The modern concept of the Abrahamic religions has roots in Christian theology, the academic study of the Near East, and the study of Islam. In the nineteenth century, Protestant theologians built on the idea of the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in developing the idea of a spiritual connection among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the same time, students of the Near East understood the three religious traditions as sharing a common genealogical bond. Such recognition was enhanced by Islam’s own sense of the religion of Abraham, which was communicated to a broader public by western Islamicists. Although the concept of the Abrahamic religions does not preclude the privileging of one religion over the others, it has provided both scholars and laypeople with a useful way of exploring the common ground of the three faiths.
This chapter is a critical literature review of recent social science research describing and analyzing the participation of Christian churches in various phases of the human rights movement in Latin America. Spanning the period from 1964 to the present, such human rights activism took place in the contexts of authoritarian rule, civil war, democratic transitions, and the consolidation of democracy. The chapter focuses on the influence of Christian church leaders, laity, organizations, and resources on the origins, growth, and maturation of human rights-oriented social movement organizations (SMOs). Drawing on Douglas McAdam, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly’s work on political process theory, this literature emphasizes the invaluable role of religious organizations in providing space, resources, protection, and framing to nascent human rights movements in the region during the 1960s-70s. Even so, the literature also grapples with the diverse range of political stances taken by Christian church leaders and activists, both within and across national-level cases. With the maturation of the movement and the transition to democracy, political process theory remained relevant, but failed to capture some of the key challenges and opportunities experienced by Christian activists, as opposed to social activists in general. Thus, scholarship shifted focus to organized religion’s capacity to build social capital and sustain meaningful Christian social and human rights activism.
Marthinus L. Daneel
In the post-chimurenga years of independent Zimbabwe, the African Initiated Churches (AICs) heeded the prophetic call to earth-keeping. They joined forces with practitioners of traditional religion—the chiefs, headmen, spirit mediums, and ex-combatants of the country's liberation struggle—and formed their own wing of the green army. Thus, under the auspices of the Zimbabwean Institute of Religious Research and Ecological Conservation, two religiously distinct movements—the Association of Zimbabwean Traditionalist Ecologists and the Association of African Earthkeeping Churches—joined forces to wage a new chimurenga, a struggle for the liberation of creation, particularly the rehabilitation of the degraded environment of Zimbabwe's overcrowded communal lands, under the banner “war of the trees.” In Zimbabwe and much of southern Africa today, the AICs total between 50 percent and 60 percent of African Christianity. This article focuses on Africa's green movement and ecotheology as well as earth-keeping initiatives such as tree planting.
J. Rebecca Lyman
Although the teachings of Arius of Alexandria sparked a series of theological debates and church councils in the fourth century concerning the nature and redemptive activity of God, scholars share a slim consensus as to the origins and content of his teaching. In 325, for the first time, the adjudication of Christian controversy took the form of a council including the Roman emperor Constantine at the lake-side town of Nicaea. Arius, the theologian condemned at Nicaea, became the archetypal heretic; ‘Arianism’ thus became the archetypal heresy, which denied the saving divinity of Christ, and therefore essential Christian identity. The broadening of the study of ‘Arianism’ to examine questions of asceticism, spirituality, and liturgy reflects different historiographical concerns. This article reviews recent studies of Arius and non-Nicenes from the outbreak of the controversy to the conversions of the tribal peoples in the western empire.
This article explores an abstract concept, ‘asceticism’. Two obstacles immediately present themselves to an overview of the role of asceticism in shaping early Christian studies: the lack of a clear definition of asceticism and the ubiquity of the topic in both ancient sources and modern scholarship, especially in the past 35 years. Letters, hagiographies, homilies, even acts of councils all participate in the construction of an asceticism that was a central concern of Christians in late antiquity. To chart the shifts in the study of asceticism is to follow as well the major changes in the field from ‘patristics’ to ‘early Christian studies’. Asceticism is the means by which historians of early Christianity confront central methodological issues in investigating discourses, power, social relations, the body, and all the attendant current concerns of the construction of the self and society.
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.
Stephen J. C. Andes
Revolution divided Roman Catholics during the twentieth century in Latin America. Although Catholic activists formed ranks on all sides of Latin America’s social conflict, revolutionary anticlericalism, land reform, and state education became important wedge issues that kept the Catholic Church hierarchy on the side of counterrevolution. This chapter surveys Latin America’s “Big Three” social revolutions, beginning with Mexico (1910–1940), Cuba at mid-century, and Nicaragua in the late 1970s and 1980s. Catholic political and social allegiances, as well as the similarities across the century provide the focus of much of the chapter. The chapter argues that Latin America’s Cold War added ideological pungency and superpower conflicts to the region’s already festering mix of social exclusion, poverty, and oligarchical hegemony. Some attention is given to the emergence of the liberationist perspective. The result of Latin America’s revolutionary century can be seen in a shift within the moderate group of Catholic leadership, both lay and clerical, toward a more empathetic view of the poor. The development of Liberation Theology, endeavouring to answer endemic issues of poverty and economic inequality, helped focus the Church’s mission in the region after the Second Vatican Council. The chapter ends with a final parting note regarding the election of Pope Francis and how Latin America’s first pope was formed within the region’s revolutionary twentieth century.
At the centre of the clerical vocation was the conundrum of balancing the clergy’s commitment to chastity with the many aspects of their professional training and responsibilities that either tacitly or overtly concerned sex. On a pedagogical level, there were pagan authors, like the sexually savvy Ovid, who were at the cornerstone of the acquisition of letters. But biblical tradition, theology, and ascetical literature also treated sexuality and sexual temptation very explicitly. Such concerns loom even larger on a practical level. The clergy had always assumed the responsibility of monitoring lay mortality. But the sexually explicit nature of their pastoral obligations would increase exponentially when the Church established a hegemony over marriage and made auricular confession mandatory for the laity in the high Middle Ages. This chapter provides an overview of the many different kinds of sources that lend insight into this, at times, fraught aspect of the clerical vocation.
Maxwell E. Johnson
To study the rites of Christian initiation in the early church is to encounter not one but several liturgical traditions in development. This article seeks to provide an introductory overview of the sources, issues, and problems encountered in the development and interpretation of the rites of Christian initiation within early Christianity. It proceeds in two parts: from the first century to the Council of Nicaea; and from the Council of Nicaea to Augustine of Hippo. Augustine of Hippo serves as a fitting conclusion to this focus since, as a result of his controversies with both Donatism and Pelagianism, a new article in Christian initiation begins and continues throughout the medieval and even Reformation periods of church history.
Harold A. Drake
Persecution contributed to the development of Church and Empire in two fateful ways. First, it made opposition to Rome an important aspect of Christian identity, embedding the heroic role of the martyrs in both literature and liturgy. Second, persecution solidified communities around the person of their bishop. Constantine's alliance with Christian bishops set that relationship in motion. This article considers the political implications of his reign. It also discusses the way in which a newly muscular Christianity used that relationship to suppress variant means of understanding divinity, and the analytical tools which scholars have used to explain that phenomenon. The final sections consider the implications of these developments for the concepts of Church and Empire.
Karen Jo Torjesen
The distinction between clergy and laity in its most elemental form is a way of creating and setting apart an elite. The question about the clergy and the laity becomes a fascinating historical question about how the unity of the Church – symbolic, organizational, and political – comes to rest on the constitution of these two classes and the relationship between them. The premise of much of the earlier scholarship held that development of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the clergy/laity dyad was evolutionary, an organic unfolding of an embryonic distinction between clergy and laity into a fully elaborated polarity based on the priestly functions of the clergy and the sacrality of the liturgy. Scholarship on the institutionalization of Christianity that in an earlier era had been primarily ecclesiastical and theological is now increasingly cross-disciplinary, drawing on work in sociology, politics, economics, archaeology, gender, and religion.
Colleen M. Conway
This chapter begins with a brief overview of the theorists who have shaped gender analytical work on the New Testament, especially the application of gender theory in classical studies. It then concentrates on gender analyses on New Testament writings that demonstrate the differing approaches of masculinity studies, queer theory, and intersectional analysis. The primary focus is on gender construction in Paul’s letters and the canonical gospels, with additional discussion of symbolic and metaphorical uses of gender in other writings of the New Testament. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of future directions for gender criticism.
Bettina E. Schmidt
This essay gives an overview of the religious landscape of Brazil as well as studies about religions in Brazil. Starting with the situation of Christian denominations in Brazil the essay discusses vernacular religions such as Spiritism and Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda, religions that have arrived in Brazil by immigrants such as Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, and indigenous religions such as the religion of the Guaraní. The text highlights how social and political changes have impacted on religions in Brazil. Each section refers to selected publications representing the range of studies about these religions undertaken by scholars in Brazil and abroad.
Different varieties of Pentecostalism are successful in Latin America, where Chile, Brazil, and the Central American countries are now 20 to 30 percent Protestant. This chapter analyzes conversion processes and social networks in Latin America by comparing the two extremes of Pentecostal growth. Paraguay is arguably the least Pentecostalized country in the region, whereas Chile is one of the most Pentecostal. Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork research in Asunción and Santiago de Chile, the chapter first reviews the literature on Pentecostal growth in Latin America and establishes the main growth periods of Pentecostalism in both countries, identifying some of the most successful churches. Next, it analyzes the role of conversion in these churches by drawing on the conversion career approach, using quotes from life history interviews. Individual, contextual, and institutional factors (like doctrine, ritual, organization, and evangelization methods) are explored, as well as the role of the new converts’ social networks. The conclusion offers a new theoretical framework for analyzing the role of social networks in Pentecostal conversion for the Chile and Paraguay cases and for Latin America in general.
The chapter presents a general narrative of 500 years of Christian history in Latin America, placing particular emphasis on the most controversial developments and debates. Among them are the “struggle for justice” and questions concerning acculturation and “syncretism” in the sixteenth century; the links between popular piety and Baroque spirituality and their clash, first with Jansenism and then with Bourbon reformism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the challenges of independence, liberalism, and the secular state in the nineteenth century; social Catholicism in the first half of the twentieth century; liberation theology and the growth of Protestantism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The chapter pays particular attention to the resilience and legacy of early mendicant evangelization in the formation of an often-neglected Christian culture that can be described as both indigenous and genuinely Christian.
Creeds, councils, and canons are interrelated topics. Disputes over beliefs and practices prompted the meeting of church councils, which defined acceptable statements of belief (creeds) and drew up rules (canons) governing conduct, discipline, organization, and worship. The two most widely used and ecumenically acceptable creeds are also historically the most problematic: the Apostles' Creed in the western churches and the Nicene Creed, originating in the East and accepted in the West. The classic work of J. N. D. Kelly was the nodal point in twentieth-century study of the creeds. The second section of this article discusses the work of H. J. Sieben, local and regional councils, and ecumenical councils. The third section considers the contributions of Jean Gaudemet, other sources in the East, and the disciplinary work of the ecumenical councils.
David M. Freidenreich
This survey of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic dietary law finds no recognition within pre-modern sources of the biblical or familial affinities implied by the contemporary term Abrahamic. The profound diversity of norms regarding animal species, blood, meat and dairy, and alcohol demonstrates that it is misleading to focus on the fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are rooted in a common scripture. Pre-modern sources about the food of religious foreigners, moreover, do not express a sense of Abrahamic kinship among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. These sources instead employ classificatory methods that reinforce ideas particular to each tradition’s approach to claiming superiority over foreigners. The term Abrahamic offers a convenient label for the juxtaposition of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sources that bypasses the diverse and ideologically driven categories native to these traditions; the more one focuses on the term’s meaning, however, the less useful it becomes.
If there is one image that presents itself as unique and fundamental in contemporary religious experience, it is that of the earth as sacrament. This is a central feature of the sacramental ethos of the Orthodox church. This article explores the understanding of sacrament as including and embracing creation. It describes a theology of creation in light of our dilemma before and response to the current environmental crisis. It also discusses history and heaven, wholeness and holiness, sacraments and symbols, the transcendence and immanence of God, the mystery of incarnation, logos and logoi, the mystery of the cross and the resurrection, and asceticism in Orthodox Christianity.
Christians living in modern industrial or post-industrial societies live differently from almost all Christians over the previous millennia. Most Christians participate in the capitalistic, or market, economies in which they live. Churches often borrow business models in administering and marketing the church. Christian publishing houses, radio stations, and products are significant entities in the economy. Some Christians wonder whether the material success of modern Christians who live in the wealthy nations is something about which to be concerned. The concern over the condition of affluence that exists today also includes concern over the economic system that exists today—capitalism or market systems. This article examines the differences between the economic systems that prevailed in ancient Israel, including Palestine at the time of Christ, with modern market systems. It also discusses some of the traditional Christian views of wealth and poverty in light of the economic conditions that prevailed then as compared to today. It then looks at the problem of poverty, both global and within the wealthy nations. Finally, it considers ethics as well as greed and materialism.
Stephen H. Webb
No theologian has done more to show the political significance of eschatology than Jürgen Moltmann. For Moltmann, the subject matter of all theology should be focused on hope, and eschatology is the doctrine where Christian hope is most explicitly formulated. Moreover, Moltmann thinks that hope, more than love, is the Christian virtue most relevant for politics. If God intervenes at the end of history in order to silence all of our struggles and passions, then history is rendered meaningless. Moltmann identifies this catastrophic version of eschatology with apocalypticism. Moltmann did not repudiate liberation theology's advocacy of socialism as the primary means for advancing the kingdom agenda. In The Coming of God, Moltmann clarified his distinction between eschatology and apocalypticism by addressing the issue of millennialism. This article examines eschatology and politics, focusing on the views of Moltmann and the alternative views of George Weigel, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Oliver O'Donovan. It also discusses providence versus eschatology and Whittaker Chambers's views on the eschatological challenge of Communism, as well as the politics of progressive premillennialism.