Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J. explores the many ideas of God that have emerged in the past century in Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God (2007). The book functions as a quick summary of these many “new” theologies of God – albeit rooted in ancient tradition and faithful to scripture. They include:
- the modern, secular world with a focus on Karl Rahner
- the suffering of the Holocaust and three post-war German theologians: Jurgen Moltmann, Dorothee Soelle, and Johann Baptist Metz.
- liberation theology in the the post-colonial, still exploited developing world in which Oscar Romero is a major figure.
- women and the feminine divine
- the African American church that sings of freedom although rooted in slavery and segregation
- the God of fiesta and la lucha in the Latin American church
- religious pluralism
- the natural world and science
- the Trinity
Each chapter includes a selection of recommended reading on the theology and prominent thinkers in that area. Johnson also makes some interesting, incisive statements about the idolatry of some of the current accepted practices of the Church (such as the concept of God as an old, bearded white man). Johnson’s writing is energetic and positive which adds to its inspirational quality.
First off, a person can no longer be a Christian out of social convention or inherited custom. To be a Christian now requires a personal decision, the kind of decision that brings about a change of heart and sustains long-term commitment. Not cultural Christianity but a diaspora church, scattered among unbelievers and believers of various stripes, becomes the setting for this free act of faith. Furthermore, when a person does come to engage belief in a personal way society makes this difficult to do…. When, nevertheless persons do make a free act of faith, the factors characteristic of the modern world impart a distinctive stamp to their spiritual experience. This is not surprising, since the path to God always winds through the historical circumstances of peoples’ times and places. Inhabiting a secular, pluralistic culture, breathing its atmosphere and conducting their daily lives according to its pragmatic tenets, Christians today have absorbed the concrete pattern of modernity into their very soul. – p. 29
Mystical and practical, Christian life then becomes a passion for God that encompasses the suffering, the passion, of others, committing people to resistance against injustice for the living in hope of universal justice even for the dead. The mystery of iniquity is not thereby resolved. Theological reasoning remains unreconciled to the surd of evil. It keeps on judging: this should not be. But God is love and has promised to prove it. The dangerous memory of the crucified and risen Jesus in solidarity with all the dead keeps the question open while laying down a hopeful, compassionate path for mature discipleship. Thus has Metz proposed that we speak of God with our face rather than our back turned to the terrible event of Auschwitz. – p. 67
A simple thought experiment may bring home he depth of this biblical revelation about the nature of God. Is there a single text where in vigorous “thus says the Lord” fashion people are counseled to oppress the poor, to rob from the widow, to put on a big show of sacrifice at the expense of doing justice? Is there a text where God delights in seeing people — or any creatures — in agony? Suffering happens; indeed some texts interpret war and exile as divine punishment for the sin of the people as a whole, sin that includes precisely the acts of oppressing the poor. But even here, God’s anger lasts for a moment, divine mercy for ten thousand years. Taken from start to finish, as a whole, the Bible reveals God as compassionate lover of justice, on the side of the oppressed to the point where “those who oppress the poor insult their Maker” (Prov 14:31). – p. 76
Far from being silly or faddish, the theological approach women are pioneering goes forward with the conviction that only if God is named in this more complete way, only if the full reality of historical women of all races and classes enters into our symbol of the divine, only then will the idolatrous fixation on one image of God be broken, will women be empowered at their deepest core, and will religious and civic communities be converted toward healing justice in the concrete. Along the way, every female naming of the Holy produces one more fragment of the truth of the mystery of divine Sophia’s gracious hospitality toward all human beings and the earth. – p. 110
For many moons of centuries, theology dismissed other religions as pagan inventions or condescended to them as deficient ways people had of stumbling toward the divine. Actual dialogic encounter with other religions leads to a different view. Assuming that the real presence of grace and truth can only have a diving origin, the religions can be sen as God’s handiwork. In them we catch a first glimpse of the overflowing generosity of the God who has left no people abandoned but has bestowed divine love on every culture. This is the grace of our age: encountering multiple religious tradtions widens the horizon wherein we catch sight of God’s loving plenitude. Thus we are enabled to approach the mystery every more deeply. – p. 163
Author : Johnson, Elizabeth A., 1941-
Title : Quest for the living God : mapping frontiers in the theology of God / Elizabeth A. Johnson.
Published : New York : Continuum, 2007.
Description : xiii, 234 p. ; 24 cm.
Contents : Ancient story, new chapter — Gracious mystery, ever greater, ever nearer — The crucified God of compassion — Liberating God of life — God acting womanish — God who breaks chains — Accompanying God of fiesta — Generous God of the religions — Creator spirit in the evolving world — Trinity : the living God of love.
Notes : Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN : 9780826417701 (hardcover : alk. paper)
0826417701 (hardcover : alk. paper)