Peter E. Pormann
The classical tradition not only provided the backdrop against which the Abrahamic religions emerged, but also provided a constant source of inspiration for their development over the centuries. The present chapter offers a number of vignettes on this topic, looking at: the Christian apologetic literature through the perceptive of the patristic historian Franz Overbeck; the Talmudic concept of the ‘Wisdom of Greek (Ḥoḵmaṯ Yewānīṯ)’; the Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement, and notably how the ‘philosopher of the Arabs’, al-Kindī, established philosophy in the Arabo-Islamic tradition; Maimonides’ work on medicine and speculative theology, showing the continuities between Alexandria in antiquity and the medieval world on the different shores of the Mediterranean; the interest in Greek and Latin at the Ottoman court; and the importance of classical studies for the development of Islam’s modernity.
A very fundamental fact about African religions is that they are not institutional religions. They do not have an organization that one becomes a member of upon converting or being converted to the religion. Such an organization has a hierarchy of officials in charge of the propagation of a certain metaphysic and the promotion of virtue. One has to accept certain doctrines before qualifying to be a member of such a religion. If the religion is a God-oriented one, then a most important duty of the officialdom will be to arrange regular sessions of God worship. This article describes the traditional religion of Africa and then reflects on specific issues of religious diversity with respect to this traditional religion. It also focuses on God as creator and the problem of evil, African religion and Christianity, religious pluralism, and religious exclusivism.
Although there existed no real millennial text prior to late Jewish and early Christian texts, there exists an overabundance of resources that heavily draw on millennial texts. This article deals with the “Apocrypha” or the Hebrew Bible, which is wrought with apocalyptic literature. Similar literature is also to be found in Mesopotamian scriptures, a string of texts known as the “Akkadian Prophecies”. Ancient Zoroastrian texts, predating both Jewish and Christian counterparts, too seem to have substantial pre-millennial texts, similar in subjective elements such as an unhappy end of time with subsequent salvation, resurrection, personified angels etc. The common factors between these texts are: they commonly draw on general crisis contexts and most immediate and obvious hurdles in projecting the evils of the world; secondly, the geographical origins of these texts were unified by the common factor of their unequivocal resistance to Hellenic expansionism, something that figures prominently in the subjective interpretation of these texts.
This article looks at the impact of ancient Near Eastern studies on biblical scholarship. Before 1800, no accurate first-hand knowledge of Egypt's ancient remains was available to compare with biblical mentions of that land and its ancient civilization. During the nineteenth century, detailed pioneering exploration of Egypt and Nubia led to extensive recording and major publications of the visible monuments and inscriptions, while decipherment of ancient Egypt's hieroglyphic and other scripts, along with their language, finally opened the way towards recovering three millennia of history, literature, and social organization, including religious belief and practice.
W. G. Lambert
This article discusses the impact of ancient Near Eastern studies on biblical scholarship, focusing on written remains of all kinds. Ancient Mesopotamia has yielded tens of thousands of clay tablets with cuneiform inscriptions, apart from monumental stone inscriptions and inscriptions on other media. Palestine and Syria, by contrast, have yielded comparatively little inscriptional material, partly because much was written on papyrus and leather, which has not survived, partly because they were less rich than their Mesopotamian neighbours and so produced less written material.
This chapter traces the Anglican commitment to, and involvement in, the ecumenical movement from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, particularly as reflected in resolutions of successive Lambeth Conferences from 1867 to 2008. It highlights the classic statement of the Anglican ecumenical vision given by the 1920 Lambeth Conference, centred on the Lambeth Quadrilateral, and the Appeal to All Christian People that the Conference issued. It considers various ecumenical developments with Anglican participation in the 1940s and 1950s and records major doctrinal agreements reached in bilateral and multilateral dialogues particularly from the 1970s onwards, as well as new stages of closer communion entered into with a number of ecumenical partners at regional levels. Increasingly, a commitment to an ecumenism of action is becoming a dominant feature of today’s ecumenical movement, although doctrinal conversations continue to search for the agreement in faith that is required and sufficient for visible unity.
This chapter offers a working definition of the apocalyptic, followed by some of the apocalyptic's most important constituent components. Then, it concentrates on associations between these components and violence, illuminating how structures of the apocalyptic can be deployed to serve violent ends. Apocalyptic texts and movements alike demonstrate a tendency to split the world and its contents into absolute good and absolute evil. Dualistic thinking has been noted by many scholars as a quintessential element of religious violence. Furthermore, the chapter examines three interrelated processes connected to duality that aid in the transformation of apocalyptic thinking into violence against others. Apocalyptic duality is deepened through a sense of temporality that envisions all of time having led up to the unique moment in history in which only the elect exclusively possess the truth. Duality and utopia coalesce as motive forces for foreign intervention to “free” those who are “oppressed.”
This essay aims to explain what Aquinas does and does not mean when using the word ‘God’. It also tries to explain why Aquinas thinks it reasonable to conclude that God exists and how Aquinas can be compared and contrasted with certain thinkers both agreeing and disagreeing with this conclusion. The essay places emphasis on Aquinas’s notion of esse and on the fact that he consistently asserts that we do not know what God is.
Michael A. Sells
This chapter, which looks at the actual or alleged cases of apocalypticism within contemporary Iranian Shi'ite, Saudi Sunni, and American Christian circles, evaluates the issue of contemporary militant apocalypticism, emphasizing the competition between its American Christian and Islamic versions. The hadith collections present contradictory reports regarding the end-time struggle between the Messiah Jesus and Dajjal. Militant near-term apocalypticism summons the power of religion, imagination, and personal conviction against any serious peace endeavor; demonizes those who work toward such endeavors; and sanctifies those who, once the tribulation or endtimes conflict is underway, kill the peacemakers. The apocalyptic messianism of American dispensationalists, and of the Salafi Sunni figures Safar al-Hawali and Ali al-Timimi, feature scenarios of Middle Eastern and global carnage ending with messianic triumph and theologically grounded rejection of Middle East peacemaking.
Scott W. Sunquist
Asian ecumenism began as a pragmatic concern of Western mission agencies, but was catalysed under the pressure of Japanese imperialism early in the twentieth century. National ecumenical organizations were promoted in the wake of the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, but with the dismantling of imperialism in Asia after the Pacific War, national and regional cooperation became the sole work of younger Asian leaders. Organic church unions occurred between the 1930s and 1960s, but this has not been a major theme of ecumenism in Asia. China is unique in the ecumenical movement in Asia because of the formation of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement as a way to negotiate a new place for the church in Chinese society. Ecumenism has once again become more pragmatic, and major ecumenical bodies (e.g. the Christian Conference of Asia) have become more focused on issues such as public health, disaster relief, and the environment.
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all claim that God has given humans a revelation. Divine revelation may be either of God, or by God of propositional truth. Traditionally Christianity has claimed that the Christian revelation has involved both of these. God revealed himself in his acts in history; for example in the miracles by which he preserved the people of ancient Israel, and above all by becoming incarnate (that is human) as Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead. And God also revealed to us propositional truths by the teaching of Jesus and his church. Some modern theologians have denied that Christianity involves any propositional revelation, but there can be little doubt that from the second century until the eighteenth century, Christians and non-Christians were virtually unanimous in supposing that it claimed to have such a revelation, and so it is worthwhile investigating its traditional claim. This article is concerned with the Christian claim to have a propositional revelation. The first section describes the process by which Christians of past centuries have come to believe that certain propositions have been revealed. The second assesses alternative philosophical accounts of what constitutes a belief that such-and-such propositions have been revealed, being a ‘justified’ belief (or a ‘warranted’ or ‘rational’ one).
The concept of avertive apocalypticism describes a wide range of beliefs that predict imminent worldly destruction and maintains that apocalypse may be averted or forestalled if believers engage in specific spiritual or ritual actions. This article represents the survivalist strain in millennialism, believing in earthly deliberations, and history as pre-ordained, beyond human control and subject to divine will. Salvation from the impending apocalypse is to be delivered by some divine entity that involves enduring by divine messianic preaching. The ideas range from apparitions to planetary escape on exploration of UFOs to employ collective psychic efforts, through mass prayers and to avert imminent destruction. This article focuses on selected contemporary expressions of spiritual avertive beliefs and practices. The concept of avertive apocalypticism upholds human agency and free will. Failure of the apocalypse predictions is pitched as post-facto triumph. The continued analysis of the dynamics of such ideas is crucial for an expanded understanding of the complexity and enduring appeal of apocalyptic and millennial thought and practice.
Susan K. Wood SCL
This chapter surveys commonalities and divergences with regard to the theology and practice of baptism that are reflected in the World Council of Churches convergence document on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, and considers in particular the Anabaptist, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Quaker, and Reformed traditions. Major topics treated include: the role of faith with regard to baptism, interconnections between baptism, faith, and justification; the relationship between baptism and patterns of initiation in various traditions; and elements of the ancient catechumenate in contemporary rites. The chapter argues that in the expansive theology of baptism in the catechumenal tradition baptism is understood to be transformative and regenerative, eucharistic in orientation and meaning, eschatological in orientation, and ecclesial in context. The chapter finally summarizes the achievements of ecumenical dialogue and identifies remaining issues.
Steven R. Harmon
While the Baptist tradition has not always been associated with ecumenical engagement in the minds of its observers or of Baptists themselves, this chapter highlights the overt and implicit ecumenical commitments that historically have marked this free church tradition. These include the congregational interdependence that is a dimension of Baptist ecclesiology, Baptist participation in the institutions of the modern ecumenical movement, Baptist participation in formal ecumenical dialogue, Baptist involvement in church union discussions, and the manner in which the Baptist tradition has received various aspects of other Christian traditions. The chapter proposes that the paradigm of receptive ecumenism reframes Baptist identity as being more ecumenically open than previously appreciated and has the potential to encourage new forms of Baptist contribution to ecumenical convergence.
The chapter traces the history of bilateral dialogues and considers the experience and results of dialogue. It discusses the particular nature of bilateral dialogues in contrast with multilateral ecumenism, and the goals of such dialogue, which take different forms, e.g. identifying differences and achieving agreements, removing mistrust and beginning a mutual acquaintance, and the ‘reconciliation of memories’, depending on the partners involved. Attention is given to various problems of bilateral dialogues, for example, their correspondence with the actual reality of the churches involved, the coherence between multiple dialogues in which a given church may be involved, the reception of their results, and their effectiveness in changing perspectives. Reception is required not just at the level of church leadership, but also in the everyday lives of the churches, where bilateral dialogues are nowadays often perceived as being far removed from the life of local congregations.
This chapter begins by noting the contribution of British ecumenists to the ecumenical movement and then proceeds to survey the ecumenical scene in Britain and Ireland against the political and constitutional background of the United Kingdom—comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—and the separate jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland. It notes the favourable ecumenical climate in England and Wales and goes on to outline local ecumenical relationships, including Local Ecumenical Partnerships, the ecumenical instruments for each nation and for all four, and various forms of cooperation at the national level. The chapter then turns to examples of theological dialogue, proposals for closer unity, and the problems of their reception and implementation, with a particular focus on the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.
The article examines evidence for characteristic Buddhist positions regarding the nature and soteriological status of deities. It establishes that deities are but one of several classes of transient entities that need spiritual guidance and argues that by accepting the existence of such entities Buddhism is, according to the operating definition of the volume, a theistic tradition. It also shows that, whereas later Buddhist thinkers developed sophisticated critiques of concepts of a universal God developed within Indian Hindu tradition and are committed to a strongly atheist stance, texts representing early Buddhism tend to be epistemologically cautious rather than directly atheist. This is picture is explored through the exposition of verses from Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra and supplemented by reference to suttas and jātakas from the Pali canon. Finally, it dismisses a quasi-theistic interpretation of some aspects of Buddhist traditions.
In addition to summarizing key concerns in Theravāda Buddhist Economics by scholars such as E. F. Schumacher and the Thai monk Payutto, this essay explores how descriptions of the West, Western development, and the “science” of economics serves in that literature to construct Occidentalist versions of Southeast Asian traditionalism and religious orthodoxy. It then introduces the previously unstudied work of Shérab Tendar, a prominent Tibetan Buddhist scholar in the contemporary People’s Republic of China who has written prodigiously on what he considers to be a scripturally based Mahāyāna and Tantric Buddhist Economics. Comparing these three influential iterations of Buddhist Economics, this essay argues that this movement has less to do with economics proper than with what I call trans-Buddhist “scales of value”: site-specific desires and measures of sought after outcomes that here privilege the economy and economic behavior as a technique for individual, social, and environmental well-being and emancipation.
This article examines Buddhist views about intrareligious and interreligious diversity. For a Buddhist, religious others can be Buddhists of other sects and schools, as well as those aligned to religions external to Buddhism. There is a common view of Buddhism as tolerant, non-dogmatic, and willing to embrace religious diversity. There are Buddhist examples of religious exclusivism and inclusivism. Largely in recent times, there have also been tendencies toward pluralism. Buddhist attitudes toward Christianity have often been affected by the experience of colonialism and Christian missionary zeal. Recently, however, there has been a particularly strong interreligious dialogue between Buddhists and Christians. Both Masao Abe and Thich Nhat Hanh focus on the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity, but the latter is a prominent example of a tendency among some recent Buddhists to assert the rhetoric of religious pluralism, in which religions are regarded as equal, while interpreting non-Buddhist religions in a manner that imposes Buddhist concepts on them.
T. J. Mawson
This essay begins by remarking that the broad understanding of atheism (‘absence of belief in a God or gods’) is not a position that theism per se commits one to claiming is unreasonable. The essay then, however, proceeds to present an argument against atheism being reasonable. This constitutes a variant of the fine-tuning version of the Design Argument, and contends that both the universe’s fine-tuning to us, and our fine-tuning to the universe, are better explained by the ‘God hypothesis’ than by a range of alternatives (including the ‘maximal multiverse hypothesis’). While admitting that there is no single ‘killer argument’ against atheism, the essay argues that a persuasive, cumulative case for the God hypothesis—with cosmic fine-tuning as its strongest suit—can nevertheless be constructed.