In Search of the Christ-Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians
[ Back to Synopses ]
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Professor of Applied Theology, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
“Jann Aldredge-Clanton has written a ground-breaking book that integrates Sophia, the female personification of God, into all aspects of Christian theology and life. She shows us that the Sophia understanding of God’s presence in creation, revelation, and redemption underlay the original Christian understanding both of God’s presence in creation and history as a whole and in Christ as the particular exemplar of this presence of God. A Sophia or Wisdom Christology reclaims the inclusivity of God and Christ in women and men and also in all creation. Sophia Christology also moves toward a transforming spirituality and understanding of the church’s ministry and mission. Aldredge-Clanton concludes her book with helpful resources for worship across the church year read through the new eyes of Wisdom Christology. This is a ‘must’ book for all concerned with an inclusive and liberating theology and church.”
“Ideal as a resource for group discussion and worship, the book has three parts. Part One provides a well-condensed summary of feminist theology’s reclamation of the feminine face of God –Sophia or Hokmah– as a scripturally valid reference for Christ. Part Two suggests how Christ-Sophia can be revealed within life. Part Three offers a wide range of devotional pieces for different occasions that read well and celebrate the call for racial and gender inclusiveness, based on the belief that such inclusiveness is what Christ-Sophia’s liberating presence dispenses.”
The Other Side
In recent years the biblical image of Sophia has elicited increasing interest from biblical scholars. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, a Baptist minister and theologian, goes In Search of the Christ Sophia to discover what she calls “an inclusive christology for liberating Christians.” Aldredge-Clanton offers a strong argument for the coherence between the feminine image of Wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures and the person of Christ in the New Testament. She then explores the implications of the image of the resurrected Christ-Sophia for spirituality, social justice, and especially for a truly inclusive, egalitarian model of Christian community. She supplements her theological argument with resources for communal worship built around the image of Christ-Sophia.
The Catholic Times
“In Search of the Christ-Sophia” by Jann Aldredge-Clanton introduces “An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians.” Theologian, ordained Baptist minister and author, Dr. Aldredge-Clanton presents Christ-Sophia as a new model for Christian community.
Though many readers may be familiar with the Old Testament image of God as Wisdom, translated to Sophia in Greek, the author’s thesis reclaims the inclusivity of God and Christ in women and men—and also in all creation.
“A liberating christology,” she writes, “must move on from the saving truths discovered in the life of Jesus to a search for the risen Christ alive and active in the world today.”
Questions for reflection and discussion are included at the end of each chapter, providing an opportunity for study groups to dialogue on the topic that too often produces conflict and stereotypical reactions. The final chapter offers more than a dozen services, prayers, litanies, reflections and songs that can be used for personal prayer or communal worship.
While inclusive language may not be every reader’s favorite topic, this well-written, well-researched discussion can help develop deeper understanding of the issue and encourage further dialogue among concerned Christians both within and outside the community.”
Catholic Women’s NETWORK
“For many Christians an exclusively male Christ is a barrier to the use of inclusive language in worship. For feminists, an exclusively male Christ forms a block to the Christian faith in general. Through In Search of the Christ-Sophia, theologian Jann Aldredge-Clanton presents an inclusive Christology that has the possibility of speaking to people of both views.
Christ-Sophia reveals the feminine face of God so long covered under layers of patriarchal theology. Christ-Sophia goes beyond the theology that would use the image of the goddess, which offers only the same one gender perspective as the traditional male image of God. Christ-Sophia focuses on the resurrection of a holistic divine image that can provide the basis for an inclusive faith community. Christ-Sophia represents the integration of feminine and masculine, of black and white, human and divine. This image bridges the gap between Creator and creation. Jesus is a primary symbol of the connection between heaven and earth, and the biblical image of Sophia also connects the created to the Creator. The image of Christ-Sophia affirms women, men, and creation in extraordinary new ways, allowing them to claim their own creative power and take a prophetic role in righting wrongs in the world. The image of Christ-Sophia opens eyes to new possibilities for our spirituality.”
Gail Clark Adams,
Re-Imaging: The Newsletter of the Re-Imagining Community
“In the introduction to In Search of the Christ-Sophia, Jann Aldredge-Clanton states that the future of Christianity depends upon a Christology that includes female, male and all creation in new and empowering ways. She goes on to develop an inclusive metaphor for Christ, that of Christ-Sophia. Through historical reconstruction, supported biblically, Aldredge-Clanton draws clear parallels between Sophia (Wisdom) and the saving, liberating work of the risen Christ. Her theology of the resurrected Christ-Sophia is a challenge to people of faith, individually or in communities, to “risk walking into the unknown in order to make new discoveries.”
In Part 1 of the book, Aldredge-Clanton develops a theology of the resurrected Christ-Sophia. She begins by presenting a historical understanding of Sophia, and then continues by explaining how bringing together the images of Christ and Sophia holds the power to expand and liberate the message of Christianity. She explores Jesus’ ministry through the lens of Wisdom, using Scripture and tradition to support her thesis that Jesus embodied Christ-Sophia in ways that led to liberation and justice.
Part 2 is devoted to claiming the power of the resurrected Christ-Sophia. In this section Aldredge-Clanton looks at practical ways to free the Christ-Sophia within each person and to live out the freedom found in Christ-Sophia within the faith community. She focuses on developing a Christ-Sophia spirituality, a ministry of social justice and a church which transforms individuals and communities through the exercise of diverse gifts and the practice of radical equality.
The worship resources in Part 3 demonstrate how to integrate Christ-Sophia into the liturgical year. The second chapter in this unit provides litanies and prayers which may serve as models for inclusive communities desiring to incorporate Christ-Sophia into services of worship or other special occasions.
Aldredge-Clanton, an ordained Baptist minister, has written a concise, easy-to-read book that is accessible both to the lay reader and the student of theology. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter make it a good resource for small discussion groups. Individuals and churches looking for ways to bring fresh insights and images into their faith experience would benefit greatly from reading this book. I found it to be both educational and spiritually uplifting—a refreshing demonstration of how the Spirit of God is at work in the world today, calling people of faith to new images and understandings that bring God to life in ways that are meaningful to people caught up in the complexities and challenges of the twenty-first century.”