A Critical Study of the Book WOMEN, EARTH AND CREATOR SPIRIT [Elizabeth Johnson]
Evil and its consequences are atrociously naked before us no matter how it tries to build layer upon layer of disguise and deception. It can no longer hide – it stinks, penetrating from the individual to the community, to every culture and nation, to the world, to the earth/universe. We can call it by varied names: rapacity, greed, deception, oppression, exploitation, marginalization, degradation, poverty, violence, war, killing, death. Evil is against life and growth and entices suicide. What we have in front of us are overwhelming and seemingly hopeless cases that shatter our defenses and push us to ask: Where do we go from here? The evil is so deep-seated and standing proud eating humanity alive and the rest of creation. I ask further, how growth and authenticity could still be possible in the stormy complexity of life, world, self? What could sustain a person’s capacity to grapple with his/her limitation and capacity for transcendence? What is the root of all these? Where is God in all of these? It all seems very complicated and hopeless that thinking about it makes my mind a place mess of unending questions.
At present, we have many authors and scholars who try their best to study and dig deeper certain issues confronting us today. We have creation spirituality, feminist/contemporary spirituality, liberation spirituality, etc. Their works are published and made accessible for us to make us aware and understand and likewise challenge and call us to make a stand. Given the opportunity to study closer one of these works, I chose Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Women, Earth and Creator Spirit,* (1993) that I wish would in a way help me deal with my questions although it is not the major purpose of this paper or study.
Alongside with my great desire to have a better grasp and understanding of our [problematic] world today, I would try to make a critical study of E. Johnson’s book. After presenting Johnson’s line of thoughts in a summary form, I would make a critical study of it, which I will divide, into three parts. First, I will try to reread it in the light of the eight functional specialization in theology, then highlight its strengths and weaknesses, and lastly, conclude as to how ecological crisis must be approached and throw up a brief challenge and possible implication of all these in our life and spirituality. All these will be done in the light of what Bernard Lonergan proposes to be an adequate approach or method in doing theology. This however, does not pertain to an absolute claim of Lonergan’s method as normative. Moreover, before I proceed, let me say that this is not a work of an expert but of the one who tries and wishes to learn and understand.
Gone were the things that God lovingly gazed at and found good (c.f. Gen 1:31). Our home, the earth, is ravaged, plundered, decreated and the ‘wise’ homo sapiens are its creator and liable for it. This reality cannot be hidden anymore is worldwide and nowadays a very crucial concern in the fields of ethics, religion and theology which try to delve into its role and capacity to effect a healthy and wholesome relationships of human beings to God, each other, earth and the rest of creation. Profoundly aware of all these and recognizing the great need for a new way of thinking, vision, and direction away from what has awfully been, Johnson, in and through her book, wishes to give her share on this matter and encourage the rest of us to be part as well.
In doing so, Johnson uses the perspective of disvalued women, earth and Spirit to probe into the issue of Christian anthropology, doctrine of creation and doctrine of God. Central to her book is the claim that “the exploitation of the earth, which has reached crisis proportions in our day, is intimately linked to the marginalization of women, and that both of these predicaments are intrinsically related to forgetting the Creator Spirit who pervades the world in the dance of life.” (p. 2) She believes in the interconnectedness of our relationships to God, one another, and creation and so of these three: women, earth and Spirit, which was defined by patriarchal system dominating western thought in the early century.
To develop her thesis, Johnson first presents our present ecological situation (chapter 1) and immediately follows it with a study on hierarchical dualism as the taproot of the crisis (chapter 2). Lastly, she focuses her attention to women, earth and Creator Spirit bringing their wisdom and significance and argues that we must be converted to the earth. (chapters 3-6) Johnson holds that this concern, which she tries to put forward, is not the one ‘among the many’ but the most basic issue confronting us today.
In chapter 1, Johnson concretely names some of the many ecological crises and says that our earth is being wasted – violently. “Our blue planet as a habitat for life stands in jeopardy due to atmospheric damage, deforestation, pollution of the seas, disruption of ecosystems, destruction of habitat, extinction of species, loss of biodiversity, overpopulation, resource exhaustion and nuclear proliferation.” (pp. 7-8) Situation gets worse and critical and people start to become aware of and realize the sacredness of the earth and the value and their role of taking care of it. In Christian community, in particular, scholars and theologians start to explain ‘creation, prophetic wisdom and gospel traditions in order to construct a life -saving environmental ethic and spirituality’ with Jesus as best example. However, churches, institutions and its members remain unmoved, apathetic, deaf, blind to and hiding from the fact that the ‘earth is entering into its passion and death.’ Johnson purports that unless a radical reversal would happen, we must start asking if all life forms will exist or perish on this earth.
Furthermore, convinced of the ecofeminism’s insight on the key role of the connection between the exploitation of the earth and the sexist definition and treatment of women to the ecological crises, Johnson brings into the fore in chapter 2 the hierarchical dualism of the western thought as the major taproot of the crisis. It is defined as “a pattern of thought and action that (1) divides reality into two separate and opposing spheres, and (2) assigns a higher value to one of them.” (p.10) It took its first form in Greek philosophy, which sees the reality as composed of spirit and matter and separated from each other they subsist in harmonious, creative and dialectical tension. However, as great weight was placed in the spirit as superior to the matter, the two were polarized, separated, and graded as unequal. This dichotomy from and in its traditional and modern age* (Philosophers of the Enlightenment era or the flowering of science conceived this dichotomy in a form) and form massively influenced Christian theology and western socio-political, and ecological spheres and thought that in turn influenced and defined all relationships.
Associated with the spirit,* (A feminist insight and analysis) the rational man particularly of the Greek ruling class, including God, is separated from, against and superior over the naturally inferior women, and those equated with femininity like slaves, men of lower class and race, and nature. They are instruments, objects, of no value and must serve man’s best interests. Moreover, Johnson asserts that intrinsically tied up to this is the neglection of the Holy Spirit because focus is primarily given to God the Father and Son and it is conceived by patriarchal values and connected with the ‘feminine’ or ‘women’s work.’ She sides with the feminist’s reflection on the importance of addressing this in its entirety, and reasserts her argument that women’s marginalization and exploitation by men and its two-layered universe is the archetype and the critical taproot of the ecological crisis.* (Johnson quotes: “Achilles heel of human civilization...resides in this false development of maleness through repression of female,” P. 17). She goes further by saying that the problem lies not in an overly anthropocentric view but precisely in an androcentric view of the world. Going deeper to the dynamic of dualism, she quotes analysts’ claim that fear of finitude and death lies at its core that aids man escape that fear by control and conquer. This however, she says, misses women in the whole picture.
Johnson believes that to simply assign a greater value to women while retaining dualistic thinking is a solution that leads to nowhere. Women’s closest identification to and with nature is a cultural construct and not the whole truth of who they are. Women and men are all created as intelligent, emotional, related and interconnected being to God, among themselves and nature. Hence, at the close of chapter 2, Johnson underscores the need for re-thinking of the three relationships in the act of pushing forward an ‘ecological ethic grounded in religious truth’ and proposes a unifying vision that will abolish dualism and promote a mutual relationship that appreciates and respects differences. To do so and as vital steps, she combines the feminist, scientific and theological wisdom in her purpose to retrieve and let shine women. earth, and Creator Spirit.
In chapter 3, Johnson speaks of feminist theology and its endeavors. Today, she says, feminist theology is a worldwide movement that critics patriarchy and sexism, seeks to understand their experience and [spiritual] reality, constructs a vision of a religious and moral universe and “advocates women’s flourishing in all their dimensions and relationships as an essential element…of the redeemed human community.” (p. 24) As one of its branches and great collaborators, Christian feminist theology, seeks to understand and promote the neglected truth that “women are fully human and are to be valued as such,”* (E. Johnson’s quotation from Margaret Farley) and a new wholeness, a new community of mutuality and discipleship of equals towards God’s reign. Johnson relates that wisdom of intrinsic relationship with the other, relational independence, reciprocity or mutuality, dialectic of friendly, constitutive relationship, emerge from the wisdom of women’s experience of establishing their identity and self-understanding in and through their concrete experience of relationships. This wisdom suggests that humanity’s relationship to the earth must be an interactive circle of mutual kinship, the ideal model that Johnson presents in the following chapter.
In chapter 4, Johnson presents and expounds three models of our relationship to the earth. First, the kingship model based on the hierarchical dualism that clearly reflects patriarchal pyramid with human beings apart and over the earth. Second is the stewardship model. It shows an improvement but humanity who has duty to protect, care for and preserve what is weaker and vulnerable is still at the top of the pyramid. Finally, she comes to the kinship model that perceives our intrinsic, organic, and mutual interconnection to the earth, and the presence of the nurturing Creator Spirit. To explain further our ‘cosmic genetical relatedness’ (p. 40), Johnson tells the cosmic history that clearly shows that we – spirit, body and intelligence – are the product and come to consciousness of evolving cosmos. The nature, including us is a ‘dynamic web of interconnected processes’ with each species possessing an intrinsic value despite the existing differences. Each one in its diversity is an “expression of the creative power of the cosmos which is ultimately empowered by the Creator Spirit …points to the richness of the Creator whose imaginative goodness these species represent” (p. 40) and participate in as a whole. With this, Johnson believes that it is time to rediscover the neglected tradition of the Creator Spirit, which she tries to do in chapter 5.
The Spirit is “God present and active in the historical world.” (p. 41), “the creative origin of all life, the “vivificantem, vivifier of life-giver” (p. 42) “the unceasing, dynamic flow of divine power that sustains the universe, bringing forth life,” (p. 42) Johnson draws from it and presents three other insights.  The Creator Spirit is immanent. It “fills the world and is in all things,” dwelling in the universe, creating freedom, self-transcendence, and the future, and continuously weaving solidarity and interconnectedness (p. 42-3).  The Creator Spirit is the renewing power always cherishing and revitalizing what has been made (c.f. Ps 104:30, Pentecost, Isaiah, Luke 4:16-20, Resurrection).  The Creator Spirit is moving. From the beginning the Spirit “empowers, lures, prods, dances on ahead…sets up bonds of kinship among and energizes all creatures, human and non-human alike.” (p.44) Being interrelated we are challenged to live in ‘fellowship, communion and koinonia’ and unveil the Creator Spirit.
Furthermore, bearing her major thesis in mind, Johnson remembers scriptural texts that bear cosmic and female symbols of the Spirit that are marginalized by patriarchy. The wind symbolizes the spirit’s “invisible, natural force that declares itself in the movement of the wind (Jn 3:8) like dramatic (Ex 14:21, Ez 37:1-14, Acts 1:13-14, 2:1-4) and mundane windblown events.” (Ps 147:18/ p. 45) It is associated with wings* (Bird and its wings signify female power primarily in the ancient Near East, Greek mythology and Christian art in the pre-Christian tradition) that also shows the Spirit’s connection to femaleness and with breath that gives and sustains life. The fire, mysterious in itself, is a “powerful biblical symbol of the presence of God.” (p. 47) The Spirit, compared to its transforming effect, transforms people’s hearts, minds, being and the rest of creation. The Big Bang theory, Johnson says implies that the act of creation is the first and permanent Pentecost. The water, where all life in creation began, points to its Source from whom the same life comes. To ground this claim Johnson cites from the scripture (Ez36:25-6, Is 32:15-18, Jl 2:28-9, Jn 4:7-15, Rom 5:5), theologians (Cyril and Irenaeus) and a philosopher (Hildegaard). Johnson then presents women as image and symbol of the spirit, which dominate wisdom literature. (i.e. Wis 1:6, 7:12, 17, 22-3, 8:1, 9:17). All these (wind, fire, water, women) help us recognize that God relates to the world not as apart and over it but as active part in its evolution in and through compassion, reverence and empowering love.
Johnson generalizes that women, earth and Spirit’s wisdom can deconstruct hierarchical dualism and the two-tiered view of the world and transform it into a community of mutually interconnected creation. Humanity and earth are created as interconnected reality and is always permeated by the Spirit’s presence, power and life. She also emphasizes the need for rethinking our understanding of God and how God relates to the world and to us to effectively effect transformation.
In the last chapter of her book, Johnson categorizes all the different decisions and actions that must be done as a religious or theological concern. She believes conversion can start and effect healing. We then must go back to the Spirit’s pattern of giving life and transformed culture of death to culture of life. We must be converted to the earth, abandon anthropocentric, androcentric view and dualistic model and take on a biocentric, life-centered view and kinship model. We must ‘free ourselves from this prison, widen our circle of compassion’* (E. Johnson’s quotation from Albert Einstein) and fall in love with the earth. This conversion, Johnson adds, involves and requires contemplation and prophecy. Contemplation is a non-violent appreciation of the earth that leads to communion and realization of our kinship and reciprocity with the earth, and recognition of nature’s sacredness and God’s presence in it. Prophecy is a way of speaking and acting in the face of powerful, oppressive interest (i.e. social and environmental crisis) that involves active and non-violent resistance, names new sins against God, enters into solidarity and exercise responsibility, sees interconnection between nature and social justice, extends moral consideration to the earth, opts for biocentric ethic, and leads to repentance and renewal. It aims the “flourishing of humanity in a thriving earth” (p. 67) and thus means that focus must be given to the disvalued and exploited earth to retrieve balance.
In conclusion, Johnson tells how she tries to seek a “new vision of the Creator Spirit enfolding and unfolding a reconciled human community and a healed, living earth, to practical and critical effect.” (p. 68) This she does precisely by attempting to highlight and overcome the patriarchal and sexist marginalization of women in the three relationships and establish a new direction toward the future. She deems that being converted to the earth means cooperation and participation with the Creator Spirit as brothers and sisters, and children of God.
Critique I: E. Johnson and the Eight Functional Specialties
The eight functional specialties, divided in to two phases of retrieving the past (research, interpretation, history, dialectics) and shaping the future (foundation, doctrine, systematics, communications) is a ‘one complex process from data to result’ in the doing of theology. They are interlocking tasks and therefore must not be thought independently of or against the other. However, to discuss them here one by one is not my task and purpose. Rather, I would try to see them in and through Johnson’s work.
Elizabeth Johnson’s research is related to human studies specifically dealing with the question of ecological crisis happening and accelerating in our present concrete time and place. She makes available the data of ecological crisis in a cause and effect fashion, calling them by name, to be investigated. With her withdrawn attempt to plunge herself into the realm of human consciousness,* [Lonergan’s breakthrough of turning into the human subject, bringing philosophy from conceptualization to a new level of interiority, an entry into the third stage of meaning. (cf. Lovett, 5)] she appears to have an objective sense of gathering, selecting and presenting data regarding how patriarchy evolved and intensified in the course of history. To better understand the data she gathered and presented, she takes on the ecofeminism’s insight and enters into the world of hierarchical dualism and patriarchy. Afterwards, her understanding of how patriarchy influenced Christian theology and western thought and eventually defined all relationships led her to establish her assertion/claim that ecological crisis is deeply rooted to patriarchy’s domination and marginalization of women and its two-tiered universe. Of which after being able to do so, makes a precise claim of androcentrism against anthropocentrism as to where the problem lies. However, this affirmation expresses with greater certainty plus her failure to go deeper into the third control of meaning tend to block off insight and a more profound understanding not only of the crisis and dualism but also of the dynamism of human consciousness itself that originally gave rise to them.
Furthermore, confronted with a challenge how to move forward, Johnson tries in her own way to succinctly evaluate the contradicting view of cultural construction of women and the truth of who women are as human beings created by God. Believing in and putting emphasis and challenge to the latter, she opens a new perspective how to conceive women, earth and Creator Spirit. Johnson opts and calls for rethinking of relationships and a unifying vision that would deconstruct the oppressive structure and promote mutual empowering relationships. To boost her decision and what she pushes for, she, combining feminism, science and theology, makes an explicit and elaborate reflection on women, earth and Creator Spirit as major steps to move toward her vision. Reclaiming the neglected wisdom and reality of women and earth, she highlights the presence of the Spirit present and that can be experienced in our [interconnected] relationships with the earth. An experience, so to speak of the ‘more’ in the reality of women and earth and who we are as religious beings in relation to who we are as interconnected beings with the whole of creation. A trend which are given closer attention in a new cultural context of our time.
Johnson affirms this reality of interconnectedness and the presence of Creator Spirit by referring to the Spirit as life-giver and elaborating it by presenting biblical texts that speak of the Spirit as indwelling, renewing and moving. In addition, to explain more the doctrine of the Spirit’s presence and life-giving character, Johnson discusses and explores cosmic and female symbols with the support of feminist, natural and theological sciences. Nevertheless, although she addresses the question she asks but fails to address the core of the problem and the root of the culture she wants to communicate with her affirmation fails to address the crucial part of interiority or normativity of the human subject.
Johnson develops her thesis starting from where we are at present in terms of ecological situation. Then she goes backward to women’s marginalization, to hierarchical dualism, to androcentric view, to fear and anxiety of human subject and then instantly return to women’s marginalization by patriarchy as the root of ecological crisis. From there, she makes an evaluation, a stance, proposes a solution and presents steps how to move toward it. To make sense of what she pushes for - relationship of women and earth – and affirm her doctrine – Spirit as life-giver - she uses the scripture to establish the relationship of women and earth to God and God to them. Finally, challenged she sums up everything as religious concern that demands conversion, which in result demands contemplation and prophecy.
All these she does in simple, understandable and ordered way locating it within her religious community’s search for role and efficacy in today’s problem and dialogue among feminist, scientific and theological disciplines. However, as I read Johnson’s work, what she conveys appear to give a right away solution or answer more than to evoke and draw insights from the reader that might help in understanding what and where the problem is. In spite of her presented symbols, she rarely gives clues that would facilitate insight and deeper thinking. Moreover, I clearly see how she nearly go beyond what she considers where the root problem is and how she immediately goes back to her major proposition, shutting the issue to what she thinks it is all about.
Critique II: Strengths and Weaknesses
At this point allow mo to point out where Johnson’s work show vitality and weakness, this time more focused in the light of Lonergan’s major breakthrough and contribution in doing theology.
E. Johnson’s clarity and precision in her thesis at the beginning of her book help me to somehow have a glimpse of what might be inside her book and where the key and the weight of it lie. In her presentation of ecological situation in chapter 1, she is able to establish her data and show how much collapse is there in the creative tension of the triple dialectics though she does not really calls it that way [but in one instance she does in passing in chapter 2]. Humanity have widened the gap of differences, alienated themselves from their world and failed to respond to their nature as beings emerging in relation to God, among themselves and the world. It is worth naming the issues! (Lovett) She is able to retrieve and present history specially that of hierarchical dualism and patriarchy, its treatment of women and its relationship and role in the present ecological crisis. Her movement from the first stage (Greek’s breakthrough in theoretic) to the second stage of meaning (science breakthrough) enables her to argue with conviction that women’s marginalization is a cultural construct and not because of their nature. That she is right because that is “entirely our problems, problems of our making, our perception, and our attempts to relate as human beings.” (Lovett, 11) Moreover, her interdisciplinary approach or attempt to integrate natural and human sciences is also an asset for her enabling her theology to “mediates between the cultural matrix and the significance of a religion in that matrix” (Lonergan, xi) with the Spirit at and as the center of all relationships.
Johnson’s call for dialectical transformation (Lovett, 7) is evident in her resistance to what have been wrong and repeated call for conversion and to deconstruct and construct. In order to move forward, this she aids with her proposed solution and steps. This call for conversion which occupies the center space in Johnson’s conviction for healing to happen and lift what has been disparaged. She is right to say that to swing to the disvalued pole is not the solution. The centrality of life rooted in the Spirit makes her theology practical in intent and at the same time aside from scriptural texts, provides us with a clear reference to hearken her call for us to focus and let our relationships be modeled to God the Spirit.
I think, Johnson is also successful, though not in terms of addressing the bottom line of the problem, in her use of scripture to make sense of women and earth and their relation to God and of God to them. Her call for rethinking has a way of challenging not only readers but also those who engage themselves in this kind of work and study. Lastly, standing before the demands for actions, unsure of what to do exactly, and knowing the variety of decision to be made she gets the right point to place them within and together in the religious matrix.
Let me now proceed to the weakness or teeter-tottering arguments in Johnson’s work.
I experienced a strong resistance when I read Johnson’s thesis despite my appreciation of her being precise and direct to the point and belief that her argument holds some truths. I would rather say that there is still a much much deeper root than sexual dualism and its two-tiered universe that must be addressed. Marginalization of women by patriarchy and its two-tiered universe can have something to do with our ecological crisis but to say that androcentrism is the root of the problem is a hasty and misleading conclusion. Androcentrism is but another problem that emerged from the main problem. The truth is that theoretical breakthrough enabled human to see the mystery of the world but still failed to understand and grasp it totally. This result to their fear of the world and to counteract this fear, tend to control it. And the system was created penetrating cultural processes. Androcentrism is a system, a product of human intelligence that can still be transformed by any authentic human subject. Moreover, to approach ecological crisis and invoke solution in the ground of feminism as key to the question is not enough. Let me say that it is not the female they wish to control for they are goddesses of that time but the movement of life and before the breakthrough in theoretic, the cosmos is at the center of human life and religious experience. I also see the problem in the definition of patriarchy and sexism. If man is superior to a woman or male to a female, why only the ruling Greek males rule and not also the male slaves and barbarians? Is it not a problem of relativism?
Therefore, Johnson fails to address the heart of the collapse in practical intelligence and anthropological mode of the search that is, the collapse of the human subject in the pole of transcendence. Although she uses interdisciplinary approach, she fails to focus on the actual human interest that shaped and gave rise to the development of patriarchy, dualism, marginalization of women and ecological crisis. Human beings in great fear, resort to escapist thinking and tend to repress the reality and its horror. Giving in to the need to understand and grasp realities and address them, they started to control and believed they can do making them feel superior to it. Human beings started to live at the expense of and apart from the real. Actually, Johnson almost does, but because she totalizes evil with women’s marginalization by patriarchy and the two-tiered universe, she rejects the opportunity of that category, endangered and tinted her position with ideological bias. She fails to present the different consciousness, good and bad that exist in the western world.
Johnson also seems to propose the Spirit, the life-giver, as the absolute term to prove interconnectedness and its present in all creation. Though she mentions the non-violence ethic of Jesus, she neglects Jesus, the Son of God, and so lost “the sense of God’s familial involvement in the work of redemption, the sense of the cost to God in giving up of God’s own Son…the sense of divine vulnerability in love that speaks far more powerfully to contemporary human beings…” (Lovett, 14) In short, the genesis of who we are as human beings – Love. God above all is “love poured out into our hearts.” (Rom 5:5) She could have effectively used the doctrine of Incarnation or the law of the cross for earth’s salvation.
Her data approached from the perspective of women’s inferiority as point of analogy, become weaker and her solution of unifying vision floating and ideological. Without addressing the core of the problem, interconnected relationship which she has so well emphasized, would only be vision in mind and the radical reversal she mentions in the preface will be an extreme shift and a violent one. To merely rethink our idea of God and God’s relation to us will still be colored with our bias and projections and therefore not the right term or proposition to use. We rather must reclaim, rediscover God’s love for us that is the truth of God, our experience of God and how God relates to us personally as individual and as God’s whole creation. This would eventually lead to conversion, not the like of what Johnson presents. Conversion rooted in the experience of love and gratitude.
I have difficulty with Johnson’s call for life-centered spirituality: conversion to the earth and falling in love with the earth, culture of life, kinship model. I ask: how could we love life and the earth when we experience it as a misery? When we do not experience love our selves? How can we experience the Spirit’s presence in the wind, fire and water when in the first place we do not experience God’s love for us? How can conversion be possible then? And I ask further: what could possibly have effected the conversion of Zaccheus or the woman with alabaster jar?
We can only love life, the earth and people when we rediscover God’s love for us, when we experience love ourselves. Because that is when we will find our true and authentic selves and therefore, overcome fear and anxiety of death, rejoice in our humanity, see everything as a gift and respond to life in gratitude causing others to experience the same love and to love. Zaccheus’ experience of God’s love enabled him to turn from his old ways, beyond his culture and system and respond authentically and joyfully to God.
Feminist, earth or life-centered spirituality is inadequate to address and understand the complexity of issues and problems (i.e. ecological crisis) we are facing now. Collapse in the main category where the issue must be addressed is weakness in many arguments.
Critique III: Conclusion and Implication
The appropriate approach to study and understand our ecological crisis is the category of triple dialectics/creative tension – all the three together. This shall cut across culture, community and human subject and enable us to see the dynamism that shaped the development as a whole.
The problem facing us involves a wider reality that can easily overwhelm, overcome or tear us apart. We are faced with pluralism, deep-seated problem, and we ourselves are fixed and locked up in the cultural and insane design and processes of the world. Short-term practicality, mere appeal common sense and instant solution do not have any chance anymore in our quest for transformation and flourishing of humanity and earth. From culture to community, we must go deeper to the common main line issue of the human subject, its interest and consciousness. We cannot stop in the culture or community or we will fall short.
The person who succeeds in personal transformation is the one who can only effect cultural transformation. Only an authentic person can transcend the cultural processes that so defined and imprisoned us. We need person like this. We need persons who are able to think independently and experience liberation in and for them. But how? The issue lies in what could sustain the creative tension of the person living in the inauthenticity of cultural processes and social dynamism. Healing, soteriology and love of God are the forces and channels that can free and sustain a person. The rediscovery of the love of God will enable the person who is caught up into the social dynamism, emotionally dominated and defenseless against the process to become a counter cultural person capable of resisting and transforming culture and society. If this materializes, we can now talk of hope and transformation in the world and start to affirm creative human living and flourishing for all creation.
What we must promote is a God-centered spirituality and nothing else. The healing vector is operative from the beginning for us, reaching us, offering us healing so that we may overcome our unnecessary fears and live creatively and authentically. God’s love is always there for us to which we can always count. We only need to rediscover it, open ourselves to it and allow ourselves to be touched, overcome and healed by it. It is only love that can conquer evil, bring good, and cause conversion and healing of us who generate culture and diseases in our own world.
If we succeed in all of these, rebuilding the collapsed creative tension of human subject, we will surely do the same in the dialectics of culture and community.
I believe that this is not an exclusive task for theologians, scholars, feminists, etc. but for all of us. Where we are and what we are confronting now are our concerns. It is our life. It is us. We can no longer hide in our ‘isolated upper room’ and pretend that everything is alright, we are alright. It is time for us to stop throwing the blame and obligation to something that is outside of us. Transformation and ‘real’ progress will not happen if we just stand by without doing anything. We live in a runaway world (T. Radcliffe) and must find our center, our value. We must start journeying inward to the deepest core of ourselves and rediscover the love that there is for us. God’s love must live us. We need not fear self-appropriation, the truth and the movement of life. When we are able to do so, we will have eyes that see, ears that hear, mouth that speaks and hands that do the truth. We will follow the direction that is faithful to life’s emergence and becoming, experience the world as real, and enable other to experience the same.
Ed. Gregson, V. The Desires of the Human Heart. New York: Paulist Press, 1988. esp. 75-119.
Lonergan. B. Method in Theology. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1972.
Lovett, B. “Lonergan and Feminist Theology.” In Himig Ugnayan vol. 1 no. 2 (1998-9), 1-21.
Personal notes on B. Lovett’s (my professor) discussion in our class “New Theological
Perspective.” IFRS - Second semester 2001-02. [N.B. Most of the words I used especially in Critique III are borrowed or derived from this notes.]