Goddess and God in the World

Conversations in Embodied Theology

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Carol P. Christ, Judith Plaskow
  • Minneapolis, MN : 
    Fortress Press
    , August
     2016.
     364 pages.
     $29.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781506401188.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Goddess and God in the World is an instant classic, which will become a standard text in feminist theology. It is a multifaceted and exceptional work. This is a joint theological autobiography (completely consistent with an embodied theology), a beautifully written and erudite intellectual history of feminist theology, and a dialogue between two close friends, both key figures in feminist theology for forty years, around issues they have been talking about over a lifetime. The dialogue preserves the voices of the two by alternating individually authored chapters in each section, followed by collaborative summary chapters. The final section allows the two to reflect on and critique each other.

From their different theological positions (Christ in the Goddess movement, Plaskow as a Jew) they model embodied theology in their process, talking about personal encounters with significant theological writing, engagement in different communities of faith, experiences of the divine, and their personal lives. Rich theologically-informed autobiographies grow as we see two women engaged with the world, changing and being changed by the ideas they encountered, by the communities that grew up around them and their own scholarly work. Their lives are woven into the history of feminist theology. The first feminist theology study groups (often started by one or the other of them), key lectures and books (some written by them), encounters with significant figures in the development of feminist theology, are here in and through their lives. And that intellectual history is greatly enriched with the personal and autobiographical details of how it was that particular lines of inquiry were taken, or ideas frustrated.

Different feminist theologies and approaches to tradition, images, and experiences of the divine and of community are illustrated in the discussion of why Plaskow remained a Jew and continues to struggle inside that religion with male gendered language and problematic symbolism, while Christ moved from Catholicism and liberal Protestant Christianity to the Goddess movement. There is never only one theology here, or only one solution to the situations of women in the various Patriarchal traditions, but an ongoing dialogue throughout.

This book opens up a whole field of intellectual work, as it condenses fifty years of scholarship by two prominent scholars, a rich and deep engagement with their sources and the development of personal theologies, and points toward fascinating newer developments in theologies engaging with gender, intersectionality, and queer theory. This is the best kind of intellectual history, where the archaeology of knowledge leads on to fascinating new possibilities.

As well as intelligence of the first order and profound engagement with and understanding of the field, Christ and Plaskow embody respectful and kind agreement and disagreement. Theology needs consistency, coherence, comprehensiveness, and clarity, all of which are here. This is both a work of substance and of great clarity of expression, with solid arguments returning to first principles where needed to preserve intelligibility. They have deep disagreements on the nature of the divine, with Christ opting for a personal Goddess of love and good and Plaskow a non-personal God who is the “ground of all being” and includes both good and evil in creation. But a key to the importance of this work for me is that they differ with compassion, such that we can see ourselves entering into this dialogue with compassion and embracing mutual transformation. “For both of us, the call to transform the world is rooted in our sense of the interdependence of life.” (263).

About the Reviewer(s): 

Samuel Wagar is the Wiccan chaplain to the University of Alberta and a Doctor of Ministry candidate at St. Stephen's College in Edmonton.

Date of Review: 
January 8, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Carol P. Christ, a pioneer in the study of women in religion, leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete through Ariadne Institute. Coeditor with Judith Plaskow of Weaving the Visions (1989) and Womanspirit Rising (1979), she is author of the path-breaking books, A Serpentine Path (2016), She Who Changes (2003), Rebirth of the Goddess (1997), Diving Deep and Surfacing (1995), and Laughter of Aphrodite (1987). She blogs at Feminismandreligion.com.

Judith Plaskow, professor emerita of religious studies at Manhattan College is cofounder of Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Coeditor with Carol P. Christ of Weaving the Visions (1989) and Womanspirit Rising (1979), she is author of The Coming of Lilith (2005), Standing Again at Sinai (1991), and Sex, Sin, and Grace (1979),  and coeditor of Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion (2008).

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