Sophia, Androgyny and the Feminine in Franz von Baader’s Christian Theosophy

My article “Sophia, Androgyny and the Feminine in Franz von Baader’s Christian Theosophy” has been published in “Adyan/Religions”, a bilingual Arabic/English journal based in Doha, in its issue devoted to the topic “Women and the Feminine in World Religions.” Click on the link for the online copy of this journal.
Baader’s view of humanity’s original androgyny is a good counterweight to the early church’s wrongheaded emphasis on asceticism and denial of female sexuality.  Baader’s “40 Propositions Taken from a Religious Philosophy of Love” celebrates the ecstasy of sex. It is not quite Christian tantra, but it does provide the basis for a positive appreciation of marriage. His views on the inner feminine and masculine also anticipate Jung by almost a century. But of course Jung read Baader.
The Reformed theologian J.H. Gunning, Jr. adopted Baader’s views, and regarded Jesus as having been androgynous. Abraham Kuyper followed many ideas of Gunning and Baader, but disagreed on this point. Dooyeweerd was silent on this and most other theological issues.

The Mother of the Lord

Margaret Barker’s book “The Mother of the Lord: Vol. 1: The Lady in the Temple” discusses the religion of the Israelites prior to the reforms of King Josiah and the Deuteronomists. Many surprises here, including the idea of the feminine consort of G_d, worshipped before monotheism and how this and other ideas were taken up by the early church as one Jewish sect in contrast to others (although most of that will be discussed in Vol 2). She writes from a theological and exegetical perspective, but her views fit with the archaeological evidence gathered by Israel Finkelstein.

Archaeology’s challenge to faith

Israel Finkelstein shows how recent archaeological discoveries will challenge our previous understanding of the history of events referred to in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). These are radical challenges to what most Christians and Jews have assumed to be the facts on which their faiths are based. The entire book, The Forgotten Kingdom, has generously been placed online here:…/pdfs/pubs/9781589839106_OA.pdf
This relates to my puzzlement when visiting the British Museum last year as to why there are no Egyptian records referring to Moses. But Finkelstein’s evidence discloses many more surprises.
And here is an excellent video summarizing some of the archaeological and textual evidence that challenges history as related by the Old Testament. Controversial? Yes. But watch this and then look at the additional scholarly sources, both critical and supportive.

It is time to renounce the idea of a presuppositionalist Christian worldview

Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987): when was the last time you saw him mentioned in The New York Times? Molly Worthen, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, mentions him in her op-ed “The Evangelical Roots of our Post-Truth Society.” Worthen is correct that Cornelius Van Til’s ideas of Christian worldview are responsible for the current denial of truth and the idea of alternative facts in US politics. Van Til was also the main influence on Francis Schaeffer, who shaped the religious right, as well as on Rousas Rushdoony and his theonomists who seek a kind of Christian jihad.

Dooyeweerd tried hard to promote an alternate viewpoint. He disagreed sharply with Van Til. See the articles in the book “Jerusalem and Athens.” Dooyeweerd rejected Van Til’s view that there is no point of contact between different worldviews; Dooyeweerd insisted on common states of affairs. And Dooyeweerd rejected a presuppostionalist approach to philosophy. What counts is not presuppositional beliefs, but ontical conditions or onticl presupposita that are common to everyone. And Dooyeweerd did not accept a propositional view of biblical revelation; he also was sharply critical of the use of theological ideas as the basis for philosophy, as in Vollenhoven’s philosophy (which follow’s Abraham Kuyper’s idea of religious antithesis; Dooyeweerd said that the antithesis is not between groups of people but an antithesis within the heart of each of us).

The issue is what evidence counts in the critique of science, and what commonalities are accepted as holding true for everyone. It may be, as Dooyeweerd argued, that there is an experience-based Christian worldview. But such a worldview cannot be based on theology or even on biblical exegesis. Both theology and exegesis are sciences, in the sense of theoretical activities, and are themselves subject to critique. It is the presuppositionalist idea of worldview that is a problem, when presuppositions are taken to be theological beliefs.

I recognize that this is going to be a problem for “Christian” colleges that have emphasized the priority of beliefs. But these colleges are part of the problem.

For Dooyeweerd, what is important to worldview is our experience of time and our selfhood that transcends time. Even his ideas of creation, fall and redemption, where he perhaps smuggled in some theological ideas, were interpreted in terms of this temporal/supratemporal philosophical framework. For Dooyeweerd, theology is dependent on philosophy. And Dooyeweerd believed that his philosophical transcendental critique was able to communicate with those who did not share his beliefs, unlike Van Til who said there was no point of contact whatsoever.

Reformational philosophers and evangelicals need to take responsibility for these mistaken ideas and the damage that they have caused to U.S. society. It is time for them to publicly renounce the idea of a distinct Christian worldview in Van Til’s sense of presuppositions based on theological beliefs.