Reviewed by Carolyn Lee Boyd
Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow are foremothers of feminist theology who have shared a long friendship. Their insightful new book, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, begins with a history of feminist and general theology, continues with their life experiences that gave rise to their individual theologies, and ends with a conversation about their common beliefs and differences.
It is clearly and entertainingly written with challenging ideas presented so as to be accessible and respectful of the reader’s intelligence and beliefs. This, combined with their fascinating autobiographical stories, makes it a joy to read.
While Carol and Judith agree on the importance of one’s experiences to the development of theological beliefs, that God and Goddess are in the world and experienced through the body, and that we must evaluate theologies on both rational and moral grounds, they disagree on significant questions. “Judith thinks of divinity as an impersonal creative power, while Carol thinks of divinity as an individual who cares about and loves the world. Carol thinks of divinity as intelligent, loving and good, while Judith thinks of divinity as encompassing all that is, including and supporting both good and evil” (p. xiv). Judith refers to divinity as “God” while Carol uses “Goddess.” Carol left Christianity and has been instrumental in the development of Goddess spirituality while Judith has remained in Judaism and been essential to making it more inclusive of women and female imagery and language. These differences make for a lively and honest discussion in which both dig deep within themselves to explain what they believe and why.
The book also offers an innovative process for discussing theological and other issues. First, they state what is the same and different about their theologies, then ask each other questions to gain greater understanding rather than to persuade the other to change beliefs. This affirms the value of each person’s experience and does not require unanimity, but creatively leads to conclusions that express the complexity of the world we live in. It is an especially important model in this perilous time when feminists and others must respectfully come together on many potentially divisive issues to move forward towards a more peaceful, equitable, just and sustainable world.
Most readers of The Goddess Pages have, I think, pondered the nature of God or Goddess and have made the sometimes wrenching decision to stay within or leave childhood religions. They will find their own struggles and journeys in this book’s pages and therefore come to better understand both their own theologies and how they came to them through having read it. Goddess and God in the World provides us, as individuals and as a community, with an effective model for clarifying and continuing the lifelong development of our beliefs and discussing them with others. Any new book by Carol or Judith, and especially one by both of them, is reason to celebrate and I highly recommend Goddess and God in the World to anyone on a feminist spiritual path.
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