New York Times on Elizabeth Johnson

Just one additional, brief post today. The New York Times ran a story, “After Bishops Attack Book, Gauging Bounds of Debate,” that covers the recent discussion following the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine’s report on Johnson’s Quest for the Living God (Continuum, 2007). Paul Vitello’s reporting offers, in my opinion, a fair presentation of the current debate, which draws on the comments of some reputable scholars (e.g., Terrence Tilley of Fordham University) and some less-than-reputable, but prominent voices (e.g., Patrick Reilly of The Cardinal Newman Society). As far as news is concerned, there isn’t a whole lot here that those familiar with the story haven’t already read, but coverage in the New York Times does broaden the audience and increases the awareness of the ongoing debate — a conversation well-worth having on a bigger scale.

Perhaps the one thing I would critique about the article is the opening paragraph: “Is God male? The Old Testament uses the masculine pronoun to describe him. Jesus refers to the divinity as Father. So does that make the creator a masculine force — and mean that men are more godlike than women?”

While, yes, one can find masculine pronouns to describe God in the Old Testament, one also finds feminine pronouns and symbols of Divine Immanence too! Wisdom and Spirit, in both Hebrew and Greek, are used to describe God’s presence in and relationship to creation in the feminine. We should not so quickly overlook those aspects of the tradition.

You can read earlier coverage from DatingGod.org of this unfolding story here:

https://datinggod.org/2011/03/30/the-usccb-on-sr-elizabeth-johnsons-book-some-initial-comments/

https://datinggod.org/2011/03/31/on-the-politics-of-theology-fear-and-analogia-entis/

https://datinggod.org/2011/04/10/ctsa-releases-statement-on-the-usccb-elizabeth-johnson-report/

Photo: Fordham Univ.

3 Responses to “New York Times on Elizabeth Johnson”

  1. Yeah, I had the same reaction reading the NYTimes piece this morning. If you didn’t already know something about the debate, you might conclude from the article that the bible doesn’t use feminine imagery for God. It’s unfortunate that the author didn’t emphasize this, since it’s one of the big sticking points in the question of whether the bishops misread her book: She isn’t advocating the replacement of revealed language with non-revealed. I also thought the author could have had one short paragraph outlining the issue of God and language: that it’s not just about feminine pronouns versus masculine pronouns but rather about the adequacy of human language for God to begin with. I think the NYTimes’ readership would be intelligent enough to appreciate that.

  2. I’m proud to say that when Terry Tilley, quoted in this article, was in 7th grade, I was his teacher. I was, at that time, a very young Franciscan sister teaching in Milwaukee. I haven’t been a Franciscan sister since 1967, but I so enjoy “touching into my charism” in this blog.

  3. […] (4/12/11) https://datinggod.org/2011/04/12/new-york-times-on-elizabeth-johnson/ […]

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