The bishops vs. Elizabeth Johnson

The US Catholic bishops’ committee on doctrine is accusing feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson of “criticiz[ing] and … revis[ing] in a radical fashion the conception of God revealed in Scripture and taught by the Magisterium” in her recent book Quest for the Living God.

What seems to be at issue is Johnson’s contention–more fully fleshed out in her earlier work She Who Is than in QFTLG–that God is ineffable and thus all human language inevitably falls short of the divine mystery. This opens a space for using metaphors and imagery for God drawn from women’s experience and from the world of nature, in addition to traditional masculine imagery. The bishops object that “Father” is not a metaphor for God, but a proper name–one that comes to us through revelation. The bishops also take issue with Johnson’s revisionist approach to some traditional divine attributes, such as impassibility; her view of other religions; and her account of God’s presence in evolution.

The blog Women in Theology has a response from Johnson as well as an ongoing series defending her work (first installments here and here).

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5 thoughts on “The bishops vs. Elizabeth Johnson

  1. Aw, that’s nice of the US Catholic Bishops to get in a public snitfit so I now know who Elizabeth Johnson is and to go find her books.

    I hope she’s paying them extra for their excellent PR strategies.

  2. My husband referred me to the NYT article about Sr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, April 1, 2011. I will be forever grateful to the bishops for raising hell over her publication, “Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God.” We live in wondrous times, ladies. Looks like our dear andrarchal pedophiliac catholic church may yet have to answer to HER other half! Forge ahead in your quest for the truth, Sister Johnson, you are on the right path, and we are standing by you!

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