In an intriguing book published some years ago, historian David Noble described the origins of modern science among medieval monks and friars who lived in what Noble called "a world without women." Though the book promoted every trendy academic fad existing in 1992 and was rife with contradictions (women are no different from men, yet it is tragic that women were excluded from the development of modern science), the questions Noble raises about the development of modern science are important. After all, the fact that most early scientists were celibates who did not live with women and had comparatively superficial relations with women must have had some effect on the way they perceived the world. To put it in extreme terms: Modern science developed by a human race with one half of its brain tied behind its back.
Something of the same can be said for the development of Christian theology, which was also pursued for most of a millennium is a world without women. Christians, who believe in fundamental sexual difference, have even more reason than some feminists to regard this purely male theological practice with suspicion. It's no accident that two of the greatest and most innovative of modern theologians, von Balthasar and Barth, had close associations with women theologians. No doubt most theology will continue to be written be men, and I believe Scripture requires that the church be ruled by men. But women's contribution to theology is essential to the healthy future development of the church. As evangelicals become more attuned to the Scriptural teaching on sexual difference and the proper role of men and women in family and church, we must avoid the errors of the bast. We cannot afford the mistake of attempting to renew theology or the church in another world without women.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, October 24, 2005 at 03:04 PM
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