Monday, October 25, 2004

Male and female created he them

Several weeks ago I read this on the Touchstone blog. I will excert the last paragraph since it is the one I am interested in dealing with.

Christianity is a patriarchal faith which teaches that the Image of God is
perfectly and completely expressed in a male human being--indeed, that maleness
is the very sign of sexual inclusiveness. If one believes that in, by, through,
and for Christ, none of whose characteristics, including his sex, are
superfluous to his being, everything was made, everything subsists, and
everything will be consummated, and understands the implications of this belief,
he will reject egalitarianism and its grammar.

I find this disturbing on several levels. The first is that I object to being told that as a woman I do not have the complete expression of humanity. However, from a larger theological perspective, this can lead to heresy in my opinion. According to Mr. Hutchens, "the male is the iconic principal, the "defining" member of the human race, in a way the woman, who is in this regard secondary and subordinate, cannot be." This makes me question the incarnation. How can Christ possess the fulness of humanity if the Theotokos did not possess this fulness? If this is the case, we arrive quite quickly at the heresy of Docetism.

Let me now express a caveat: apparently there are rumors spreading through the Orthodox world that St. Vlads is in favor of women's ordination. This is blatantly false. I have yet to meet any one of the faculty or staff who have expressed such ideas. I myself am not in favor of women’s ordination. On the other hand, I do think I am worthwhile, fully human, and could choose to do something with my seminary education other than marry someone entering the priesthood and spend the rest of my life baking prosphora. I am unclear why people insist that I must be a feminist for pursuing a theological education. I even had a professor from St. Tikhon's imply as much.

So...there's my rant for the week. Sorry for being so strident.


Matt said...

Well, it does seem like an expensive education that will prepare you for a ministry role you can't fill. But I have a female friend who went to St. Vlad's, then worked at Raphael House, and is now back at St. Vlad's doing event planning. Did she need a theology degree to do that work? Does it help her communicate with all of the clergy she has to deal with? I don't know. But I do know this: I am sure she is not a feminist. And I can't imagine her going to seminary to become a Matushka. She is more realistic than that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post, and I would hardly call it strident. As an Orthodox Christian, I categorically and theologically disagree with S.M. Hutchens, the original blog poster.

Interesting, Patriarch Bartholomew said the following in his welcoming address to an International Conference on Orthodoxy and Women:

"Here, at the Great Church of Hagia Sophia, a number of devoted women such as St. Olympias, served as deaconesses . . . To both women and men, to both clergy and laity, these women saints continue to be a source of inspiration, for it is written, ‘God is revealed in His saints!’" His Holiness also noted the "call for the full restoration of the order of women deacons . . . The order of women deacons is an undeniable part of tradition coming from the early Church. Now, in many of our Churches, there is a growing desire to restore this order so that the spiritual needs of the people of God may be better served. There are already a number of women who appear to be called to this ministry."

Anonymous said...

Carolyn Custis James has written a wonderful (altho protestant :) book about why women need to study theology, why good theology matters in this life and how our theology affects all those around any role we fulfill. It's called "When Life and Beliefs Collide: How knowing God makes a difference."

It gave me lots to think about, and in some ways contributed to my journey to investigating the Orthodox church.

She says a maddening comment from her seminary prof eventually led to this book. He said.. “You know, there have never been any great women theologians”.

So hang in there, be transformed!

-Julie, St. Nic's, PDX

Julio said...

Dear in Christ Ann,


I know it's been seven months since you posted this message, but I only found your blog today. :-)

I too find this bit from the Touchstone folks disturbing (but then, I usually find that their stuff corrupts my worldview, so this is no surprise). Your anthropological points are well taken and much to the point; thanks for sharing them with the world at large!

As for the matter of theological education, I have found that there is widespread misunderstanding of its purpose and limits, both in seminary communities and parishes.

One must keep in mind that courses of study such as St Vlad's are a recent phenomenon in Orthodox history, closely mirroring the development of Western European and North American Protestant theological education. (I don't believe this is necessarily bad, by the way!) A "seminary", according to accreditation standards, is a professional school -- that is to say, one whose purpose is to equip would-be practitioners with the necessary academic competencies for the practice of ministry. The primary means of accomplishing this is the Master of Divinity degree, which is evenly divided between introductory courses to all the theological and practical disciplines. Over the last 50 years, however, incresingly more seminaries have also started to offer "academic" degrees, such as Master of Arts. (Rather than developing new courses with a particularly academic emphasis, however, they simply placed "academic" students in the same courses designed for "professional" students. In a sense, this cheapens the value of MA course work, but I digress.)

Anyway, the point is that no everyone goes to seminary to be trained in the practice of pastoral ministry; some, like you, attend to engage in serious theological reflection through some of the other programs. This is a most valid endeavor, but it is hard to divorce "seminary" from "ministry" in the mind of many. Of course, there is a sense in which this to be expected, as a seminary is precisely a professional school with such purpose. But on the other hand, people should get a clue as to the actual academic offerings of most seminaries.

All the best,

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