Rosemary Radford Ruether

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Date: Oct. 23, 2001
Document Type: Biography
Length: 2,284 words

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Rosemary Radford Ruether, a professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, is the author of a number of books on feminist and liberation theology. A student of historical theology, Ruether uses historical details to illustrate ways in which Jewish and Christian traditions have "turned the male way into God's way," according to Colman McCarthy in the Washington Post Book World. Through her many works, Ruether intends to provoke questions about the stereotypes of Western Christianity. She has addressed such issues as the inviolability of the nuclear family, ecology, women's roles in the Christian church, and the radical foundations of the faith. Christian Century contributor Nancy A. Hardesty noted that Ruether invites readers "to look at old sources in new ways and to explore unexplored sources to find a more viable, holistic theology." In the New York Times Book Review, Elaine H. Pagels described the scholar as "among the most articulate and respected theologians who have challenged the silence and marginality that have characterized the great majority of Christian women for nearly 2,000 years." A contributor to Publishers Weekly praised Ruether for providing an example of "what so many women do well: carry their own candles and hold them high, dispelling darkness together."

America contributor Nancy C. Ring considered that Ruether "has been a major influence in voicing a feminist critique of Christian theology, a theology that has traditionally been a male enterprise." Ruether seeks to educate Christians about existing biases in the church and its ministry, and she has even written liturgies aimed at specific events in women's lives. The heart of Ruether's work is the argument that "the dominant Christian tradition, if it is corrected by feminism, offers viable categories for interpreting human existence and building redemptive communities," according to New York Times Book Review contributor Phyllis Trible. Trible outlined Ruether's position: "Affirming human experience as the basis of all theology . . . Ruether claims that historically such experience has been identified with and defined by men. The uniqueness of feminist theology is its use of women's experience to expose the male-centered bias of classical theology and articulate a faith that incorporates full humanity. . . . The goal is not to diminish males but to affirm both sexes whole, along with all races and social groups."

Ruether is a member of the Roman Catholic faith, and her works over the years have investigated the principles and practices of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. As Susan Schnur observed in the New York Times Book Review, in light of her feminist perspective, Ruether "deserves a good deal of credit for simply staying in dialogue with this [Roman Catholic] church over the . . . years in which she has taught, lectured and written." Trible likewise noted that the author has accomplished "what many feminists and nonfeminists have deemed impossible: charting a course that neither abandons the Christian religion nor succumbs to its patriarchy." Pagels expressed a similar opinion in her review, concluding that Ruether "challenges, irritates, stimulates, and...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000085727