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  • Introduction to the Special Issue: Religion, Power, and Resistance: New Ideas for a Divided World

    Anna Halafoff; Sam Han; Caroline Starkey; James V. Spickard (MDPI AG, 2020-06-01)
    The world is currently gripped by pressing environmental, social, and economic challenges [...]
  • Hagiography as Source: Gender and Conversion Narratives in <i>The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church</i>

    Anna Redhair Wells (MDPI AG, 2020-06-01)
    Drawing on the work of Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, this essay proposes utilizing hagiographies from the <i>The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church</i>, a fifteenth-century Ethiopian collection of saints’ lives, to explore various aspects of conversion. Other scholars employ a similar approach when analyzing hagiographical literature found in medieval Europe. While acknowledging that these texts do not provide details about the historical experience of conversion, they can assist scholars in understanding the conception of conversion in the imagination of the culture that created them. This essay specifically focuses on the role of women in conversion throughout the text and argues that, although men and women were almost equally represented as agents of conversion, a closer examination reveals that their participation remained gendered. Women more frequently converted someone with whom they had a prior relationship, especially a member of their familial network. Significantly, these observations mirror the patterns uncovered by contemporary scholars such as Dana Robert, who notes how women contributed to the spread of Christianity primarily through human relationships. By integrating these representations of conversion from late medieval Ethiopia, scholarship will gain a more robust picture of conversion in Africa more broadly and widen its understanding of world Christianity.
  • Meaning Agnosticism and Pragmatism

    Sami Pihlström (MDPI AG, 2020-06-01)
    This paper proposes to reconsider agnosticism by taking a step onto a meta-level, investigating agnosticism not as an epistemic stance regarding the choice between theism and atheism, but as a stance toward the question concerning the cognitive meaningfulness and/or truth-aptness of religious discourse. It is argued that this “meta-level” meaning agnosticism may actually be an attractive articulation of a certain kind of religious attitude. While pragmatists like William James have claimed that (epistemic) agnosticism practically collapses into atheism, meaning agnosticism at the meta-level can in fact be a pragmatist position focusing on our human condition and its limits. Additional issues, such as the relations between agnosticism and the theodicism vs. antitheodicism debate regarding the problem of evil and suffering, are also briefly examined.
  • Ham Sok Hon, a Pioneer of Korean Cosmopolitanism

    Song-Chong Lee (MDPI AG, 2020-06-01)
    This paper discusses an aspect of Ham Sok Hon’s philosophy, which the author argues would reflect, and contribute to enriching, the theory of cosmopolitanism. Ham was arguably one of the 20th century’s most influential, yet controversial, thinkers and political activists—particularly in the progressive movement of modern Korea. The author revisits his philosophy of <i>ssial</i>/<i>saengmyŏng</i> to find a more persuasive metaphysical ground to draw an enlarged and deepened sense of community than that of dominant cosmopolitan theories. To properly place his philosophy within the larger discussion of cosmopolitanism and highlight its uniqueness, the author presents a brief overview of major cosmopolitan theories first, along with their shortcomings, and then constructs Ham’s cosmopolitan vision by focusing on three specific insights: (1) <i>ssial/saengmyŏng</i> (씨알/生命, life) as the agent, (2) religion and politics for <i>ipch’ejŏk in’gan</i> (立體的人間 the multi-dimensional human), and (3) narrative and memory as the driving force of cosmopolitanism.
  • “Headship”: Making the Case for Fruitful Equality in a World of Indifferent Sameness and Unbridgeable Difference

    Margaret Harper McCarthy (MDPI AG, 2020-06-01)
    The article takes up the biblical category of “headship,” one of the “third rails” for Christians in a context dominated by the limited conceptions of equality, especially those assumed by “second wave” and “difference” feminism, viz., that of interchangeable sameness and unbridgeable difference. Headship is easily dismissed as an instance of (bad) cultural influence that spoiled Christianity’s egalitarian beginnings. Less radically, headship is simply avoided, or glossed over with apologetic caveats. Headship is an embarrassment, because it suggests not only exclusive differences—the “head” is not the “body”—but an order between them. Head and body are “subject to each other” in distinct and coordinated ways. In what follows, the author claims that headship is not only not an affront to equality, but its very condition between <i>subjects who belong to each other in a generous relation of reciprocal and fruitful unity and distinction</i>. Moreover, it is the expression of the novelty of Christianity, regarding first of all the nature of God in whom there is an original Head, and a “positive other,” without any hint of subordinationism (inequality). On the contrary, the Father is never absolute, but always already determined by the Son. This original headship then informs the Christian conception of the world, its positivity, even to the point that it can give something to God. Finally, it informs the this-worldly headships (Christ–Church and husband–wife). There, headship <i>counters </i>the status quo<i>, </i>by countering the “body’s” default immanentistic “certainty” about her exclusive life-giving power, enjoining her to acknowledge a transcendent source. It restores <i>equality to the head</i>. For the “head,” it counters the false absolutist image of God, while enjoining him to “radiate” something of which he is first “subject,” to “be involved with,” and determined by, the woman, as a positive other. It restores <i>equality to the body</i>. In sum, the article urges us to turn towards the deepest resources of Christianity, to find therein a more fruitful equality.

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