The personal is the theological : Rosemary Radford Ruether's practical theology as social critique

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Theology


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Sandra A. Yocum


Rosemary Radford Ruether is one of the most well-known and influential Christian feminist theologians, having emerged in the early 1970s as a leader in Catholic feminist theology. Ruether produced the first systematic theology based on women's experience, that is, a feminist treatment of the Christian symbols, in her classic, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, published in 1983. To label Ruether strictly as a feminist theologian, however, is to risk overlooking the broad scope of her interests and her work. This dissertation argues that while Ruether is one of the most widely read feminist theologians and a deservedly recognized pioneer in the field, she is far more than a feminist theologian. It is the contention here that Ruether's feminism emerges out of her much broader interests and experiences. That is, feminism did not, and still does not, come first in either priority or sequence for Ruether. The broader concern for her out of which she writes in a wide variety of areas is liberation from a world system of oppression." Thus, this dissertation presents Ruether as a liberation theologian. This dissertation argues that Ruether has developed her theologies's liberation theology, feminist theology, her Christology, and her ecclesiology's from her personal encounters, her own life's experiences; thus for Ruether, the personal becomes the theological. Her passion for justice and human rights and her lifelong involvement in varieties of social activism that resulted from that passion, led her to develop a wide-ranging theology of liberation. In her social involvements and her writings, she has sought to probe a world system of oppression, divided by race, class, gender, ecological abuse, and imperialism. In each of these diverse areas, she has sought to probe the justifying ideologies and to imagine how to create a liberated world beyond. This is what ties all her thought and writings together. Three of the areas of her work are presented in this dissertation: Christian anti-Semitism, ecofeminism and the ecological crisis, and reform of the Catholic Church. This dissertation ends with a brief discussion of how, in spite of her criticism of the Catholic Church, Ruether continues to self-identify as Catholic."


Ruether, Rosemary Radford, Liberation theology, Feminist theology, Theology, Rosemary Radford Ruether, liberation theology, feminist theology

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Copyright 2017, author