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She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse Paperback – October 1, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

As perhaps the best book of feminist theology to date, She Who Is is at once thoroughly orthodox, grounded in classical Christian thought, liberatingly contemporary, and rooted in women's experience. Johnson reviews the history of Christian language about God and explains the need for feminist language about God, thereby providing background for nontheologians. She then develops an inclusive and creative Christian spiritual doctrine. Highly recommended for all collections serving educated lay readers, theologians, and clergy.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Readers will find this incisive survey to be the finest yet written in the area of feminist theological discourse. -- Choice

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crossroad (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824513762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824513764
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was first introduced to this classic when I began researching my undergraduate thesis on women's oppression in Christianity. I was then, and still am, thoroughly impressed with Johnson's work. Her scholarship is impecable, reasoning very solid, and takes a well-rounded approach. This work is founded in tradition, yet manages to break from the aspects of tradition which are oppressive. Her philosophical background is also quite solid. You can't get any better than Elizabeth Johnson. She is masterful at weaving theological discourse and spirituality together. This is not a theological head-trip! The relevance of her work not only applies to theologians, it applies to laypersons as well. The sections on Sophia are particularly moving. Johnson also manages to address the issue of exclusive God-language in a subtle manner, which a reader would be hardpressed to take offense to, and presents new inclusive ways of speaking about God founded in biblical scholarship, All in all, this is a fantastic work of theology with elements of spirituality. I can't recommend it enough!
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Format: Hardcover
Johnson makes a compelling case that much of historical Christian language, theology and praxis establishes an inherent superiority for men and an inherent inferiority for women that is simply antithetical to our universal human nature as persons created equally in the image of God. She wants to eradicate the differentiation that has long existed between the genders' respective abilities to connect with God. She suggests that our typical and careless anthropomorphism of God allows the biblical masculine language to create a false sense that God is literally male, when a true understanding of God allows God's mysterious, unknowable nature to far exceed any sense of gender (or any other tangible description that we might use). Instead, she suggests that we use both masculine and feminine language to name God, knowing full well that neither is a literal depiction of God's gender but rather a symbolic way to communicate some hints of God's true nature.

There were many aspects of Johnson's book that were intriguing and challenging to me. First and foremost, I was thankful for her gracious spirit and her complete disinterest in axe-grinding. I appreciated her commitment to meaningfully engage with Scripture, especially the Gospel accounts, rather than simply avoiding all of the inconvenient passages of Scripture that did not support her position. I was grateful that she refused to abandon or completely denigrate church tradition, instead trying to acknowledge aspects of church history that were more sympathetic to women and even trying to explain and clarify the eras and individuals throughout history who diminished the value of women.
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Format: Paperback
An excellent book that one should take enough time to read slowly and thoroughly.
Elizabeth Johnson starts by looking for an appropriate word in order to refer to the Divine. It is common practice to say that God is Spirit. An interesting thing about this is that the word "Spirit" has gradually shifted from being feminine in Hebrew, to neutral in greek and ultimately masculine in latin. This is not much of a surprise in a male-dominated world. In itself this does not necessarily indicate an improvement in the adequacy of our concept of God. But if we consider this particular history of the word, it may suggest that in order to improve our image of God, we need at least to integrate all three aspects: the feminine, the neutral and the masculine.
This will help us take into consideration the fact that God transcends all categories. It will help us deepen our perception of God as mystery.
The important for all those who try to link with the Absolute is to know that God is, more than to know exactly what she, it, or he, is.
Another interesting fact that the author points out in the same perspective, is that the Spirit as such, has never been given a proper name.
Spirit is considered more often than not as an impersonal power, like a blowing wind or a breath in motion.
The title of the book is a clear indication that the author approaches the mystery of God from a feminine point of view.
This is done in a constructive way, without being too aggressive. Even when she suggests that Christ's ability to be savior does not reside in his maleness, but in his huge and steadfast capability to love.
More challenging are her comments on the suggestion made by a number of authors, that the Spirit was, at least for some time, hypostatically united to Mary.
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Format: Paperback
Over the course of Christian history, women have been disenfranchised and oppressed. Patriarchal systems and androcentric mentalities have marginalized women sociologically and psychologically, even within the Christian community. Elizabeth Johnson believes this oppression stems from the language used for God. Because God is referred to exclusively and literally as a male, women have reduced roles within Christianity. Johnson seeks to use new imagery and metaphors for speech about God, in order to emancipate women from this oppression. Johnson recognizes that all language about God is inadequate, but using feminine imagery for God restores human dignity in women and men and helps with the flourishing of humanity.

Structurally, Johnson achieves this goal in four parts. In Part I, Johnson provides context and background for new speech about God. Because speech about God influences identity and praxis, new language for God must be sought. A solution to this problem can be explored using feminist theology, and Johnson provides basic feminist principles for theology. Lastly, Johnson discusses traditional approaches to speaking inclusively about God, and establishes that it is her intent to use only feminine imagery for God. Moving from the background to the foreground, Johnson builds her methodology, in Part II, by using three resources: experience, scripture, and classical theology. The experience of women is central to her theology, and while scripture is integral, Johnson seeks the reclamation of feminine imagery. Johnson also salvages certain principles in classical theology to use in her theology: the divine incomprehensibility, the need for analogy in God-speak, and the need for many names for God.
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