assume the immutability of laws even of divine origin. It is a position, moreover, that has a high doctrine of the apostolic ministry, and no a priori objection to the existence of a hierarchy. It would not feel obliged to impose the same structures upon all cultures at the same time, and could enjoy what Hooker describes in a felicitous phrase as the "manifold and yet harmonious dissimulitude of those wayes whereby his Church upon earth is guided from age to age."50
With these considerations in mind one may return to the question of the official response of the Roman Catholic Church. The documents, both the Declaration and the Commentary, seem plainly of a provisional character, striving both to start and end on a positive note, though conscious of the apparent negativity of their central teaching. The Declaration, Inter insigniores, recalls the opposition of the Second Vatican Council to discrimination based upon sex. The Commentary notes that it would have been desirable to have inserted into the Declaration a more general presentation on the question of the advancement of women; but, it adds, "the time is not ripe for such a comprehensive exposition, because of the research and work in progress on all sides."5l But both publications are characterized by an extreme reluctance to present a historical picture of the traditional scholastic synthesis, claiming instead that the "undeniable influence of prejudices unfavourable to women" or the use of arguments "that modern thought would have difficulty in admitting or would even rightly reject" can be easily separated from the Church's constant tradition.52 One can have no such confidence.53 So long as the status accorded to women remains in doubt, the isolation of the Church's priesthood from a general theory of the natural relations of the sexes strikes the reader as defensive, and in a strict sense uncatholic.
The argument of this paper brings one to the point where, without denying what the Church has maintained in the past or imposing an unhistorical interpretation upon it, an Anglican can freely face the challenge of recapturing the vision of a "discipleship of equals" that is also part of the scriptural portrait of the nature of the Church. It may be that this vision could not have survived the Church's inculturation in the Greco-Roman world, in which it was only wealthy widows who could exercise any kind of leadership through patronage. The self-interested character of the male medical science that asserted the natural imbecility of women can readily be recognized, and even excused. Equality, even in the Church, had little currency value until women acquired equal access to education and wives freedom from the burden of involuntary pregnancy. A new-grown occasion is upon us, and Richard Hooker provides us with the fundamental equipment with which to face it.
This article is reprinted with permission from After Eve, Janet Martin
Soskice, ed. (London Marshall Pickering, 1990). Marshall Pickering is an
imprint of HarperCollins.
1 Laws 111, xi, 8. Quotations from Hooker are from the Folger Library edition of his works (Cambridge Harvard University Press, 1977- 1993). [return to text]
2 Woman and the Priesthood, Declaration on the Question of the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood, Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Vatican City, 1977), 11. [return to text]
3 The obvious candidates, Geneva or Wittenberg, identify the brand of Protestantism too closely. Perhaps we should suggest Marburg, on account of cacophony of squabbling Protestant voices to be heard at the Colloquy ( 1529), and therefore conforming to this kind of Anglican prejudice. [return to text]
4 See S. W. Sykes, "Have Anglicans no special doctrines of their own?," The Franciscan 30 1 (January 1988 32 7. [return to text]
5 By Peter Lake in his Moderate Puritan and the Elizabethan Church (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1982 ) . [return to text]
6 On which see Louis B. Wright, Middle Class Culture in Elizabethan England (Chapel Hill, N.Y.: Folger Shakespeare Library/Cornell University Press, 1958, ch. xii, "The Popular Controversy over Woman"; Ruth Kelso, Doctrine for the Lady of the Renaissance (Urbana: University of lllinois Press, 1956, esp. ch. 2, "Women in the Scheme of Things" ;lan Maclean, The Renaissance Notion of Women (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980; Simon Shepherd, Amazons and Warrior Women (Brighton, 1981; Linda Woodbridge, Women and the English Renaissance: Literature and the Nature of Womankind, 1540-1620(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984; and Lisa Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (Sussex, England: Harvester Press; Totowa, NY: Noble, 1983. [return to text]
7 Laws I, xv, 2. [return to text]
8 Laws, Preface iii, 13. This coheres with Thomas Aquinas's opinion that the natural piety of women is not a particular mental attribute, but a lack (a defectus contemplationis) resulting in a tendency toward credulity (Summa Theological 2a 2ae 83, 3 ) . That there were both gains and losses to women in the Protestant Reformation is nicely argued by N. Z. Davis, in her essay, ''City Women and Religious Change," Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975), 65-95. [return to text]
9 Laws, Preface iii, 13.The more independent role of women inthePuritanmovementhas frequently attracted comment. See "Women and Puritanism," ch. 5 of Shepherd, Amazons. [return to text]
10 See Calvin's Institutes, 4, 15, 20, and Bullinger's Decades (Parker Society 4), 370-2; as noted by John E. Booty in volume 4 of the Folger Library edition of the Laws (Cambridge, Mass., 1982), 209-10. [return to text]
11 Laws V, lxii, 1-3, 22. In the last paragraph of this chapter Hooker refers to "divers reformed Churches" which do allow women to baptize in cases of necessity. These, doubtless, would be Lutheran churches,perhaps those of Hesse and Brandenberg-Nuremberg. So Booty, op. cit., 210. [return to text]
12 Laws V, lxxiii, 1-5. It should be added that Calvin had also asserted the need for the wife to be subject to the husband, in order to guarantee the subordination of both to the authority of God(Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Edinburgh, 1900, 232f. [return to text]
l3 Henry Comelius Agrippa's De nobilitate et praecellenia foeminei sexus . . .declamaao(1529; E. T. A treatise of the nohblity and excellency of womankind, London, 1542) is an example. But its radicalism is usually interpreted as an exercise in rhetoric, perhaps because the idea of women's equality could be treated in no other way. See Maclean, Renaissance Notion of Women, 80, 91. [return to text]
14 See note 6 above. [return to text]
15 The main passage relevant to women's legal status reads as follows: "Women are excluded from all civil and public offices; and thus they may not be judices, nor magistrates, nor advocates; nor may they intervene on another's behalf in law, nor act as agents" (De regulis juris antiqui, 50,16, 2). In a volume published in Lyons in 1593, five eminent scholars comment on the position of women in Roman, Holy Roman, and Canon Law, and references to the imbecillitas of women are frequent. Cf. 1. Maclean, Women Triumphant: Feminism in French Lterature, 1610- 1652 (Oxford, 1977), 13ff. [return to text]
16 De Legibus connubiallbus (1513)I, 1,70-6,in Opera omnia II, 15-7, discussed by Maclean, Renaissance Notion of Women, 3, 83. [return to text]
17 Maclean, op. cit., 8f., referring to Thomas Aquinas ("Dicit enim Philosophus in libro De Gen. Anim., quod 'femina est mas occasionatus' "), Summa Theologica la, 92, 1. [return to text]
18 Maclean, op. cit., 15, referring to Peter Lombard, Sententiae II, 20, and Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica 2a 2ae, 163,4, and 165,2. [return to text]
19 Maclean, op. cit., 83. [return to text]
20 Here one thinks primarily in modern times of Alasdair Maclntyre's powerful argument in After Virtue (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984). [return to text]
21 For what follows I am especially indebted to the lucid analysis of Hooker's political philosophy in W. D. ). Cargill Thompson's essay "The Philosopher of the 'Politic Society': Richard Hooker as a Political Thinker," in his (posthumous Studies in the Reformation, C. W. Dugmore, ed. (London, 1980, 131-91. [return to text]
22 For the interesting and significant reason that it lays too much weight on "the exercise of superiority peculiar unto rulers and guides of others," Laws III, i, 14. [return to text]
23 Laws III, i, 4. On the history of this term see H. Wagenhammer, Das Wesen des Christenums (Mainz, 1973) and S. W. Sykes, The Identity of Christianity (London SPCK, 1984), esp. 211-38, 250-61. [return to text]
24Other examples are given in Laws, III v. 1. [return to text]
25Laws, iii, 4. [return to text]
26Laws III, v. 1. [return to text]
27 Laws, III, ii, 1. [return to text]
28 Laws, III, ix, 1. [return to text]
29 "All our controversie in this cause conceming the orders of the Church is, what particulars the Church may appoint. That which doth finde them out is the force of mans reason. That which doth guide and direct his reason is first the generall law of nature, which law of nature and the morall law of Scripture are in the substance of law all one," Laws III, ix, 2. [return to text]
30 Laws I, x, 8. [return to text]
31 Laws I, x, 10. [return to text]
32 Laws III, ix, 1. [return to text]
33 Laws III, x, 1. [return to text]
34 Laws III, x, 4. [return to text]
35 Laws 111, x, 5. [return to text]
36 I therefore conclude that neither (God's being author of laws for government of his Church, nor his committing them unto scripture, is any reason sufficient wherefore all Churches should for ever be bounde to keepe them without chaunge," Laws III, x, 7. [return to text]
37 See Maclean, Feminism in French Literature, 58. [return to text]
38 "Nature often makes woman shrewd, hard work makes her learned, upbringing makes her pious, and experience makes her wise. What, therefore, prevents women from playing a full part in public affairs? If one is born free, why should she obey? If one is heiress to a kingdom, why should she not reign? Divine law, the history of nations, ancient institutions, and examples drawn form Holy Writ all support such arguments," Sphaera civitatis (Oxford, 1588), 1, 3, 33, cited in Maclean, The Renaissance Notion of Women, 61 (Latin, 95). [return to text]
39 Laws V,lxxvii. [return to text]
40 Laws V,lxviii, 5. See W D. J. Cargill Thompson's discussion in "Anthony Marten and the Elizabethan Debate on Episcopacy," Essays in Modern English Church History in Memory of Norman Sykes, G. V. Bennett and J. D. Walsh, eds. (London: Oxford University Press, 1966, 44- 75. [return to text]
41 Hooker acknowledges his conversion to the new theory in Laws Vll, xi, 8. [return to text]
42 Laws VII, xi, 10. [return to text]
43 Laws III, xi, 16 [return to text]
44 Laws VII, v, 8. [return to text]
45 Laws VII, v, 8. [return to text]
46 Laws VII, xiv, 1 1 [return to text]
47 Laws I, x, 8 [return to text]
48 ''The Philosopher of the 'Politic Society'," 190. [return to text]
49 Laws III, xi, 8. [return to text]
50 Laws III, xi, 8. [return to text]
51 The Ordination of Women: Circumstances and Origin of the Declaration Women and the Priesthood (Catholic Truth Society, Do. 494; London, n.d.), 4. [return to text]
52 Women and the Priesthood, 5-6. [return to text]
53 Indeed in one place the Commentary leaves wholly ambiguous whether or not the proposition of St. Thomas Aquinas that mulier est in statu subjectionis is "scarcely defensible" or the direct (and presumably defensible) exegesis of the first chapters of Genesis and I Timothy 2 12-14. [return to text]
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