Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Feminism and Christian Ethics

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Feminism and Christian Ethics

Article excerpt

Feminism and Christian Ethics. By Susan Frank Parsons. New Studies in Christian Ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. xiii + 279 pp. $16.95 (paper).

Susan Frank Parsons begins her book with the observation that the diversity of feminist thought is such that "it is now rather more difficult than it might have been at one time to define what a feminist is" (p. 8). This diversity reflects three conceptual frameworks that not only shape feminist discourse but also influence Christian ethical thought. Parsons's project is not to advance one or another of these paradigms, as though they were rivals. Rather, drawing her cue from the myriad of feminists who "have discovered in each of them something of significance ... [and] continue to draw from each of them important resources for understanding and action" (p. 9), she proposes to draw out common threads that might be woven into a Christian feminist ethic that will appreciate diversity at the same time as it contributes to a continuation of the already "complex and varied tapestry" (p. 12) of Christian thought.

The three paradigms that Parsons identifies are the liberalism that rose out of the Enlightenment and two reactions to the liberal project, social constructionism and naturalism. An extended discussion of these paradigms, enhanced by dozens of examples from the literature, occupies the major portion of the book. The last section of the book contains Parsons's own observations about themes common to all three paradigms, again supported by examples from the literature, and how they might be woven into the Christian ethical debate. Those common threads are the search for a universalism that provides an ultimate point of reference for human life, the attempt to describe a redemptive community that fosters right relationship, and an understanding of human nature that finds women and men both "made in the image of God, and intended for communion with one another and with God in the context of their creaturely life" (p. …

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