Vulnerable but certainly not alone

May 24, 1996

I do not recognise myself or my writing in the comments (THES ,May 17) that Sarah Coakley's critics have been "vociferous"; that "post-Christian feminists such as Daphne Hampson I vehemently reject the idea that 'vulnerability' can have positive value". On the contrary, in the recent book I edited, Swallowing a Fishbone? Feminist Theologians Debate Christianity, I specifically say (in answering Coakley) that "it is because we (women in particular) are vulnerable that we have material with which to work, that we may become a complex self with tensile strength".

Again that "it is through not being impervious that one can gain a maturity and an integration (and hence an integrity) in oneself". What is problematic is "sheer vulnerability, untransformed", which is liable to lead to exploitation of others. It is "to fail to have enough centredness in oneself to be present to them". I find it difficult to see how Coakley's language for the self before God, which envisages a "surrendering of control", "passivity", "a willed practice of ceding" to "a God who neither shouts nor forces", is helpful. It seems to place the human (male or female) in a "feminine" position before a God unavoidably cast as "male". On the contrary, as I say in the book, I use silence to come to "myself" again and understand God "as one through whom I am centred".

Daphne Hampson Senior lecturer Department of divinity University of St Andrews

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