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Fifty Years of Religious Studies in Canada

A Personal Retrospective

In Canadian universities in the early 1960s, no courses were offered on Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam. Only the study of Christianity was available, usually in a theology program in a church college or seminary. Today almost every university in North America has a religious studies department that offers courses on Western and Eastern religions as well as religion in general. Harold Coward addresses this change in this memoir of his forty-five-year career in the development of religious studies as a new academic field in Canada. He also addresses the shift from theology classes in seminaries to non-sectarian religious studies faculties of arts and humanities; the birth and growth of departments across Canada from the 1960s to the present; the contribution of McMaster University to religious studies in Canada and Coward’s Ph.D. experience there; the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria; and the future of religious studies as a truly interdisciplinary enterprise.

Coward’s retrospective, while not a history as such, documents information from his varied experience and wide network of colleagues that is essential for a future formal history of the discipline. His story is both personally engaging and richly informative about the development of the field.

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The Five Aggregates

Understanding Theravada Psychology and Soteriology

If Buddhism denies a permanent self, how does it perceive identity? According to Buddhist texts, the entire universe, including the individual, is made up of different phenomena, which Buddhism classifies into different categories: what we conventionally call a “person” can be understood in terms of five aggregates, the sum of which must not be taken for a permanent entity, since beings are nothing but an amalgam of ever-changing phenomena. Although the aggregates are only a “convenient fiction,” the Buddha nevertheless made frequent use of the aggregate scheme when asked to explain the elements at work in the individual.

In this study Mathieu Boisvert presents a detailed analysis of the five aggregates (pañcakkhandhā) and establishes how the Theravāda tradition views their interaction. He clarifies the fundamentals of Buddhist psychology by providing a rigorous examination of the nature and interrelation of each of the aggregates and by establishing, for the first time, how the function of each of these aggregates chains beings to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth — the theory of dependent origination (paticcasamuppāda). Boisvert contends that without a thorough understanding of the five aggregates, we cannot grasp the liberation process at work within the individual, who is, after all, simply an amalgam of the five aggregates.

The Five Aggregates represents an important and original contribution to Buddhist studies and will be of great interest to all scholars and students of Buddhism.

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From Logos to Christos

Essays on Christology in Honour of Joanne McWilliam

From Logos to Christos is a collection of essays in Christology written by friends and colleagues in memory of Joanne McWilliam. McWilliam was a pioneer woman in the academic study of theology, specializing in Patristic studies and internationally recognized for her work on Augustine. For countless students she was a teacher, a mentor, an inspiration. These fourteen essays are a fitting tribute to her memory.

Written by recognized North American scholars, the essays explore various aspects of Christology, inviting the reader to probe the meaning and significance of Jesus Christ for today. They address a broad range of issues, including the Christology of the Acts of Thomas, Hooker on divinization, and Christ figures in contemporary Canadian culture.

Teachers of theology and religious studies, pastors, and informed general readers will find the essays stimulating and instructive. They present the readers with considered, mature, and current scholarship. These are the questions that engaged Joanne McWilliam throughout her life, and she was happy to know that the critical dialogue would continue in this volume as friends and colleagues wrestled with Christological questions. For her, “In Jesus we come to know the compassion, the power, the wisdom, the love, and the faithfulness of God”.

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God and the Chip

Religion and the Culture of Technology

Our ancestors saw the material world as alive, and they often personified nature. Today we claim to be realists. But in reality we are not paying attention to the symbols and myths hidden in technology. Beneath much of our talk about computers and the Internet, claims William A. Stahl, is an unacknowledged mysticism, an implicit religion. By not acknowledging this mysticism, we have become critically short of ethical and intellectual resources with which to understand and confront changes brought on by technology.

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Hindu Iconoclasts

Rammohun Roy, Dayananda Sarasvati, and Nineteenth-Century Polemics against Idolatry

Why, Salmond asks, would nineteenth-century Hindus who come from an iconic religious tradition voice a kind of invective one might expect from Hebrew prophets, Muslim iconoclasts, or Calvinists?

Rammohun was a wealthy Bengali, intimately associated with the British Raj and familiar with European languages, religion, and currents of thought. Dayananda was an itinerant Gujarati ascetic who did not speak English and was not integrated into the culture of the colonizers. Salmond’s examination of Dayananda after Rammohun complicates the easy assumption that nineteenth-century Hindu iconoclasm is simply a case of borrowing an attitude from Muslim or Protestant traditions.

Salmond examines the origins of these reformers’ ideas by considering the process of diffusion and independent invention—that is, whether ideas are borrowed from other cultures, or arise spontaneously and without influence from external sources. Examining their writings from multiple perspectives, Salmond suggests that Hindu iconoclasm was a complex movement whose attitudes may have arisen from independent invention and were then reinforced by diffusion.

Although idolatry became the symbolic marker of their reformist programs, Rammohun’s and Dayananda’s agendas were broader than the elimination of image-worship. These Hindu reformers perceived a link between image-rejection in religion and the unification and modernization of society, part of a process that Max Weber called the “disenchantment of the world.” Focusing on idolatry in nineteenth-century India, Hindu Iconoclasts investigates the encounter of civilizations, an encounter that continues to resonate today.

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“His Dominion” and the “Yellow Peril”

Protestant Missions to Chinese Immigrants in Canada, 1859-1967

A history of Chinese immigrants encounter with Canadian Protestant missionaries, “His Dominion” and the “Yellow Peril”: Protestant Missions to Chinese Immigrants in Canada, 1859-1967, analyzes the evangelizing activities of missionaries and the role of religion in helping Chinese immigrants affirm their ethnic identity in a climate of cultural conflict.

Jiwu Wang argues that, by working toward a vision of Canada that espoused Anglo-Saxon Protestant values, missionaries inevitably reinforced popular cultural stereotypes about the Chinese and widened the gap between Chinese and Canadian communities. Those immigrants who did embrace the Christian faith felt isolated from their community and their old way of life, but they were still not accepted by mainstream society. Although the missionaries’ goal was to assimilate the Chinese into Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture, it was Chinese religion and cultural values that helped the immigrants maintain their identity and served to protect them from the intrusion of the Protestant missions.

Wang documents the methods used by the missionaries and the responses from the Chinese community, noting the shift in approach that took place in the 1920s, when the clergy began to preach respect for Chinese ways and sought to welcome them into Protestant-Canadian life. Although in the early days of the missions, Chinese Canadians rejected the evangelizing to take what education they could from the missionaries, as time went on and prejudice lessened, they embraced the Christian faith as a way to gain acceptance as Canadians.

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The Huguenots and French Opinion, 1685-1787

The Enlightenment Debate on Toleration

The decision of Louis XIV to revoke the Edict of Nantes and thus liquidate French Calvinism was well received in the intellectual community which was deeply prejudiced against the Huguenots. This antipathy would gradually disappear. After the death of the Sun King, a more sympathetic view of the Protestant minority was presented to French readers by leading thinkers such as Montesquieu, the abbé Prévost, and Voltaire. By the middle years of the eighteenth century, liberal clerics, lawyers, and government ministers joined Encyclopedists in urging the emancipation of the Reformed who were seen to be loyal, peaceable and productive. Then, in 1787, thanks to intensive lobbying by a group which included Malesherbes, Lafayette, and the future revolutionary Rabaut Saint-Étienne, the government of Louis XVI issued an edict of toleration which granted the Huguenots a modest bill of civil and religious rights.

Adams’ illuminating work treats a major chapter in the history of toleration; it explores in depth a fascinating shift in mentalités, and it offers a new focus on the process of “reform from above” in pre-Revolutionary France.

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Lord, Giver of Life

Toward a Pneumatological Complement to George Lindbeck’s Theory of Doctrine

George Lindbeck once characterized postliberalism, which received its initial structure from his book The Nature of Doctrine, as an attempt to recover pre-modern scriptural interpretation in contemporary form. In Lord, Giver of Life: Toward a Pneumatological Complement to George Lindbeck’s Theory of Doctrine, Jane Barter Moulaison explores the success of that effort through a close examination of Lindbeck’s own theological contributions. Taking seriously the ecumenical promises of Lindbeck’s writing (he was instrumental in advancing Lutheran and Roman Catholic dialogue throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s), this book brings Lindbeck’s famous cultural-linguistic model of religion into dialogue with Christianity’s theological forbearers: specifically, the Eastern progenitors of orthodox confession.

This constellation of theological voices—Lindbeck, his supporters and detractors, along with patristic theologians—is meant not only to test the viability of a religious model but, more importantly, to advance Lindbeck’s project in ways that have not yet been pursued. Among the critical questions engaged are: to what degree can the excesses of modern theology be overcome by a return to premodern sources? What are the implications of a constructive pneumatology to the cultural-linguistic model? Does this complement address the critiques of postliberalism, particularly those that consider the role of human agency, rationality, and autonomy?

While Lindbeck recovers significant and forgotten elements of pre-modern biblical interpretation, the very formalism of his project sometimes obscures the theological underpinnings of premodern insights and practices. Through specific attention to Eastern Trinitarian theologies of the fourth century, this book exposes a rather persistent oversight within Lindbeck’s recovery: namely, that alongside the regulative function of canon and doctrine, early biblical interpretation recognizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the appropriation of scripture, in the mission of the church, and in the defence of the gospel within the context of an unbelieving world. This book attends to these insights from the early churchs doctrine of the Holy Spirit in appreciative service to the cultural-linguistic model of religion.

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Love and the Soul

Psychological Interpretations of the Eros and Psyche Myth

The Eros and Psyche myth has, over the course of the twentieth century, received nearly as much attention from depth psychologists as has the Oedipus story. In their attempt to better understand this popular story, scholars have proposed various interpretations, which have generally followed eithether Freudian or Jungian theories about the nature of the psyche and its development.

This elaborate work provides serious students of psychology, religion and mythology with a detailed account and analysis of what has been accomplished in the spychological interpretation of the Eros and Psyche myth to date. It emphasizes how psychological theory determines the direction of interpretation much more than does the literary context of the myth itself. It also examines the strengths and weaknesses of these psychological interpretations (five Freudian and six Jungian) of the Eros and Psyche myth in order to lay the groundwork for an interpretation which (1) avoids the rigidity of both Freudian and Jungian dogma and (2) restores the myth to its rightful literary and religious context — something which has been ignored by most psychological interpretations.

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Memory and Hope

Strands of Canadian Baptist History

How are Baptists distinctive as a Christian denomination? Canadian Baptists, confronted with the question of discovering a common identity from the welter of strands of influence that make up their heritage, may infer several answers from the essays in Memory and Hope.

Focussing on Baptist history in central and western Canada, Memory and Hope discusses individuals, institutions and issues that have stirred Baptists in North America for two centuries, including confessionalism and eucharistic theology and fundamentalism vs. modernism. Recurring themes include the Baptist role in education in Canada, the establishment of new churches, overseas missions and social responsibility.

Essayists also examine the powerful forces that have influenced Baptist history: immigration, theology and society. Studies of missionary Samuel Stearns Day, fundamentalists Aberhart, Maxwell and Shields and social gospellers Sharpe and Shaw illustrate the diversity of ideas and personalities that have shaped and been shaped by the Baptist Church.

Memory and Hope is an important resource for the history of the Baptist Church in Canada. In the issues it raises on the role of churches in the twenty-first century, it will also make a significant contribution to the study of religion in general.

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