“The Grammar of Baptism” by Alvin Kimel

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4 Responses to “The Grammar of Baptism” by Alvin Kimel

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    First Things published this piece in December 1991. I had almost forgotten about it.


  2. I really enjoyed this. Two names came to mind while reading this: Lindbeck (which as soon as I thought this you mentioned him in the next paragraph 🙂 ) and Brian Wren. Now, Wren mentions in his book “What Language Shall I Borrow?: God-Talk in Worship: A Male Response to Feminist Theology” the mother-lover-friend metaphor–or one can say reconceptualization. Which I’m assuming, from the content of this article, you’ve read Wren and maybe Sallie McFague. We do need to be careful that we’re not reducing God to our concepts; this is where thinkers like Wren come in, because these concepts can become idolatrous. Of course, this can trap one in a sort of linguistic maze trying to find a better way of explaining that “inner spiritual experience”. I think you said it best: “The alleged prelinguistic encounter with God, which founds the intellectual efforts of virtual all liberal-expressivist and feminist theologians, is chimerical.” I love it! But as you mentioned we are baptized into Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the revealed God—the Trinity. Jesus was not some androgynous being, He was man. That’s just the way it is. Maybe employing different metaphors when speaking of God might have its place in poetry and art, but I think it has no place in ritual and liturgy. What do you think, or should all art reflect the creed and liturgy? Taking Lindbeck’s approach to doctrine as regulatory, then there might not be room to use different metaphors when speaking of God, at all. Period.

    Another thing I find fascinating is that the feminist question is not dominate, or it’s completely unheard of, in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I believe that this has to do with the Theotokos; she brings the feminine aspect to the life of the Church. Do you think that the absence of her in Protestantism has lead some to feminist theology?


  3. Michael, I’d like to think that the absence of the Theotokos in Protestantism has encouraged the rise of feminist theology, but some of the most radical feminists have been Roman Catholic, so I don’t think I can agree with the thesis.

    I have been away from feminist theology for almost twenty years. At one point I tried to read a lot of feminist theology, particularly as it pertained to our language for God, but I have now forgotten just about all of what I once knew (actually, I think I hit the delete button and erased it from my memory banks). You might find of interest a piece I wrote back in the 80s: The Holy Trinity Meets Ashtoreth (http://www.scribd.com/doc/83236723/Holy-Trinity-Meets-Ashtoreth).


  4. Fr Aiden, I was unaware that many feminist theologians are Roman Catholic, probably, I have to admit, because this area of study is not a major interest to me. I’ve read just enough to be dangerous with it haha. I do find linguistics and Lindbeck of particular interest though. And being on a nearly eight year journey towards Orthodoxy, I’ve noticed very little interest, if any, with feminist theology in the East, maybe the difference in mariology between East and West could have something to do with it. I’ll check out your link. Thanks!


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