Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Beyond the generally accepted truth that God is ineffable and beyond comprehension, the book’s most pervasive theme is that people’s efforts to do so, through words and images, have not come as close as they might, because male and patriarchal thought patterns have shaped Christian discourse. Women hold up half of heaven, should images from women’s experience not be equally represented when we try to define or describe God?

A secondary theme is relationships as a central model for God’s connection with humanity. Subordinate/superior concepts come from cultural and historical roots, and neither correspond with transcendent reality nor prove useful in achieving a more just order on earth.

Johnson discusses at length the distinction between elements essential to Jesus’ identity as a finite human on earth and those that define his humanity in Christian doctrine. Belonging to a church that ordains only men because of their supposedly more Christomorphic character, Johnson is well equipped to argue this point. Why, she asks, should maleness be a determining characteristic for the priesthood when Jesus’ age, ethnic background, and other accidents of his identity are not? Like the rest of this intricate, superbly argued work, these themes it highlights call out for more attention.