Stephen C. Finley
The history of African Americans is important in the formation of, but presents a challenge to, black theology. African American history provided a lens through which to view the world and Christian theology more generally. James H. Cone, the progenitor of academic black theology, initiated the formal discourse of black theology and argued that the exigencies of the moment required a theology of liberation that could speak to conditions currently facing African Americans. This essay examines the ways in which African American history is used to construct and justify the existence of black theology and discusses some of the conceptual problems arising from this use. It first considers history as a source and method of African American theology and the role of African American history in womanist theology. It then analyzes the way William R. Jones and Eddie S. Glaude Jr. challenge black theology’s use of African American history.
Alan Charles Kors
This article discusses the meanings, origin, context, scope, and central intellectual claims of atheism in the Age of the European Enlightenment. It emphasizes debates about proofs of the existence of God and about the problem of categorical naturalism, that is, of whether or not the world we observe and its seeming design could be the product of unintelligent causes. It explores the philosophical origins of Enlightenment atheism both in prior heterodox and Epicurean thought, and, of even greater importance, in the orthodox debates, scholarship, and mutual contestations that generated so many of the themes and often arguments of Enlightenment atheists. It pays special attention to the complexity of the relationship between philosophical skepticism and atheistic thought. Given the flowering of explicitly atheistic thought in the late French Enlightenment, the article looks closely at the work of Denis Diderot, the baron d’Holbach, and Jacques-André Naigeon.
American Jewish history as a field of scholarly inquiry takes as its subject-matter the experience of Jews in the United States and places it within the context of both modern Jewish history and the history of the United States. Its practitioners see their intellectual project as inextricably connected to both histories. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the enterprise of American Jewish history enjoys a condition of robust health. By the 1990s American immigration history had generally declined in favour within the ranks of American historians. That Jews, outsiders to American culture upon their arrival in the United States, were able to penetrate barriers and enter the mainstream clashes with the way historians want to see the American past. As a group who craved both economic security and respectability, their story lacks the dramatic punch of resisters and rebels to the American ethos.
Atheists, conservative theists, and religious liberals often read the history of science in ways that support their own position. Atheists expect continual mutual support between science and nonbelief, conservatives emphasize theistic metaphysical foundations for science; and liberals find a historical development toward separate spheres for science and religion. The rise of science was more complicated than anticipated by any of these stories. Atheism and science have usually developed almost independently, with weak connections. Today, the naturalism of modern scientific descriptions of the world is consonant with an atheistic position. But even now, significant tensions between science and atheism remain.
James C. VanderKam
The work that is today called the Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch is actually a collection of ancient booklets written at different times by several authors, almost all of them composed in the Aramaic language. They all share the trait that Enoch is the speaker and/or protagonist. Though a book of Enoch was known and fairly widely used in antiquity, most of the text was lost to Western readers until copies of the Ethiopic translation of the book were brought from Abyssinia to Europe beginning in the late eighteenth century CE. This article describes the components, the textual evidence, and influential themes in 1 Enoch. It also considers the place of the book in Second Temple Judaism and evaluates the Enochic–Essene hypothesis.
Richard K. Payne
This essay examines the variety of dysfunctional consequences of employing nation-states, that is, geopolitical boundaries, as the default organizing category for Buddhist studies. Two of these consequences, ones directly related to one another, are the conflation of contemporary nation-states with religious cultures, and the reinforcement of equations of religious and ethnic identities. Additionally, the organizing category privileges some particular tradition as representative of or the essence of Buddhism in a specific nation-state, marking that tradition as uniquely authoritative. More broadly, research is artificially constrained and the continuity of Buddhist traditions that cross nation-state boundaries is obscured, while artificial continuities are retrospectively imposed, and the tradition comes to be defined by forms located at the center of political power. The work of four contemporary scholars is discussed as exemplifying the arguments for and value of moving away from nation-state categories. Consideration is given to the formative role of the training of missionaries and other agents of empire in the institutionalization of nation-state categories.
Irena Borowik, Branko Ančić, and Radosław Tyrała
This essay offers a fresh exploration of atheism in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), while also providing an overview of existing research into atheism and non-religion in the region. In light of the legacy of state-imposed atheism, and the subsequent (apparent) ‘religious awakening’ in some countries, the authors demonstrate the significance of national religious traditions and confessional structures for understanding diversity of atheism’s nature and extent within the area. Analysis of European Values Survey data show that confessional structures of societies play more important role in spread of atheism than religious tradition (Catholicism or Orthodoxy) and that religious mono-confessionality supports vitality of religion, while religious pluralism makes more space for further differentiations of world-views, including atheism. The analysis also confirm that in CEE atheists, both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’, are not coherent as a group, and that some of them profess belief in supernatural powers and/or declare a religious affiliation.
Stephen R. L. Clark
Judith L. Kovacs
One of the earliest surviving Christian writings, Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians provides a fascinating picture of the life of one early Christian community and the challenges its members faced as they attempted to live out the gospel as a tiny minority in the midst of a pagan world. It also gives a first-hand glimpse of Paul's work as missionary and teacher. Written to a church Paul founded (Acts 18:1–17) and knows especially well, in response to a letter from the Corinthians asking him for guidance (7:1), the letter gives advice on healing factions in the community (chs. 1–4), sexual morality (chs. 5–7), how to relate to the civil and religious institutions of the pagan world (6:1–11; chs. 8–10), and various aspects of Christian worship (chs. 11–14). This article shows how 1 Corinthians is interpreted by a biblical scholar in the 21st century, drawing on a tradition of historical-critical study of the Bible that reaches back to the Enlightenment. It also provides a few glimpses into the long and rich reception history of the letter.
The period between the third and fifth centuries CE was crucial for the development of Christianity not least for ideas about desire and the body. Patristic writers hoped for the elimination of sex and sexual desire among Christians, encouraging the renunciation of sexual activity, marriage, and family life. Monasticism and men’s self-castration were among the varied means by which to achieve that renunciation, the former encouraged by the Church Fathers and the latter discouraged. Marriage was permissible if couples engaged only in procreative sex with each other, and married only once. Other types of sexual behaviour, including what we would call homosexuality, were condemned. Gender difference was also reinforced in this period and earlier notions of a genderless ideal in Christianity were mostly abandoned, through the strengthening of traditional public lives for men and private lives for women.