Constructivist and revisionist feminist christology in conversation: Sallie McFague and Elizabeth A. Johnson

Shannon Ward Schrein, Marquette University


The critical question which directs this study is the way in which the constructivist methodology of Sallie McFague and the revisionist methodology of Elizabeth A. Johnson, along with their distinct views concerning religious language, have had a significant impact on their interpretation of the fundamental tenets of christology. The theological method utilized in this dissertation is exposition, analysis, conversation, and assessment. The first two chapters contain an exposition of the postmodern methodologies of Gordon D. Kaufman and David Tracy, respectively, and their use of religious language. Their work is assessed for its appeal to feminist theology and used to analyze the methodologies of McFague and Johnson. Johnson and McFague share a feminist vision and a commitment to speaking about God in ways that advance the full humanity of women and men. Methodologically, they operate from distinct positions. Where McFague will simply discard traditional theological formulations which no longer appear relevant and replace them with new constructions, Johnson will critically retrieve traditional wisdom that has been oppressed or neglected. In chapter three, McFague articulates a paradigmatic, cosmic christology. By means of carefully constructed metaphors and models that address the postmodern concerns of the nuclear and ecological crises, she presents a christology that is intended to destabalize our thinking, and move us toward more inclusive, nonhierarchical ways of doing theology. It is meant to challenge and to critique orthodox traditions. Johnson, in chapter four, critically retrieves a wisdom christology. It is intended to break through the gender barrier which has traditionally associated Jesus' maleness in an ontological manner with God. It expands symbolism for God to include female images. It focuses on the embodiment of Jesus-Sophia, which dissolves the dichotomy between matter and spirit and advances the formation of a community of genuine mutuality. Chapter five brings McFague and Johnson into conversation, acknowledging the elements of their shared vision, assessing their methodological differences, highlighting their contributions to christology, and identifying the tasks that lie ahead. The contributions of these insightful theologians are significant. McFague and Johnson have both stretched the traditional outer limits of christology and soteriology pressing toward ecological responsibility and a new vision of universal salvation which brings us into dialogue with other world traditions.

Recommended Citation

Schrein, Shannon Ward, "Constructivist and revisionist feminist christology in conversation: Sallie McFague and Elizabeth A. Johnson" (1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9600862.