Why are there so few female theologians??

November 19, 2009 — 7 Comments

I have been reading several new theologians lately and it suddenly struck me that none of them are female! Or for that matter I don’t think I have ever read anything by a female theologian?  So as usual I did some digging and discovered that among the theologians who are espoused to have made significant contributions to the field no females made the list until the mid 20th century. That is to say that the first nineteen centuries were without much female influence. Anyone interested in the source of this info visit <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_theologians#20th_century> .  Given the fact that women were not even allow to vote in the U.S. or much of the world until about the middle of the 1900s I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. I truly believe that men and women each have unique perspectives on much of life so to be without female input has robbed the Christianity and the church of a valuable insight.

 Of course as expected in some sects there are no female theologians; some there are more but almost never more than five or ten percent. But, thank the Lord, that seems to be changing. For example the Presbyterian theological seminary now has 35% female attendance. This has mushroomed greatly in the past decade. Hopefully some of them will come into prominence in the coming decades.  Of course one of the major  hindrances is the prevention of women from the ministry in my Christian sects.  I know there are words in the Bible about how women cannot be over men and those sort of things. But, to me I wonder if that was not more of a historical context than a forever dictate? As Phyllis Tickle in her book review a few posts ago pointed out we Protestants seem almost fixated on the words of St. Paul and the he is primary source for much of this dogma. Of course during his time it was almost, but not completely, unheard of for women to be considered anything but property. 

I have to admit that I have not done as much studying on this topic as I would have liked to. So, if there is anyone out that can show me the female influence on modern Christianity I would welcome your comments.

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7 responses to Why are there so few female theologians??

  1. 

    Three female “doctors” of the Catholic Church are listed below. They have received this title on account of the great advantage the whole Church has derived from their ecclesiastical writings.

    St.Catherine of Siena: St, Catherine’s letters, and a treatise called “a dialogue” are considered among the most brilliant writings in the history of the Church.

    St.Teresa of Avala: In her books, she analyzed and dissects mystical experiences the way a scientist would.

    Saint Therese of Lisieux: The only book of hers, published after her death, was an brief edited version of her journal called “Story of a Soul.”

    These ladies share the title “doctor of the Church” alongside greats such as Augustine and Aquinas.

  2. 

    Thanks Brian for this list. I will certainly be looking at their works.

  3. 

    It is cultural. Women were not allowed to be educated during biblical days. The greek words there for “silent” mean to not make a scene and respond quietly. In other words, God loves a quiet spirit in a woman. There were women Judges such as Deborah. I think this is just the result of a male-dominated society. Unfortunately, this attitude attracts controlling people to the church. And my sisters have been too readily willing to be controlled under the guise of “protection”.

    I pray for more women pastors as they are compassionate and sensitive leaders more often than not.

  4. 

    I too noticed recently that there are no women listed among those considered influential in Christian theology, at least not as regards Protestant Christianity. By the same token, some Christian denominations like Seventh Day Adventists and Christian Science — (although I think both of these are be considered by some to be Christian “cults”) — were founded by or based on works of women who might be considered theologians.

    Sister Aimee (sp?) and Elizabeth Claire Prophet — I don’t know if these women count as theologians in this sense, or what contribution (if any) they may have made to Christian theology per se; but they were indeed Christian and influential.

    Some Christian women writers whose work has at least a theological bent include Hannah Whitall Smith and Hannah Hurnard. Can they be considered theologians?

    There were also few women listed in Wikipedia’s list of religious studies scholars. Smith and Hurnard didn’t make that list — but Zora Neale Hurston did. Hmm.

    This leads me to more questions: what exactly is a theologian, how does a person become one, how does one become influential? What is the difference between a theologian and a pastor? (This question is sort of based on Peppy’s reply.)

    What might a woman bring to theology that is missing in the field now; that is, how might the lack of “female input [have] robbed the Christianity and the church of a valuable insight? To what extent do personal/social characteristics (race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, economic status…) provide potential theologians with particularly unique and valuable insights?

    Faith and sexuality seems to be a leading area among the few women listed as 21st century theologians on the Wikipedia site. (“Queer theology” is one term used. Is this a kind of liberation theology?) Should or do women theologians, to the extent they exist, address mostly “women” issues?

    This discussion has been based mostly, I guess, on brief Wikipedia searches. There must be other sources that are more comprehensive. (If not, somebody has now got a good topic for a book or thesis!)

    Why weren’t there more responses to this question, I wonder. I hope there will be now.

  5. 

    Thanks Brownie for your comments. You seem to be as full of questions as I am :). Just what a theologian is is certainly up for grabs. I think strictly any person who studies Christian doctrine and practices is a theologian but I’m sure the academic community has a different take on it. To me an influential theologian is probably one who has had at least a couple of books published and/or has incited significant discussions within the religious community at large.

    I don’t think I am being sexist here when I say there are basic differences in thought patterns between men and women. So, I believe we might be missing some soulful discussions in the areas of theology. I am currently reading a couple of books now by women authors that I am very impressed with. One is a Quaker named Margery Post Abbott (To Be Broken and Tender- A Quaker theology for today) and another is Cynthia Bourgeault who is an Episcopal priest (The Wisdom Jesus). I will have some posts out soon relating to these books. Their insight into the words of Jesus are very remarkable to me.

    Keep up the questions.

  6. 

    Hi there,
    I just thought you might be interested in reading the works of Dorothy Solle and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza.
    Look to Germany if you want a wide variety of female theologians.
    There are also new works by women within the field of ecotheology ehich is certainly worth checking out.
    Finally, there are strong female theologians coming out of India too.
    You just have to look harder to find these women because, until there is more widespread reform in our churches female theologians will struggle.
    Ta and God bless.

  7. 

    Nancy Pearcey is a modern day female theologian from the United States, I believe. Google her name!

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