In a sinful universe, what does God, creation, and humans have to do with each other? The interdisciplinary gathering of famous Christian American feminist scholars helps us frame the answer to this question in traditional language, by having creation become the locus for revisioning revelation and redemption.
This is done in twelve chapters and by providing an excellent bibliography, a biblical index, and a subject-author index. The chapters vary in length from six to twenty-five pages. As with most collaborative efforts, there is some repetition. But this is a very worthwhile book. All authors share the same presuppositions: 1) the centrality of feminist and liberation themes in the interpretation of texts; 2) the necessity to approach the reading of a text not from the perspective of the author but from the perspective of the reader; 3) the importance of connecting bible, theology, and science; 4) the idea that creation, not history is the primary focus for biblical theology; 5) that God both created and is creating the universe; 6) humans are co-creators of this universe; 7) we are all connected to each other, thus dualistic interpretations are to be avoided.
These common presuppositions are expressed in individual chapters, as biblical themes are investigated and awakened for today's world. Chapter one re-reads Genesis 1-2 in the light of a biological worldview, thus seeing a relationship between the biblical creation account and evolution. Chapter two examines Genesis 1-3 from the perspective of the Priestly writer and, by focusing on the post-exilic community, concluding, negatively, that no part of these chapters can be used to defend hierarchy and patriarchy. The Priestly writer provides us instead with a cosmological and interdependent theology of creation. Chapter three reviews five specific passages in Second Isaiah and offers several re-readings of the text, all of which are based on seeing Second Isaiah's message: creation and redemption are continuously ongoing divine movements in the life of Israel, even in the depths of despair in Babylon. Chapter four has us see the beauty in the divine speeches in Job. It claims the purpose of God's proclamations is that justice is to be done on behalf of all creation.
Chapter Five is the transition to New Testament themes, with this chapter stitching together the New Testament's understanding of creation understood from Teilhard de Chardin's view of love. It sets the stage for understanding the relationship between creation and redemption. Chapter six reminds us of the many times Jesus healed on the Sabbath and asks why he seemingly disobeyed one of the commandments. To answer this question the author offers a vision of the Sabbath as liberated time, a time to make wise decisions in the light of a new age. The author identifies the new creation with the basileia of God that Jesus announced, characterized by inclusion, equality, and compassion for all forms of life. It also describes how the early church shied away from the radical message of the basileia of God in favor of preaching the risen Jesus, and, of course, in our century a personal, individual relationship with that same Jesus. The next chapter deals with the stories of the Samaritan woman and Martha (John 4 & 11). It develops the new creation theme of the previous chapter by viewing both the Samaritan woman and Martha as models for the contemporary liberated woman. Chapter nine takes on the task of analyzing Romans 8:18-23 (all creation groaning) by describing how Paul intertwines creation with eschatology. The author sees creation as a dynamic process moving to a fulfillment that never ends. Of course since humans are part of creation and God is the continuing creator, they are always involved in the dynamic eschatological dance of creation. This easily brings us to the thought of Irenaeus, the next chapter, and, with a little re-visioning, seeing how creation, eschatology as recapitulation, and the Eucharist are all connected. Chapters eleven and twelve take two historically influential biblical images, the Body of Christ (chapter eleven) and imago Dei (twelve). Chapter twelve is especially worthwhile as it brings together history, biblical studies, ethics, and systematic theology in a stirring conclusion.
Indeed, this is an excellent book well worth your reading. It brings together much of the thought of the second half of the twentieth century, and creatively re-positions it for the twenty first. One would hope that in the future these same authors would take up questions that must be answered for their position to be valid: "What about evil?" "What about sola gratia?" Or to put it in one sentence: "Can God square the circle of creation's seemingly innate destiny to destroy itself?"