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Charity, Reward, and Atonement in Early Christianity
Christianity has often understood the death of Jesus on the cross as the sole means for forgiveness of sin. Despite this tradition, David Downs traces the early and sustained presence of yet another means by which Christians imagined atonement for sin: merciful care for the poor. In Alms: Charity, Reward, and Atonement in Early Christianity, Downs begins by considering the economic context of almsgiving in the Greco-Roman world, a context in which the overwhelming reality of poverty cultivated the formation of relationships of reciprocity and solidarity. Downs then provides detailed examinations of almsgiving and the rewards associated with it in the Old Testament, Second Temple Judaism, and the New Testament. He then attends to early Christian texts and authors in which a theology of atoning almsgiving is developed—2 Clement, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Cyprian. In this historical and theological reconstruction, Downs outlines the emergence of a model for the atonement of sin in Christian literature of the first three centuries of the Common Era, namely, atoning almsgiving, or the notion that providing material assistance to the needy cleanses or covers sin. Downs shows that early Christian advocacy of almsgiving’s atoning power is located in an ancient economic context in which fiscal and social relationships were deeply interconnected. Within this context, the concept of atoning almsgiving developed in large part as a result of nascent Christian engagement with scriptural traditions that present care for the poor as having the potential to secure future reward, including heavenly merit and even the cleansing of sin, for those who practice mercy. Downs thus reveals how sin and its solution were socially and ecclesiologically embodied, a vision that frequently contrasted with disregard for the social body, and the bodies of the poor, in Docetic and Gnostic Christianity. Alms, in the end, illuminates the challenge of reading Scripture with the early church, for numerous patristic witnesses held together the conviction that salvation and atonement for sin come through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the affirmation that the practice of mercifully caring for the needy cleanses or covers sin. Perhaps the ancient Christian integration of charity, reward, and atonement has the potential to reshape contemporary Christian traditions in which those spheres are separated.
Regional and Vernacular Variations on a Hindu Deity
Krishna—widely venerated and adored in the Hindu tradition—is a deity of many aspects. An ancient manifestation of the Supreme God Vishnu, or the Godhead itself, Krishna is the bringer of Yoga philosophy and the creator of the universe, the destroyer of evil tyrants, and the hero of the epic Mahaµbhaµrata. He is also described in classical Sanskrit texts as having human characteristics and enjoying very human pursuits: Krishna is the butter thief, cowherd, philanderer, and flute player. Yet even these playful depictions are based upon descriptions found in the Sanskrit canon, and mostly reflect familiar, classical Pan-Indian images. In this book, contributors examine the alternative, or unconventional, Krishnas, offering examples from more localized Krishna traditions found in different regions among various ethnic groups, vernacular language traditions, and remote branches of Indian religions. These wide-ranging, alternative visions of Krishna include the Tantric Krishna of Bengal, Krishna in urban women’s rituals, Krishna as monogamous husband and younger brother in Braj, Krishna in Jainism, Krishna in Maraµthiµ tradition, Krishna in South India, and the Krishna of nineteenth-century reformed Hinduism.
The Development of His Early Pneumatology
Serapion on the Holy Spirit (ca. 359–361), leaving a gap in our understanding of Athanasius’s prior pneumatology. By exploring the period from Athanasius’s election as bishop (328) to the completion of the third Oration against the Arians (ca. 345), this book seeks to help fill this gap. The first part argues that by the mid-330s, Athanasius had begun to establish core pneumatological perspectives that he would maintain for the rest of his career. Part two examines Athanasius’s three Orations, giving particular attention to Orations 1–2. Without the pneumatological perspectives that he established in the 330s and 340s, Athanasius would not have been prepared for his Letters to Serapion, where he took the next steps of confessing the Holy Spirit’s divine nature and role in creating the world.
Six Big Questions about Evolution
Despite the ongoing cultural controversy in America, evolution remains a cornerstone of science. In this book, Francisco J. Ayala—an evolutionary biologist, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and winner of the National Medal of Science and the Templeton Prize—cuts to the chase in a daring attempt to address, in nontechnical language, six perennial questions about evolution: • Am I a Monkey? • Why Is Evolution a Theory? • What Is DNA? • Do All Scientists Accept Evolution? • How Did Life Begin? • Can One Believe in Evolution and God? This to-the-point book answers each of these questions with force. Ayala's occasionally biting essays refuse to lend credence to disingenuous ideas and arguments. He lays out the basic science that underlies evolutionary theory, explains how the process works, and soundly makes the case for why evolution is not a threat to religion. Brief, incisive, topical, authoritative, Am I a Monkey? will take you a day to read and a lifetime to ponder.
And Other Historical Mysteries
What constitutes historical truth is often subject to change. Through ingenious detection, the accepted wisdom of one generation may become the discredited legend of another -- or vice versa. In this wide- ranging study of historical investigation, former detective Joe Nickell allows the reader to look over his shoulder as he demonstrates the use of varied techniques in solving some of the world's most perplexing mysteries.
All the major categories of historical mystery are here -- ancient riddles, biographical enigmas, hidden identity, "fakelore," questioned artifacts, suspect documents, lost texts, obscured sources, and scientific challenges. Each is then illustrated by a complete case from the author's own files.
Nickell's investigation of the giant Nazca drawings in Peru, for example -- thought by some to provide proof of ancient extraterrestrial visitations -- uses innovative techniques to reveal a very different origin. Other cases concern the 1913 disappearance of writer and journalist Ambrose Bierce, the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, the truth about the identity of John Demjanjuk ("Ivan the Terrible" to Polish death camp victims), the fate of a lost colonial American text, the authenticity of Abraham Lincoln's celebrated Bixby letter, and the apparent real-life model for a mysterious character in a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
In reaching his solutions, Nickell demonstrates a wide variety of investigative techniques -- chemical and instrumental analyses, physical experimentation, a "psychological autopsy," forensic identification, archival research, linguistic analysis, folklore study, and many others. His highly readable book will intrigue the scholar and the history buff no less than the mystery lover.
Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of other non-Western religions have become a significant presence in the United States in recent years. Yet many Americans continue to regard the United States as a Christian society. How are we adapting to the new diversity? Do we casually announce that we "respect" the faiths of non-Christians without understanding much about those faiths? Are we willing to do the hard work required to achieve genuine religious pluralism?
Award-winning author Robert Wuthnow tackles these and other difficult questions surrounding religious diversity and does so with his characteristic rigor and style. America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity looks not only at how we have adapted to diversity in the past, but at the ways rank-and-file Americans, clergy, and other community leaders are responding today. Drawing from a new national survey and hundreds of in-depth qualitative interviews, this book is the first systematic effort to assess how well the nation is meeting the current challenges of religious and cultural diversity.
The results, Wuthnow argues, are both encouraging and sobering--encouraging because most Americans do recognize the right of diverse groups to worship freely, but sobering because few Americans have bothered to learn much about religions other than their own or to engage in constructive interreligious dialogue. Wuthnow contends that responses to religious diversity are fundamentally deeper than polite discussions about civil liberties and tolerance would suggest. Rather, he writes, religious diversity strikes us at the very core of our personal and national theologies. Only by understanding this important dimension of our culture will we be able to move toward a more reflective approach to religious pluralism.
Explores a range of Buddhist perspectives in a distinctly American context. The US seems to be becoming a Buddhist country. Celebrity converts, the popularity of the Dalai Lama, motifs in popular movies, and mala beads at the mall indicate an increasing inculcation of Buddhism into the American consciousness, even if a relatively small percentage of the population actually describe themselves as Buddhists. This book looks beyond the trendier manifestations of Buddhism in America to look at distinctly American Buddhist ways of life—ways of perceiving and understanding. John Whalen-Bridge and Gary Storhoff have organized this unique collection in accordance with the Buddhist concept of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha section discusses the two key teachers who popularized Buddhism in America: Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki and the particular kinds of spirituality they proclaimed. The Dharma section deals with how Buddhism can enlighten current public debates and a consideration of our national past with explorations of bioethics, abortion, end-of-life decisions, and consciousness in late capitalism. The final section on the Sangha, or community of believers, discusses how Buddhist communities both formal and informal have affected American society with chapters on family life, Nisei Buddhists, gay liberation, and Zen gardens.
Vol. 122 (2011) through current issue
In 1887 the American Catholic Historical Society began publication of a quarterly journal, the Records. In 1913, the Records was merged with American Catholic Historical Researches, a publication founded by Dr. A. A. Lambing of Scottsdale, Pennsylvania and issued by Martin I.J. Griffin. Since 1999, the journal, renamed American Catholic Studies has been published out of Villanova University. American Catholic Studies is the oldest, continuously published catholic scholarly journal in the United States.
American Catholic Studies is a double-blind refereed journal that publishes high quality studies and book reviews for academics, opinion leaders, and informed general readers in the fields of U.S. Roman Catholic history, sociology, theology, architecture, art, cinema, music, popular movements, and related areas.
Rethinking the Academic Study of Religion
Michael P. Carroll argues that the academic study of religion in the United States continues to be shaped by a "Protestant imagination" that has warped our perception of the American religious experience and its written history and analysis. In this provocative study, Carroll explores a number of historiographical puzzles that emerge from the American Catholic story as it has been understood through the Protestant tradition. Reexamining the experience of Catholicism among Irish immigrants, Italian Americans, Acadians and Cajuns, and Hispanics, Carroll debunks the myths that have informed much of this history. Shedding new light on lived religion in America, Carroll moves an entire academic field in new, exciting directions and challenges his fellow scholars to open their minds and eyes to develop fresh interpretations of American religious history.