- The Feminist Question: Feminist Theology in the Light of Christian Tradition by Francis Martin (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 59, Number 4, October 1995
- pp. 674-678
- View Citation
- Additional Information
674 BOOK REVIEWS does not seem correct to say that we have knowledge of a claim only if we have epistemic virtue. For example, Aristotle believed that a person could do a just action without having the moral virtue of justice (see NU:omachean Ethi.cs 11.4). Similarly, it would seem possible for a person to know a proposition without epistemic virtue. Not all the essays concern natural theology. Ralph Mclnerny's "Reflections on Christian Philosophy" treats readers to a review of the fascinating debate among French Thomists in the early 1930s on the question of whether there is a Christian philosophy. In "Cognitive Finality" James Ross proposes that the mechanism by which assent is produced in the absence of compelling evidence is tational reliance, which includes reliance on other people. Because of the high quality of the essays Zagzebski has collected, this book will likely become a valuable reference point as both Catholics and Protestants discuss the rationality of faith. Uni11ersily qfSt. Thomas Si. Paul, Minnesota MICHAEL J. DEGNAN The Feminist Question: Feminist Theology in the Light of Christian Tradition. By FRANCIS MARTIN. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994. Pp. xviii + 461. $ 29.99 (paper). It has been nearly forty years, by the author's reckoning, since the beginning of feminist theology, and it has now become an established school of thought within the guild of professional theologians. But feminism itself is much older, a nineteenth-century movement for the emancipation of women. Already that "first wave" of women's suffrage was not without its religious aspect. The Womens Bible, for instance, is evidence of early feminism's simultaneous attachment to and critique of the Christian tradition and its scriptures. In both the late-twentieth and the late-nineteenth centuries, however , feminist Christianity has been largely an American, and Protestant phenomenon . Its matrix was the combination of philosophical liberalism with that evangelical activism meant to ameliorate or combat the evils of industrializing America. As other ethnic and religious groups-Jews, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox-have joined the mainstream ofAmerican life, activist and feminist movements have formed within them, too. Based upon the first wave offeminism, three more recent factors have provided , since 1960, the "moment" for feminist theology, and the subject for Martin's book. The first factor is the continuation and extension ofthis older, American and Anglo-American movement for social betterment. The second is the critical theology and Biblical scholarship originally coming from BOOK REVIEWS 675 Europe. The third is the series of social and religious upheavals occurring since the Second World War, in which middle-class women have by joining the workforce and participating in the sexual revolution gained a sense of both equality with, and similarity to, men. These changes have resulted in a very broad challenge to classical Christian theology and the churches defined by it, whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. Feminist analysis, trained on the history, structure, function, and thought of the churches, has identified inequities-many of them real and intolerably galling-that had been accepted as "natural." Feminist theology, proceeding from a liberationist perspective, has pressed for religious involvement in progressive or revolutionary political movements. Operating with the hermeneutic of suspicion and emphasizing "women's experience" as a basis for evaluating the churches and their theologies, it has relativized the basic texts and interpretations of its own traditions. As criteria for the truth of feminist thought, revelation and theology often have come to occupy second and third place behind the criteria of the experience of women. At its most thorough, feminism has produced spinoff groups which are virtually new and hybrid religions. The Feminist Question has placed this long development of feminism in a wider context, in an effort to listen carefully to the genuinely serious questions that feminist theology poses to contemporary Christian theology. Indeed, one of the strengths of this peaceable book is its evenhanded treatment of this development. Francis Martin, a Biblical scholar, is not a participant in the enterprise of feminist theology. But neither is he a thoroughgoing detractor of it. The book's goal, he states, is to "contribute to church unity," and "to attempt to distinguish what is true from what is false in the feminist...