From feminine to divine perfections

Natural theology never saw a reason to take sex differences seriously since, from Aristotle to Freud, femininity was seen as a defect and therefore was taken as having nothing to tell us about God. Such a view has been obviously insupportable for a very long time now, but we have yet to adapt natural theology in light of it, which in turn affects part of scriptural theology that is informed by it. Part of the problem is that women’s studies often seems less like a study of women and more like a very narrow political advocacy, and this in turn excites a political backlash, which in turn makes both sides double down with even more radical and narrow claims. Let them both eat each other.

The actual study of both human and non-human females shows a brain that is remarkably well-suited to verbal communication, and which defines itself by interpersonal bonds. This stands in stark contrast to males, who characteristically define themselves by action and one-upsmanship.

If masculinity is taken as the sole human perfection, or even if natural theology is dominated by males who draw ideas of perfection from their male brains, then God will be defined as the one at the absolute height of a hierarchy, who loves his creation by providing for it (providence), who is incapable of being overcome or even acted upon by anything else, and who ultimately vanquishes evil by way of conquest. God will be totally unified – that is, solitary; he will have the maximal amount of power and lordship; he will be maximally separate from the body; he will exist by and in and for himself; and his knowledge will consist not in knowing another like himself but in knowing all possible facts. If God were to bring persons into his life, he would do this by winning them and conquering their reluctant will than by attracting them to himself. In warrior-times he will be a God of battles, in Imperialist times he will be a god of expansion, enlightenment, elevation of the savage; in a scientific age he will be a god who vindicates reason, etc.

I have no interest at all in debunking or denying the truth of any of this. All these are real insights into divinity and all of them have strong rational support. But God is clearly being viewed through a window of masculinity. The scriptural elements in this description are clear, and yet the God described comes out as more Islamic than scriptural. This might be one reason why religion is seen as far more masculine in Islamic cultures (which is certainly not how Western cultures view it.)

The God of Scripture seems to arise when we take properly feminine perfections as analogues to the divine life. The equality and distinction of persons in God seems rationally necessary if interpersonal relations among those who fully share their innermost secrets is taken as a proper perfection of a person, which they certainly are for females. For the same reason, we can make far more sense of God’s desire to share the secrets of his own life with rational creatures. Again, if we take this principle and combine to with a toned-down emphasis on divinity as separate from body, the Incarnation becomes manifest in a new way. And while we might not solve the debates over predestination, we could at least open up a new perspective on them by seeing that human life by seeing that saving from evil is not always a matter of overcoming it by force.

None of this argues for a “feminine god” any more than the arguments for solitary existence and first-being-of-a-hierarchy were arguments for a masculine god. The point is not to feminize God but to get a clearer view of personal perfections by opening ourselves to perfections peculiar to female persons.


1 Comment

  1. Maureen said,

    August 11, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    “Philosophy at Georgetown University, page 141; Notes: –
    73) University Bulletin,1974-75,7. In 1943, Guthrie admitted women to Graduate School, it was thought, for the first time. During the 1920’s, however, nine sisters from Visitation Convent earned advanced degrees from Georgetown. One of them, Sister Jane Francis Leibell, received her Ph.D. in 1923. Three years later, she published ‘Reading in Ethics’ a work which was used widely for many years.”

    “The Modern Schoolman
    Volume 3, Issue 6, March 1927
    Pages 92-93
    ‘Readings in Ethics'”

    –First book written in English?!

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