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Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God

por Elizabeth A. Johnson

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1974108,096 (4.5)1
'Since the middle of the twentieth century,' writes Elizabeth Johnson, 'there has been a renaissance of new insights into God in the Christian tradition. On different continents, under pressure from historical events and social conditions, people of faith have glimpsed the living God in fresh ways. It is not that a wholly different God is discovered from the One believed in by previous generations. Christian faith does not believe in a new God but, finding itself in new situations, seeks the presence of God there. Aspects long-forgotten are brought into new relationships with current events, and the depths of divine compassion are appreciated in ways not previously imagined.' This book sets out the fruit of these discoveries. The first chapter describes Johnson's point of departure and the rules of engagement, with each succeeding chapter distilling a discrete idea of God. Featured are transcendental, political, liberation, feminist, black, Hispanic, interreligious, and ecological theologies, ending with the particular Christian idea of the one God as Trinity.… (mais)
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A very solid and very accessible introduction to a bunch of different forms of theology that have developed in the 20th and 21st centuries. Johnson's explanations are pretty much always very, very clear for a lay audience, and she makes sure to include other accessible works in each further reading sections. If you want a starting place for modern Christian theologies, this really should be where you turn. Each section is both brief and manages to get a grasp on the debates at play, and I really can't emphasize those further reading sections enough. I will probably return to this book in the future because it's so useful and accessible. ( )
  aijmiller | May 15, 2021 |
Elizabeth A. Johnson has presented a scholarly and very readable look at the human experience and understanding of God during the last fifty to sixty years. Archaeology indicates that for 100,000 years man has had a sense of religion. Regardless of name, there is the acknowledgement that "the Holy" is beyond our imagination and ability to know; totally outside our control; and extremely attractive to us. She quotes Karl Rahner's prayer: "You must adapt Your word to my smallness, so that it can enter into this tiny dwelling of my finiteness--the only dwelling in which I can live--without destroying it. If you should speak such an "abbreviated" word, which should not say everything but only something simple which I could grasp, then I could breathe freely again. You must make your own some human word, for that is the only kind I can comprehend. Don't tell me everything that You are; don't tell me of Your Infinity--just say that You love me, just tell me of Your Goodness to me."(Johnson, 2008, p. 39) This prayer seems to hold the theme of her book. Elizabeth Johnson will explore an "abbreviated" word about God so that the reader will know Him just a bit better.

Johnson explores the huge problem of evil and how to understand it in relation to God's sovereignty. She points out God's preferential option for the poor. The unfortunate limitations of imagining God as an old white man, even if father, is a constantly recurring handicap to understanding and encountering the God who is love.

As each chapter unfolds, the reader is introduced to a new and unique understanding of God and our relationship to God and our connection to the people and world around us. There are aspects of this exploration of how we know God that will feel familiar to the reader and there are other presentations which will open the reader's mind to new and enriching reflections. It is wonderful to explore the traditions of knowing God with which one is familiar and expand it with other understandings. This study helps the reader appreciate how little we grasp of the mystery that is God. I would vigorously encourage anyone and everyone to delve deeply into Elizabeth Johnson's Quest for the Living God. ( )
  bunniehopp | Jun 24, 2013 |
With my theo school days behind me, I doubt I would have picked this book up except for the recent ruckus about it I decided to see what the fuss was all about. I'm glad I did. Not because I saw a fuss (I really can't figure why anyone would be complaining about what's in here) but because of Dr. Johnson's gift in drawing together the writings from contemporary theologians and presenting them in a way that helps you see how they really do belong together and what they are trying to say in simpler language. Although I have read a good deal of her source material, I loved the way I found new ways to look at some of it here. For others, it was a nice reminder of material that I hadn't looked at in 15 or 20 years. I wish I had had Dr. Johnson as one of my professors! ( )
  TerriBooks | Jan 13, 2012 |
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.
Favorite Passages


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
( )
  Othemts | Apr 5, 2009 |
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'Since the middle of the twentieth century,' writes Elizabeth Johnson, 'there has been a renaissance of new insights into God in the Christian tradition. On different continents, under pressure from historical events and social conditions, people of faith have glimpsed the living God in fresh ways. It is not that a wholly different God is discovered from the One believed in by previous generations. Christian faith does not believe in a new God but, finding itself in new situations, seeks the presence of God there. Aspects long-forgotten are brought into new relationships with current events, and the depths of divine compassion are appreciated in ways not previously imagined.' This book sets out the fruit of these discoveries. The first chapter describes Johnson's point of departure and the rules of engagement, with each succeeding chapter distilling a discrete idea of God. Featured are transcendental, political, liberation, feminist, black, Hispanic, interreligious, and ecological theologies, ending with the particular Christian idea of the one God as Trinity.

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