Bonaventure's metaphysics of self-diffusive goodness and of exemplarity as a resource for feminist Trinitarian theology

Maria Calisi, Fordham University


In recent years a growing awareness has emerged concerning the patriarchal aspect of the trinitarian doctrine. The literal and exclusive use of male metaphors and images in theological discourse and in liturgy has led to the impression that God is male and that maleness is normative for what it means to be a human being, i.e., androcentrism. Many feminist theologians have responded to this problem by proposing alternative gender-inclusive and gender-neutral trinitarian formulas. This dissertation offers to feminist theologians and liturgists Bonaventure's trinitarian theology, especially his metaphysics in which God is understood as self-diffusive goodness and in which an exemplaristic universe is created because of this overflowing divine goodness. Bonaventure's theology is presented, deconstructed, analyzed, critically correlated with feminist theology, and then reconstructed as a non-patriarchal, non-literal, non-idolatrous, non-oppressive interpretation of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. There is an extensive study of the underlying meaning (rather than the immediate images) which is mediated by names "Father, Son, and Spirit." The traditional trinitarian formula is understood in an authentic, but non-literal and non-patriarchal, way. This retrieval of the Bonaventurian tradition is modelled on Catherine Mowry LaCugna's scholarly work on the Cappadocian Trinity (God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1991)). Moreover, this dissertation offers not only a non-patriarchal interpretation of the traditional trinitarian doctrine, but also offers to feminist theologians, liturgists, and pastoral specialists the Bonaventurian tradition as resource for augmenting the traditional trinitarian formula. Bonaventure's trinitarian theology is a valuable resource for feminist theology because its principles of divine self-diffusive goodness and of exemplarity produce a trinitarian model which is rooted in the economy of salvation and which is well integrated with soteriology, Christology, pneumatology, anthropology, Christian ethics, and the doctrine of creation.

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Recommended Citation

Calisi, Maria, "Bonaventure's metaphysics of self-diffusive goodness and of exemplarity as a resource for feminist Trinitarian theology" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9715524.