Friends of God and Prophets

The title is drawn from the Book of Wisdom, which describes Sophia:

Although she is but one, she can do all , and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets.

Elizabeth Johnson’s Friends of God and Prophets: A Feminist Theological Reading of the Communion of the Saints is an interesting read. By an important Catholic theologian (formerly president of the Catholic Theological Society of America), it seeks to deal with the forgotten doctrine of the communion of the saints. For Catholic theology and practice, this is an acute issue. The diminished attention to the saints and Mary, for example, reflect an increasing diffidence toward the communion or the saints, despite the fact that is is part of the apostle’s creed and liturgical tradition (various saint’s days and the like). But I do think Protestants, at least those who value church tradition such as the creeds or those who emphasize the importance of the universal church not restricted to those currently alive, have some of the same issues.

Having said that, the feminist orientation has its own limitations and there is not not a lot of integration with biblical data. A lot of it deals with specifically Catholic issues, including various issues of assimilation and accommodation. But still, what do Christians mean when we appeal to that communion? Do the dead in some sense participate in our life. Or, to draw on themes from Habits of the Heart (Johnson does this), what can we do to develop communities of memory and of hope? Can this doctrinal symbol help us move forward in that quest. I’m not sure how far I’ll get or if I’ll like the direction the work takes as I go further along, but at least the first chapter got me thinking.


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