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.
The friendship between Abraham Joshua Heschel and Reinhold Niebuhr was both personal and intellectual. Neighbours on the Upper West Side of New York City, they walked together in Riverside park and shared personal concerns in private letters; Niebuhr asked Heschel to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. They were bound by shared religious sensibilities as well, including their love of the Hebrew Bible, the irony they saw in American history and in the writings of the Hebrew prophets, and in their commitment to social justice as a duty to God. Heschel arrived in the public sphere later, as a public intellectual with a prophetic voice, much as Niebuhr had been for many decades prior. Niebuhr’s affirmation of the affinities between his and Heschel’s theological scholarship pays tribute to an extraordinary friendship of Protestant and Jew.
Richard J. Mouw
Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism make available in printed form his 1898 Stone Lectures delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary, locating ‘Calvinism’ amongst other major philosophies and religions. Given the erroneous manner in which each of these other world-views—Paganism, Islamism, Romanism and Modernism—depict the fundamental relationship between God and the world, they cannot help but fall far short in their understandings of the other two basic relationships: between human and human, and between humankind and the rest of created reality. Calvinism alone, then, with its conception of human life as lived directly (in an unmediated manner) in the presence of God, can preserve the all-important conviction that all of human life, including the relationships of human beings to the non-human creation, be carried out in obedience to the Creator who desires the flourishing of the whole creation.
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.
William Dyrness and Christi Wells
Edwards’s aesthetics grounded in the ongoing work of God communicated in creation, not only lies at the centre of his thought but is increasingly recognized as one of his most original contributions to theology. Edwards’s reflection on God’s beauty emerged in the context of his work as a pastor, which allowed him to frame God’s dynamic presence in dramatic and multi-sensory categories. For Edwards Beauty glimpsed in the form of images formed in the mind reflects a consent of being; the visual beauty of symmetry and proportion is meant to move the heart to consent to the will of God reflected in creation—what Edwards calls respectively secondary and primary beauty. All creatures are types and shadows of spiritual realities; beauty and morality are linked, though only the Holy Spirit allows believers to consent to God’s self-disclosure in creation. Edwards’s neo-platonic framework allowed his reflections on the revivals to affirm physical beauty while subordinating its meaning to the spiritual, enhancing its role as revelation but diminishing its value as an end in itself.
Frank Burch Brown
Adriaan C. Neele
Jonathan Edwards’s attention to Africa cannot go unnoticed, as articulated in his A History of the Work of Redemption. Less attention, however, has been given to the reception of Edwards’s works in Africa. This absence in Edwardsean research is remarkable, as many of his works have been reprinted, translated, and published from the eighteenth century onwards, particularly by those who had a vested interest in missionary movements and societies labouring throughout Africa. In fact, the reception of Edwards’s thought in Africa is primarily through the work of nineteenth-century missionaries and missionary societies—willing or unwilling participants of the colonial European expansion in Africa. Several of his works translated into Arabic, Dutch, English, French, and German found their way from Cairo to Cape Town. This chapter, then, is a preliminary overview from North Africa to Southern Africa of the distribution, use, and appropriation of some of Edwards’s works throughout the continent.
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.
Francesca Aran Murphy
This Afterword attempts to summarize the main ways of interpreting revelation in this book. One group takes ‘revelation’ as a term which describes revelation as something which a group of people ‘believe’ happened, where this belief shapes the religiosity of the group. A second way of interpreting revelation sees it as actually given to the group from beyond itself, but as also expressive of a society. Thirdly, we find philosophical interpretations of revelation, as the self-disclosure of a reality or being which transcends individuals and social groups, but where reason rather than faith is pivotal in receiving the revelation. Fourthly, revelation is interpreted theologically, as the objective disclosure of a transcendent reality which can only be received in faith. It is claimed that the first three frameworks for understanding revelation depend upon the fourth, since it grounds their otherwise circular assumptions, such as the receptiveness of the human mind or the self-giving quality of being.
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 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.
Heather A. Warren
Reinhold Niebuhr’s ability to analyse the most fundamental aspects of human existence and reckon with them on the grandest scale has remained relevant for American foreign policy since the 1930s. In the contexts of the interwar years, the Second World War, the immediate post-war world, and the Cold War, Niebuhr called attention to the importance of justice, pride, national interest, and prudence in deliberations about the United States’ responsibilities in an interdependent world that faced the menace of communism. The Irony of American History (1952) was his extended examination of America in the new international system, and it included recommendations to guide the making of American foreign policy. Niebuhr’s principles provide insight into US successes and failures in the Vietnam, Bosnian, and Gulf Wars.
J. Blake Couey
This essay engages various interpretations of Amos. Amos has conventionally been regarded as a paradigmatic prophet in scholarly and popular imagination, but recent scholarship has raised new questions and proposed alternative approaches to the book. Literary analysis highlights its sophistication as a work of prophetic poetry and its destabilizing effects on readers. Historical-critical inquiries are marked by increasing skepticism about reconstructions of Amos’s biography and background, and redactional studies now emphasize the book’s development as a literary composition for Judahite audiences. Ideological critiques challenge the straightforward acceptance of the book’s claims about justice and its cultic polemics, even as that rhetoric continues to appeal to readers in diverse global contexts. Ecological approaches illuminate new ways that the book resonates with contemporary concerns about environmental exploitation and the value of the nonhuman world.