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.
This chapter discusses the fact that both Origen and the Rabbis grappled with the epistemological status of interpretations of a divinely ordained text. Behind the author’s comparativist approach is the conviction that when common questions originate in a shared intellectual milieu the differences in resolutions reveals the differences in their deeper structure. For Origen, the ‘ontotheological structure of Scripture’ is the Incarnation. The epistemological grounding, for Origen, is that the Logos taught in the flesh, so bridging the ontological gap between the noetic and corporal. The Rabbis’ theory of divine polysemy or indeterminacy, in contrast, leads to a rejection of the mediation between God and Word to guard multiplicity of meanings from any foreclosure.
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.
The three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) have a varied religious history. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, they were the last region of Europe to be Christianized. Today, they—and especially Estonia—are among the most secularized societies in the world. This is not only due to the Soviet past but also to Baltic German dominance at key moments in their history. While Lutheranism has dominated in the north (in Estonia and Latvia), the Roman Catholic Church is still the main religious player in the south (in Lithuania and parts of Latvia). Primarily due to Russian migration, the Orthodox Church also plays a significant role in Baltic affairs. There is, finally, a small but vibrant cluster of new religious movements, notably neo-pagan groups.
Bonaventure, known as the ‘Seraphic Doctor’, has been described as ‘the most Dionysian mind of the Middle Ages’. Believing Dionysius to have been taught by Paul himself, he regarded him as the supreme authority on contemplation, and the Dionysian vision of creation as the ecstatic outpouring of divine eros and its return to God through hierarchically mediated reciprocal ecstasy was well suited to his desire to forge a distinctive Franciscan theological and spiritual synthesis centred on the ecstatic person of St Francis. He had access to various translations of the Dionysian corpus including one of unknown authorship possessed, and considered authoritative, by the first Franciscan school. This essay argues that, like Eriugena and Gallus, he reads Dionysius correctly rather than eisegetically in assigning an anagogical role to eros. Dionysian elements are present in every aspect of Bonaventure’s thought and at every stage of his career, and by way of illustration, this essay refers to six key texts whose subject matter ranges from exegesis and systematic theology to ecclesiology and spirituality.
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 a variety of dysfunctional consequences of employing modern nation-states as the default organizing category for Buddhist studies regardless of the period being studied. Two of these consequences are directly related to one another: conflating contemporary nation-states with religious cultures, and equating religious and ethnic identities. Additionally, the organizing category tends to privilege 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 constrained within the boundaries of nation-states, and the continuity of Buddhist traditions that cross nation-state boundaries is obscured. At the same time 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.
This essay explores the reception of the Dionysian corpus within the climate of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Western culture and its subsequent interpretation in the development of the affective spirituality that will form the basis of the late medieval theologia mystica. As such it spans the period between the Victorine interpretations in the Parisian schools of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and anticipates the development of late medieval/early Renaissance affective spirituality in the West. To this end the chapter concentrates on the reception and subsequent interpretation of the corpus in two key sets of texts: the anonymous work of the English author of the Cloud of Unknowing and that of the Carthusian writer, Hugh of Balma, in particular his Viae Lugent Sion. In considering these two sets of texts the chapter explores the development of what has been termed ‘affective Dionysianism’ and concludes with a short footnote on how this will subsequently feed into the development of early modern affective spirituality.
Robert S. Pelton C.S.C.
Before Vatican II, pastoral theology reflected a clear distinction between the ordained and non-ordained members of the Church, but a gradual nuancing of this issue was taking place in Latin America as early as the 1950s. In those areas, there had been rather intensive study of “modern” European theologians. Through their writings and pastoral visits to the region of America, these progressive European theologians began to strongly influence Latin American theology —especially in Chile and Brazil. This influence was shown through the beginnings of small Christian communities, and through an emphasis on doing “contextual” theology. This is a theology that emphasizes the experiential in the light of tradition, which eventually led to Latin American liberation theology. The Church of Latin America has long been a leader in innovations that incorporate the role of Scripture in everyday life: the preferential and evangelizing option for the poor, small Christian communities (also known as CEBs or BECs), lay apostolates and lay missionaries, and other endeavors to put the Church at service to the People of God. “Laying boots on the ground” has become truly essential to carrying out the Church’s mission in the world and pastoral ambience contributes strongly to this growing appreciation of the Catholic laity. Combined with the importance of theologically reflecting within the context of regional realities, this approach can provide hope for a challenged but youthful and vibrant Catholic Church of Latin America.
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.
Árpád von Klimó
Central Europe is still imagined as an area dominated by Christianity, for the most part the Catholic Church, in close alliance with Christian rulers who minimized the impact of both the Protestant Reformation and minorities such as Judaism. This idea rests, however, on an oversimplified picture of the religious history of the region. Recent research has shown that the reality was more complex, and that historians still know very little about what the overwhelming majority of people believed or how they practised their religion. Christianity has never completely monopolized the religious landscape of Central Europe and has itself been constantly changing. The history of Christianization, Reformation, empires, and nationalism present in Central Europe as well as state socialism, the Cold War and today’s relative pluralism give an idea of this complexity.
The first section of this essay surveys the biblical roots of apophaticism, verifying Philo’s claim to be one of the first precursors of Dionysius. The second section offers examples of Gnostic speculation which pre-empted the Neoplatonists in denying to the first principle not only the properties of corporeal entities but the negations of those properties. By contrast, the apologists and theologians surveyed in the third section seldom arrive at this negation of negation, with the exception of Clement, a conscious successor to Philo. The fourth section argues that the Cappadocian ascription to God of an essence superior to all predication is in part a polemical construct against the opponents whom they styled ‘Arian’, their discourse being therefore limited to the metaphysical description of God. The conclusion points out that the great originality of Dionysius lies in his inculcation of liturgical activity as the necessary complement to, and compensation for, our inability to form an adequate conception of God.
Kees van Kersbergen
Christian democracy is the heir to the Catholic confessional parties that emerged in the late nineteenth century. It is a Western European phenomenon promoting a particular social policy, aimed at the moderation of social conflicts especially between social classes. With a distinctive ideology and by appealing to religion and religious values, Christian democracy became broadly attractive to all sections of the electorate. Christian democracy was also a key driver of international cooperation and integration, and particularly influential in the formation of the European Union. Yet the overall picture of Christian democratic parties in recent decades has been one of decline. Secularization plays an obvious role here. That said, there is still some room for political movements to respond actively and strategically to changes in their environment. The chapter concludes by discussing some future options for these parties.
Stephen R. L. Clark
Frank Turner SJ
This chapter describes the work of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), its evolving relationship with central institutions of the European Union, and with its partners in the Catholic world. The chapter then considers particular challenges, both intrinsic (arising from the character of COMECE itself) and extrinsic (focusing on those entailed by the EU’s culture of secularity). For example, the Treaty of Lisbon assures religious organizations, like non-religious ones, both access to and dialogue with EU institutions. COMECE’s advocacy, however, is necessarily grounded in Catholic beliefs and principles, in particular those of Catholic social thought. Such foundational principles cannot be coherently articulated in the language of secularity alone.
This chapter outlines the history and work of the Conference of European Churches (CEC). CEC was founded in the middle of the Cold War in a divided Europe as an instrument promoting dialogue, bridge-building, cooperation, and ecumenical fellowship between churches of Anglican, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions. From its inception, CEC has promoted values of peace, reconciliation, justice, solidarity, and human dignity, and has been engaged in the building of trust and a sense of community in Europe. Through fostering the active engagement of churches in society, CEC has contributed to the discussion on European values and the future of the European project. The final section of the chapter elaborates on the theological foundations framing the churches’ action for justice and the common good. Such pursuits are central to the theological principles underpinning a healthy society.
This essay examines the content of the Dionysian Corpus in order to demonstrate the unity of its two fundamental characters: Christian and Neoplatonic. The essay takes as its cornerstone the Neoplatonic, metaphysical cycle of causality, in its Proclean form, using it to show how Dionysius the Areopagite uses it to interpret the hierarchical vision of reality which he finds in Holy Scripture and in the organization of the Church. It shows that Dionysius is consistent in his description of Jesus Christ as the source and driver of this cycle and in his presentation of it throughout the treatises which comprise the corpus. In this way, it shows that Dionysius regards Neoplatonic philosophy, at least as much of it as he appropriates, can be put to use as the handmaiden of Christian revelation.
Bernhard Neuschäfer’s Origene als Philologe remains an influential reference point in the study of Origen. Neuschäfer builds on understudied observations regarding Origen’s philological skills. Along with Ilsetraut Hadot’s 1987 study, Neuschäfer’s work provides additional evidence for Origen’s works as the earliest surviving texts that applied known Greco-Roman textual commentary prologue genre analysis. Neuschäfer demonstrates how Origen, in his exegesis of biblical books and passages, integrates his Christian beliefs with his commitment to meeting the standards of critical philological analysis from Stoic and classical Greek scholars. This chapter provides a synthesis of Neuschäfer’s insights and lasting contributions through subsequent studies on Origen.