Liberation Theology Part III


Why God became Man?

Anselm answered this question in his provocative book that outlined an alternative understanding of the atonement. Ruether addressed a similar question in her masterpiece Sexism and God-talk that focused on whether or not a male savior could save woman. I’ve never heard too many discussions on why the Word became male as opposed to female. Considering God isn’t male there’s no ontological reason for the necessity of Jesus’ maleness. I’ve heard a slightly more sophisticated answer that the most effective way to spread the message of the gospel was through a male, because of the patriarchy of Jewish culture at that time. Again, while it is obviously true that being male would facilitate the spread of the message, if concerns of dissemination or broadcasting were the reason then why was Jesus often hesitant to preach the coming Kingdom outside the Israel? Also, why didn’t God wait 2000 more years so we could just twitter everyone the news? This frame of question also runs into difficulty considering all of Jesus’ proclamations about letting only those with ears hear. Or after the resurrection why didn’t Jesus present himself to Herod or Pilate to prove his Lordship over death?

I really haven’t an answer, but I would like to challenge some theologians’ response to the issues of the maleness of the incarnation. Hartshorne, the famous process theologian, argued in Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes that he refused to believe that God would have come down as a male because it perpetuated chauvinism. In a similar fashion other feminist theologians have denied Jesus’ divinity because it encourages patriarchy and hence must be denied. This line or argument bothers me because of its rather simplistic logic. For one, if God really entered history as a human, wouldn’t it be important to at least consider the possibility that he might have taken on the flesh of a male? Secondly, how many other ideas that encourage male privilege would we have to discard without proper consideration? I would be more concerned with the sex of Jesus if I found him to be a blatant misogynist. However, Ruether and other feminist theologians have argued that Jesus exemplified many proto-feminist qualities in his ministry.

That argument aside, I don’t mean to lapse into any sort of male privilege in theology. I don’t want to advocate Barth’s ridiculous view that man was made in God’s image, but woman was made as man’s companion (i.e. not in God’s image). I don’t believe it’s important these days to rehash the misogynistic aspects of the second creation story in Genesis 2 & 3. Not only is woman made from man (weird idea, huh?), but also God only creates her after he discovers that the animals aren’t sufficient partners for Adam (is that a compliment or an insult to Eve?).

Can a male savior redeem women? I’d like to think Jesus’ kingdom ushers in a new era where our identity in him renders our old identities secondary. So, I’d agree with Paul that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). However, this should not allow us to neglect the importance of class, gender, race, and sexuality. But rather, we should recognize the egalitarian nature of the coming Kingdom and work to make that equality and freedom more of a reality on earth because of our union in Jesus.


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