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.
Modern studies of the miḥna have focused on al-Ma’mun’s claim to spiritual authority. Basing itself on Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s interrogations and al-Ma’mun’s miḥna letters, this study focuses on a different aspect, the clash between the muḥaddithūn and the mutakallimūn. Decades before the miḥna erupted these trends debated several religious issues, primarily, whether theological speculations could attain the authoritative status of tenets of faith. Due to this controversy the muḥaddithūn denied the mutakallimūn the status of reliable scholars of hadith and law. The miḥna was a reaction to the muḥaddithūn’s hounding of the mutakallimūn. It was initiated by al-Ma’mun, who decided to interrogate all jurists and scholars of hadith about the createdness of the Qur’ān. The purpose of this policy was to degrade the muḥaddithūn and to raise the mutakallimūn to the position of intellectual and religious leadership.
This article analyzes the five main themes emerging from the thought of Iranian political activist and intellectual `Ali Shari`ati (1933–1977). These are (1) history as a dialectical process, (2) the individual as a responsible actor who has the obligation to seek truth on his own and act to uphold it, (3) Shi`ism’s true mission as the liberation of the human being, (4) the ` ulama’ ’s claimed monopoly in regard to the interpretation and enunciation of the law as a certain recipe for injustice, and (5) contemporary international relations as a system that secures the domination of interventionist great powers pursuing their interests.
This chapter explores a plurivocity in the meaning(s) of reason and analogy, and suggests a vocation for analogy if it is to redeem its plurivocal promise. Reason is understood differently depending on which sense of being is in the ascendant. If univocity is in the ascendant, as in modern rationalism, a philosophical and theological feel for what analogy means tends to be weakened. If equivocity comes back, reason goes to school with finesse and is more attentive to figurations of being that elude precise determinations and is more hospitable to the analogical way. Analogy is explored in modern rationalism and empiricism, in Kant’s critical reason, in Hegel’s speculative reason, and in a number of post-dialectical forms. Finally, the chapter suggests there is something metaxological about analogy in trying to be true to the between-space of communication between the finite and the divine.
Most analytic philosophers are atheists, but is there a deep connection between analytic philosophy and atheism? The paper argues (a) that the founding fathers of analytic philosophy were mostly teenage atheists before they became philosophers; (b) that analytic philosophy was invented partly because it was realized that the God-substitute provided by the previously fashionable philosophy—Absolute Idealism—could not cut the spiritual mustard; (c) that analytic philosophy developed an unhealthy obsession with meaninglessness which led to a new kind of atheism that dismissed talk of God as factually meaningless (neither true nor false) rather than meaningful but false; but (d) that this new-fangled atheism (unlike the old-fashioned atheism of the founders) is false, since it relies on theories of meaning—verificationism and falsificationism—which are themselves false. The primary focus is on Bertrand Russell, though other analytic philosophers such as Ayer, Neurath and Flew are also extensively discussed.
James D. Tabor
This article focuses on ancient Jewish and early Christian millennialism, which are found to be intrinsically inconsistent—there are no specific pointers towards marking the end of time; messianic figures appear in some texts and not in others; and God is humanized in some while others are exclusively emphatic on the transcendental paradigm. It makes the whole millennialist gamut essentially subjective. The groundwork was laid by the pre-Hellenic invasions of Israel and the context for the emergence of Jewish millennialism was provided by the widespread suppression under Greek emperor Antiochus. This article demonstrates that from the second and third centuries onwards, the trend increasingly tended from literal expressions towards symbolic subjective millennialism, to the extent that the former was considered inferior.
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 analyzes the character of Christian love in Agape and Eros. It considers some major themes on their own terms and whether those terms can bear the fullness of the Gospel vision to which Nygren would be faithful, in an effort to bring forth something of the power and the limits of this classic in Christian ethics. It is argued that agapē generally includes a self-concerned but non-egocentric desire for loving relation with another, for its own sake; that God's love for the sinner in her real individuality is also for a beloved child who lives in Christ and is called as such to participate in the divine life; that this participation may be an object of non-possessive desire fully encompassed by God's gracious mercy and power; and that the sinner as real covenant partner may respond out of that desire in self-giving love for God that corresponds to her God-given nature and thus to her good.
Newman is widely recognized as the greatest preacher in nineteenth-century England, and his Parochial and Plain Sermons as one of the ‘Classics of Western Spirituality’. But although individual sermons have been quarried for the light they throw on Newman’s own religious and intellectual development, studies of the sermons as a whole have tended to treat them a-historically, as an homogenous body of spiritual teaching. Both Newman’s own contemporaries and most subsequent interpreters have assumed or insisted on the allegedly timeless, non-controversial, and universal appeal of his preaching. This chapter, drawing both on the Parochial Sermons and on the large body of Anglican sermons which Newman left unpublished in his lifetime, questions such readings. It seeks to characterize the nine collections of sermons Newman published between 1834 and 1843, and to replace them within their specific contexts in Newman’s own life, and in the unfolding of the Tractarian Movement.
The Anglican reception of Newman was coloured for at least the fifty years following his death by the sense of loss, even betrayal, consequent upon his move to the Roman Catholic Church and his disillusionment with the Via Media ecclesiology of a ‘reformed Catholicism’ that he had advocated as an Anglican. Nevertheless there were those, such as the Anglo-Catholic Lord Halifax, who continued to find inspiration in Newman. Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI both responded positively to his writings, and the shift in ecumenical attitudes in Vatican II brought a renewed Anglican appreciation of him, particularly in the acceptance of the development of doctrine. Appreciation was especially shown in Anglican evaluations on the centenary of Newman’s death, though sometimes mixed with criticism.
The chapter focuses on the nature and character of Anglican wisdom, exploring this in the context of church structures, tradition, and truth. Drawing on a variety of different examples and contrasting wisdom with folly, it argues that, historically and in the present time, Anglican wisdom is rooted in its capacity, in the presence of God, to acknowledge and hold the complexity and contradictions of human life in all its fullness. Lacking the authority structures required to give a single definitive Anglican view on any given subject, wisdom in the churches of the Anglican Communion continues to emerge through an ongoing, collective, often fraught act of listening to God.