Abdolkarim Soroush founded one of the most important intellectual movements in Iran. This article traces the development of his thought through three distinct periods: (1) a critique of Marxism and its influence on Islamist political ideology, (2) an epistemological critique of Islamist truth claims, and (3) a hermeneutical approach to the Divine text and Prophetic tradition.
Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāʾī’s (d. 321/933) Theory of ‘States’ (aḥwāl) and its Adaption by Ashʿarite Theologians
This chapter discusses the notion of ‘states’ (aḥwāl) in Muʿtazilite and Ashʿarite theology. The concept was borrowed from linguistics by the Muʿtazilite theologian Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāʾī (d. 321/933). It helped him to explain the nature of God’s attributes without asserting the existence of co-eternal beings in God. The conception of attributes as ‘states’ became a central doctrine among Abū Hāshim’s followers, the so-called Bahshamiyya school. The theory of aḥwāl was first rejected by Ashʿarite theologians. With Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī (d. 403/1013), however, an important representative of the school eventually came to use the term within the framework of his theory of attributes. Later, Abu l-Maʿālī al-Juwaynī (d. 478/1085–6) also followed al-Bāqillānī in adopting the notion of ḥāl.
Frank Burch Brown
African American liberation theology emerged in the 1960s as a genuinely Christian discourse. Black theology arose in response to divisive questions about the leadership of African American churches in issues such as state violence, civil disobedience and protest against formal apartheid, and extralegal terror. As a result, African American theology has been profoundly shaped by the Christian tradition. This article examines how the Christian tradition influenced the identity, form, and content of African American liberation theology. It first looks at civil rights and how African American liberation theology emerged quintessentially as a struggle over the public meaning of Christianity. It then considers the emergence of the black church and how African American Christians embraced Black Power. It also analyzes the impact of the Christian tradition on the experience of African Americans before concluding with a discussion of womanist theology and the link between black women’s experience and liberation theology.
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.
M. Shawn Copeland
African American religious experience refers to conscious responsiveness to the holy or to divinity or to an existential sense of mystery and ultimacy. It emerges from complex religio-cultural terrain, and the study of its formation is problematized by several challenging and interrelated methodological, philosophical, and hermeneutical issues. These issues relate in part to academic studies of African Americans and their culture, the preeminence of the religious, the occurrence of religion and religious experience within the contingencies of history, and the slave trade. This essay frames the problematic study of the formation of African American religious experience by setting out some basic recurrent issues pertinent to the study of African American religious consciousness. It examines meanings of experience, religion, and religious experience; constructs a genealogy of the formation of African American religious consciousness and experience using a phenomenological method; reviews two major approaches to the study of African American religious experience in contemporary religious thought and theology, hermeneutical approach and womanist analysis; and raises some questions for contemporary lived expressions of African American religious experience.
According to James Baldwin, Christianity and colonialism are intertwined in the institutional marginalization of black and brown people worldwide. He also argued that the discourses of religion, race, and nation converged in the formation of the Americas. The social upheaval of the decade in which Baldwin wrote gave rise to black liberation theology. James H. Cone’s first two books, Black Theology and Black Power and A Black Theology of Liberation, inaugurated a new school of Christian theology that can be traced to African Americans’ experience of enslavement and oppression in the United States and that resonated with the militant ethos of Black Power. This essay examines Baldwin’s arguments in relation to black theology and describes a broader notion of contact as the context for black theology in the Americas.
Anthony G. Reddie
This essay explores the contribution that African American theology, through black theology and womanist theology, has made in challenging the workings and ethics of the global economy, especially with respect to poverty. It looks at the argument of a number of black and womanist theologians regarding the role of world trade in creating endemic poverty, along with James H. Cone’s polemical charge against white supremacy and its economic power and Dwight Hopkins’s macro theo-cultural analysis of global monopoly capitalism from within the parameters of Christian hermeneutical perspectives on black theology. It also examines the views of African American womanist ethicists such as Katie Cannon, Keri Day, and Emilie Townes concerning the sociocultural machinations of the global economy and its deleterious effects upon black women and other poor people of color in the United States and other parts of the world.
Diaspora refers to the spatial scattering of a people such as Africans, who were formed by fragmentation. Africans and other black peoples were forced to imagine the world through fragmentation. In the case of African Americans, public imaginaries essentially involve the remaking of a public, black, white, and everything in between. This essay examines a set of theologically conditioned imaginative frames that constitute an African American public imaginary. It first looks at how a public black body has been created, focusing on peoples of African descent with modern slavery, and how the black body as commodity helped to generate public space in the modern West and especially North America. It then considers the invention of cultural nationalism(s) among Africans before concluding with a discussion of bodies in need of discipline, recognition, integration, authenticity, transformation, and freedom from slavery.
Peter J. Paris
This essay examines the relation between black theology and Africa, beginning with a discussion of the traditional regard that Africans in North America have had for their ancestral homeland. It considers the emergence of black liberation theology in the second half of the 1960s before analyzing the common struggles faced by African peoples, the importance of Africa for African Americans, and the complex relationship between African American theology and African theology. It also looks at the African American debate about black theology, the genesis of African theology, black theology’s initiative toward Africa, the debate between black theology and African theology, similarities between black and African theologies, and womanist theology in relation to the theology of African women.