Women and Redemption: A Theological History (2nd Edition) by Rosemary Radford Ruether
(Fortress Press, 2012, 332 pages)
Women and Redemption is a reading of the history and thought of Christianity from a feminist perspective. Rosemary Radford Ruether highlights the history of gender relations in the Christian movement from the life of Jesus, through the early Church, the Middle Ages, the Reformation and Renaissance, modern feminist movements, and globalization. She looks at how the themes of Christian theology have reinforced patriarchal culture norms and how female voices throughout the Church’s history have sought to reconcile female experience with the themes of creation, sin, and redemption. Ruether states in her introduction that “Contemporary Christian feminist theology builds on certain basic assumptions,” including the “rejection of any theological or sociobiological justifications of women’s subordination as due to some combination of (1) natural inferiority, (2) a divine mandate that women be subordinate in the order of creation, and (3) punishment for their priority in sin” (6). These concerns, and the perspective from which they arise, are what guide and focus Ruether’s reading of the broad sweep of Christian history.
This new edition expands Ruether’s discussion of current feminist theologies to take into account the increasingly global nature of feminist engagement with the Christian tradition. She effectively shows how the attempts of earlier North American feminist theologians, including herself, to help the Christian tradition rethink the inherited categories of its patriarchal heritage are being furthered by feminist theologians across the globe. Regardless of your particular religious or theological perspective, Ruether’s book effectively draws out neglected female figures in the Church’s history and offers a helpful and fascinating overview of the various stages of the feminist movement. For those looking to become more conversant with feminist theology, or for those interested in the way that global trends are shaping contemporary theology, the new edition of this book should be extremely helpful.