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 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.
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.
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.
Eugene V. Gallagher
Catastrophic millennialism emanates from a deep pessimism towards society, history, and general humanity. This article develops an analysis of the basic descriptive vocabulary of catastrophic millennialism from the examination of a pair of texts from Late Antiquity. It simultaneously emphasizes a catastrophic end to life as we know it and “a heaven on earth”, the new coming of humanity, following the cleansing. The article also states that predictions of the apocalypse always combine certain general but instrumental factors that invariably strengthen the conflict. This article shows how a group of contemporary millennialist movements have used the basic tropes of catastrophic millennialism to create their own distinctive apocalyptic messages. It highlights how these groups differ in their assessments of why the world will soon be destroyed, precisely how it will happen, who will accomplish that destruction, when and where it will happen, and, especially, what their faithful followers must do in the meantime.
Wesley J. Wildman
David Bentley Hart
The ancient injunction memento mori—whispered by a slave into the ear of a victorious general in his triumphal chariot or by a monk to his own heart in the solitude of his cell—has frequently been translated as “remember that thou art mortal,” which may be faithful to the phrase's special hortatory import; but the literal meaning of the injunction is “remember to die.” However, we cannot easily remember to die because death runs contrary to the whole orientation of human consciousness. In Christian thought sacrifice and judgment, life from death, and the life of the age to come converge in a way that radically transforms them. Indeed, one might even say that, on the cross of Christ, two distinct orders of sacrifice uniquely coincide and that at Easter one order triumphs completely over the other. This article discusses death, final judgment, and the meaning of life. It examines religion and meaning without an afterlife, the reorientation of religious consciousness, and the radical transformation of judgment in light of Easter.
This article discusses three recurring themes that can be identified from the midst of global millennialism, namely Sacred time—the categorization of history into religiously relevant holy phases; sacred geography—physical locations of great religious relevance, with Mount Zion and Jerusalem at the apex; and lastly sacred commonwealth—an ideal, transcendental state, divinely ruled, by angels or messiahs with divine mandate. The 7,000-year period or “the seventy weeks of year”, at the end of which the salvation would occur, forms the basis of the sacred time. The Islamic conquest of Iberia and the subsequent purging of Christians, Jews, and heterodox Islam put that place in the list of sacred locales. It also gained relevance by facilitating comparative dialogue among the Judaic religions. This article reveals that in Europe, the Taborites under Jan Hus and the Florentine Republic under Girolamo Savonarola, were prominent instances of sacred commonwealth while the 600-year Caliphate resembled the same for Islam.
Melissa M. Wilcox
This article deals with the issues of gender and sexuality in millennial movements. Patriarchy pervades across the spectrum, varieties range from reversal of normative gender based divisions of labor, to anti-abortion drives, to a renouncement of the original sin (sexual intercourse) and others. Convinced at a gross degeneration of the divinely ordained ways, various strains proposed practice of “free love”. Differential interpretations of scriptures evoke different responses to the same elements. While raising a woman to the level of a messiah, generating obedience from men and women alike, and throwing a protectionist cordon around the woman, may seem overtly empowering, with the woman shrouded in false consciousness, becoming party to the abetment of patriarchy. This article sites an instance of white and colored racial supremacists, two extremes of the same spectrum, having in common the same patriarchal subjective notion of women and their role.
Over the course of 3000 years, Hindu intellectual culture has not only embraced differing notions of the divine, but also a variety of different ‘atheisms’—the most famous of these being the Carvaka, or Lokayata, school. This essay charts the history of Hindu ‘atheism’ in the various forms it has taken from the classical to modern periods, including scepticism regarding the supernatural, the soul and an afterlife, non-theistic approaches to divinity, and critical or subversive responses to religion. It also engages with and explains a number of key ideas within Hindu thought and practice, including Dharma and personalism. Finally it outlines a ‘Hindu axis of atheism’ by highlighting some of the key themes on which Indian critiques have centred.
Jains dismiss as delusional the belief in a grace-bestowing creator God, yet approach each day reverentially and prayerfully. This seeming paradox is explored, arguing that Jainism’s refusal to treat human life as the only form of conscious, rational life underpins its rejection of a transcosmic God. The meaningful cosmos in Jainism is filled with conscious, intentional beings, some identified as gods, and all of whom are situated within the same existential trajectory seeking release. This essay ponders the diverse understandings of ‘God’ that we find in Jainism and seeks to elucidate this ancient devotional structure, which rests upon, not a creator God, but a meaningful cosmos.
Robert Pearson Flaherty
This article examines some of the main contributors to millennialism in a Korean context. The Korean millennial legacy is a synthesis of diverse influences such as Buddhism, Christianity, and various new-age religions based on pre-Christian Korean myths. These, coupled with various movements of discontent emerging from confusion in the society, have found expression in millennialist movements. This article states that Korean Buddhism believes the Maitreya to have been born to a Brahmin in Varanasi and a disciple of the first Buddha, Shakyamuni. The Donghak revolution (1894) was based on certain millennial assumptions. This article discusses the words of its founder Choe Je-u about the arrival of the “SangJe”, the Jade ruler of the universe to salvage the world. The religion finally revolted against Japanese imperialists and the Korean royalty. Korean Christianity drew heavily from the concept of the pre-tribulation rapture of the chosen ones.
Luther learned theology within the context of tensions between and synthesizing of medieval schools of thought, loosely defined philosophically as nominalism and realism. He engaged especially principles from nominalist teachers, adapting, transforming, and criticizing elements of this form of scholastic theology. Particularly the understanding of God’s grace and the role of human salvation propagated by his teachers’ teacher, Gabriel Biel, and also Pierre d’Ailly earned Luther’s critique. Luther demonstrated his use of and engagement with Scholastic thinkers in developing his own understanding of the bound will, Christology, motion, and the Lord’s Supper. Luther rejected theories of double truth.
Luther regarded both Jews and Turks, like adherents of the papacy, as embodiments of works-righteousness and thus hostile to the gospel of Christ. Intensive research has treated his attitudes towards both in recent decades. His openness to Jews who converted to the Christian faith did not extend to those who rejected Christ’s divinity and saving work. His criticism of Jews particularly aimed at rabbinic exegesis. His inexcusable expressions against Jews cannot be defended even if they reflected common values of European culture of the time. He regarded the Turk as ‘God’s rod’ to call Christendom to repentance and sometimes praised their moral practices but more often criticized such practices and Turkish unbelief.
This chapter concentrates on the mimetic theory of Rene Girard in evaluating foundational myths of violence. It shows Girard's notion of the scapegoating mechanism, whereby a substitute victim absorbs the mimetic animosities of the entire group and thereby promotes peace, as applicable to the disturbing tendency to direct violence outward toward exogenous groups. According to Girard, competition is the main source of human violence. His explanation, that violence has its roots in competition or mimetic rivalry, contributes to Thomas Hobbes, who also highlighted this cause of violence at the beginning of the modern era. The Abrahamic solidarity with the victim easily becomes an aggressive weapon if taking the side of the victim is not connected with the forgiveness of persecutors. Girard interprets the imitation of Christ in the context of rivalries prohibited in the tenth commandment of the First Testament.
Cleo McNelly Kearns
While a literary and critical modernism seems on the surface independent of and at times oblivious to theological modernism, the modernist stances taken by major twentieth-century artists and writers raise theological issues and concerns with which they are very much engaged. These issues are incarnated in their stylistic and formal innovations as well as in their range of interests, often sensitive as well as challenging to conservative and orthodox understandings of Christianity and prescient with respect to problems to come. These include problems of comparative religion, esotericism, spiritualism, and pagan and natural theology, as well as questions of politics, ethics, and revolutionary change. Engagement with these matters did not prevent many moderns from finding their way towards religion, Christian and otherwise, on terms both new and old.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross published On Death and Dying, a manifesto calling for reforms in end-of-life care and translating into a psychological idiom the ancient religious idea of dying as a peregrinatio animae, a pilgrimage of the soul from this world to the next. In 1975, Raymond Moody published a slim book, Life after Life, that introduced the now-ubiquitous expression “near-death experience” and opened a new era in the modern search for intimations of human immortality. Coming after the unraveling of the spiritualist movement, and at the high-water mark of the death awareness movement, Life after Life offered a less outré approach to the mysteries of the spirit world. This article examines the debates about near-death experience, focusing on popular narratives and near-death studies. It also discusses critical perspectives about the subject as well as cultural differences and interpretations of near-death testimony. It then looks at the near-death experience of a skeptic, A. J. Ayer, and that of a Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus.
The fact of religious diversity provides problems for a variety of approaches to the study of religion. In the philosophical study of religion, there are at least four main areas in which issues are raised by the fact of religious diversity: the epistemology of religious belief, the production of theories of religion, reflection on concepts of God and the Ultimate, and discussion of the relationship between religion and the human good. For the purposes of this article, J. L. Schellenberg's definition of religion in terms of “ultimism” is considered. There are at least four responses to the epistemological problems arising out of religious diversity that are worth discussing: apologetic investment, atheism, agnosticism, and anti-evidentialism. The epistemological reflections on religious diversity are thus vital to the interpretation of religion. There are three main types of theory of religion that arise from or bear upon the fact of religious diversity: naturalism, confessionalism, and pluralism.