Creation and the Cross

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In this fresh creative approach to theology, Elizabeth Johnson asks how we can understand cosmic redemption in a time of advancing ecological devastation. In effect, how can we extend the core Christian belief in salvation to include all created beings? Immediately this question runs into a formidable obstacle: the idea that Jesus’s death on the cross was required as atonement for human sin—a theology laid out by the eleventh-century theologian St. Anselm.

Constructing her argument (like Anselm) in the form of a dialogue, Johnson lays out the foundations in scripture, the teachings of Jesus, and the early Church for an understanding that emphasizes the love and mercy of God, showing how this approach can help us respond to a planet in peril.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University. A former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, she is the author of many books, including She Who Is (winner of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion), Quest for the Living God, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, Abounding in Kindness: Writings for the People of God (Orbis 2015), and  editor of The Strength of Her Witness: Jesus Christ in the Global Voices of Women (Orbis 2016).

Book Details

Creation and The Cross
The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril
Elizabeth A. Johnson
hardcover with dust jacket

Creation and the Cross Table of Contents (978-1-62698-266-6_toc.pdf, 99 Kb) [Download]

Elizabeth Johnson, as so often she does, names and explains a major obstacle in the presentation of the Gospel message. Here I am happy to say, she unpackages what my own Franciscan school (Francis, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus) believed about the atonement and the salvific meaning of the death of Jesus. It was not a juridical transaction but a cosmic revelation.
To venture new understandings of faith yet to remain deeply rooted in the soil of tradition is signature Elizabeth Johnson. She invites us to consider what might cosmic redemption mean in our own time? This book delights and agitates. Taking a cue from Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo, Johnson imagines a spirited conversation between herself and one of her inquiring, bright students. This book is that conversation. What a journey through Anselm’s most celebrated work and then on to a consideration of how the cross might be understood today, particularly in light of the whole natural world! Here again she offers us a theological feast.
Elizabeth Johnson is by far my favorite contemporary Catholic theologian. In her superb new book, which takes the form of a lively dialogue, she addresses the essential issues of sin, forgiveness and redemption. She does so in her trademark style: with vast learning, sparkling clarity, and breathtaking insights. A signal contribution to modern theology.
Like Anselm's profound dialogue (with Boso)—written in the context of a feudal hierarchy—that launched the satisfaction theory of atonement, ‘Elizabeth’s’ captivating and persuasive dialogue (with ‘Clara’)—written in the context of an ecological consciousness of the community of all living things— explores a multitude of biblical images and metaphors to propose a cosmic theory of salvation. Lively and accessible, this book brilliantly explores a way to think of God's mercy today as Anselm did in his day. Highly recommended!
We know we’re in crisis. We know the planet is in peril. We know atonement theology is not adequate and in many ways is downright harmful to the flourishing of humans and God’s beloved creation. But what is the way forward? Elizabeth Johnson, with her classic brilliance, elaborates a theology of divine merciful and saving accompaniment in this unique time, impelling us toward conversion to the suffering earth, sustained by hope for the resurrection of the flesh of all of us.
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