Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., Leads SHU Forum on the ‘Search for the Living God’

News Story: November 5, 2009

Sacred Heart University welcomed Sister Elizabeth Johnson to campus on Tuesday, October 27, as part of a series of special inaugural events celebrating the opening of the University’s new Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University explored “The Search for the Living God” in a thought-provoking and wide-ranging address in the Schine Auditorium for faculty and students.

A member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Dr. Johnson is a widely respected theologian, educator, author, editor and lecturer who has led both the Catholic Theological Society of America and the Ecumenical American Theological Society.

Johnson opened her remarks with three “rules of the road,” which she said every major theological tradition would support. First of all, the reality of God is beyond our comprehension: as Saint Augustine put it, “If you can comprehend it, it is not God.” Second, no expression of God is ever to be understood literally: if we say God is good, for example, surely this assertion goes well beyond our normal understanding of that quality. And third, although we address God with a “symphony of praise,” in Aquinas’s words, the poverty of language is always with us.

Given those understandings, Dr. Johnson explored the strivings of theology since the middle of the last century, which she described as a flourishing of new ideas about encountering the living God. Both in the arts and the sciences, there is a new openness to understanding this mystery even while in some circles there has been a hardening of the positions against God. She closed her remarks by citing the 13th century Dominican preacher, Meister Eckhart, who said, essentially, that we must pray to God to be rid of God. Such an approach, Johnson indicated, meant sweeping aside our “narrow, puny” ideas related to the living God and embracing a host of life-giving possibilities.

To watch a video of this lecture, click here.