Compelling Knowledge

A Feminist Proposal for an Epistemology of the Cross

By Mary M. Solberg

Subjects: Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791433805, 226 pages, July 1997
Hardcover : 9780791433799, 226 pages, July 1997

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Table of contents

Preface A Meditation on El Salvador



Chapter 1 Feminist Epistemologies: Critiques and Concerns

Chapter 2 Luther's Theology of the Cross

Chapter 3 Drafting an Epistemology of the Cross

Chapter 4 Objections





Asks what sorts and sources of knowing we should consider compelling as we seek to live morally responsible lives. Contends that Martin Luther's theology of the cross provides a solid theological and ethical basis for a surprisingly congenial conversation with feminist thought and scholarship on these issues.


Few feminist philosophers would expect to find a resonant dialogue partner in the sixteenth-century theologian and reformer Martin Luther. This book contends, however, that Luther's theology of the cross, in its critique of both official theology and human pretension, its announcement of God's incarnate solidarity with humankind and the value of embodied experience, and its intention to equip humans to "use reality rightly," provides a solid theological and ethical basis for a surprisingly congenial conversation.

The "epistemology of the cross" that emerges from the conversation between secular feminist thought and Luther's theology of the cross raises and responds to the essential epistemological questions of power, experience, objectivity, and accountability. It helps us as people of privilege overcome our resistance to knowing the reality of suffering, a reality we need to recognize if we are to respond to it, bear with it, and seek to overcome it. Solberg describes the movement from lived experience to "compelling knowledge": seeing what is the case, recognizing one's implication in it, and responding accountably.

Mary M. Solberg is Assistant Professor of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College.


"In Compelling Knowledge, Mary M. Solberg brings together the best of contemporary feminist philosophy with an unlikely conversation partner: Martin Luther. Her lucid explication of Luther will challenge contemporary feminists in both philosophy and theology to reconsider the benefits of traditional theology. Her honest exploration of issues in feminist epistemology will challenge theologians of all stripes to make connections between radical feminist theory and traditional theology. This book may be the beginning of a new era of dialogue between European theology and theologies of suffering around the world. It is a bold step, and one well taken. " -- Karen Lebacqz, Pacific School of Religion

"Suffering and atonement are hot topics in feminist theology; epistemology and agency are hot topics in feminist philosophy. This book [is] enormously helpful. ..,both substantively and methodologically. " -- Martha Ellen Stortz, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary/The Graduate Theological Union

"Powerfully written and cogently argued. " -- Charles B. Cousar, Columbia Theological Seminary

"After three years in the midst of El Salvador's brutal civil war, the author realized that her task was not to theologize for 'the marginalized' but rather for her own people-- white, relatively affluent North American Christians. A highly original epistemological proposal. ..of great interest, not only to feminists both religious and secular, but to all who are beginning 'to face up to the cruciform nature' of our own North American reality. " -- Douglas John Hall, Emeritus Professor of Christian Theology, McGill University, and Rhoda Palfrey Hall