Boardman Lectureship in Christian Ethics


Elizabeth Johnson

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Boardman Lecture XXXVII (Centennial Lecture). Edited and Foreword by Sandy Russell.


Elizabeth Johnson probes the theological implications of God symbolism, as well as the effect that symbolism has on conceptions of women's dignity and humanity. In the Boardman lecture, she argues that "how a group names its God has critical consequences, for the symbol of the divine organizes every other aspect of a religious system." Professor Johnson engages the work of other Christian and Jewish scholars who have addressed this issue to illustrate how far we have come, and perhaps, how far we still have to go. She is careful to acknowledge the dangers of naming God "She." One such danger is the possibility of losing the Christian heritage of the Trinity, which is based on the image of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all of whom have been imagined as male. However, Professor Johnson argues that the Trinity is not a "literal formula," and that the gendered terms were never intended to be the only permissible images of God for Christians. She concluded that only when the full mystery of the living God who is so complex and powerful as to be beyond gender is understood, can we move past the "idolatrous fixation on one image of God" that has dominated Christian thinking.

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Date Posted: 12 January 2006