Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

A Patristic Basis for a Theological Anthropology of Women in Their Distinctive Humanity

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

A Patristic Basis for a Theological Anthropology of Women in Their Distinctive Humanity

Article excerpt

(ProQuest Information and Learning: Foreign text omitted).

As is well known, particular interest in the rights and social status of women has been shown in recent years by various international organizations. Past values, ideas, and behavioral stereotypes have been subjected to close scrutiny, and there is an increasing sensitivity to situations that in the past were considered reasonable and natural, but which today appear quite provocative. The inferior social position of women to which history bears witness, the subordination of women to men, and the manipulation of women as human beings by various socio-economic factors, are judged in today's social context as unacceptable denials of the dignity of the human person. So, today, when women demand recognition of the equality of male and female in all areas of life, and the same respect and honor to both sexes, a positive response is forthcoming.

Recent developments in the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches in regard to the issue of woman's priesthood gained the attention of the entire Christian community. In particular, when this issue became a factor threatening to create deeper divisions between the Christian churches, many voices were heard calling for a serious and wider reexamination of the new situation. Every day sees additions to the considerable number of articles and scholarly publications on this issue seeking to develop and present new ground rules that could change the traditional image of women established through the centuries.

Although it has contributed positively to the improving of the position of women on many levels of our contemporary society, the feminist movement has been unable to touch the root of the problem. In the Christian community, women's existence and function have been understood ontologically rather than biologically. Under the pressure of new developments, we as theologians have not only an academic interest, but also a responsibility to offer our help to the Christian church to resolve the problem.

Our consultation is looking for an answer, based on the witness of the church's tradition, and specifically with a view to what patristic bases or axioms can contribute towards a theological anthropology of women as human beings and as distinct from men.

Many views have been expressed on the subject, but it has been difficult to reach an agreement commonly accepted as theologically established. The various models of biblical interpretation have been unable so far to offer an answer acceptable to all parties involved in the debate. Fundamentalist attack, feminist polemic, and biblical apologetic still characterize many discussions of women in the Bible. However, this polemical debate should not allow us to ignore the topic, but indicates how much impact the Bible has had on the struggle of women to establish their new position within the reign of God.

It is quite difficult for a researcher to overcome the preoccupations and the accepted religious stereotypes of an audience, and their views on sensitive subjects which have been formed under the influence of their cultural contexts, their political platforms, and their socio-economic structures. All these elements usually interweave in the canvas of history, where, so far, the male presence was and is dominant, though perhaps to different degrees of intensity and extent. These have secured for men the leading roles in history. Correspondingly, history also amply attests to the fact of the inferior social position of women and their subordination to men. Unfortunately, male chauvinism has found support in ideas expressed by some theologians who have defended the inferior role of women with arguments for their inferior nature. But, in the face of the feminist critique, some contemporary scholars attempt to salvage, for example, the Pauline statements with the help of an "equal but different" argument, though without seeking to determine the content or extent of this difference. …

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