• Earning God through the “One-Hundred Rupee Note”: Nirguṇa Bhakti and Religious Experience among Hindu Renouncers in North India

      Antoinette DeNapoli (MDPI AG, 2018-12-01)
      This article examines the everyday religious phenomenon of nirguṇa bhakti as it is experienced by Hindu renouncers (sādhus) in North India. As an Indian language concept, nirguṇa bhakti characterizes a type of devotion (bhakti) that is expressed in relation to a divinity who is said to be without (nir) the worldly characteristics and attributes of sex and gender, name and form, race and ethnicity, class and caste. Although bhakti requires a relationship between the devotee and the deity, the nirguṇa kind transcends the boundaries of relational experience, dissolving concepts of “self” and “other”, and, in effect, accentuating the experience of union in the divine absolute. In comparison to saguṇa bhakti (devotion to a deity with attributes), nirguṇa bhakti is considered to be difficult to realize in human birth. Yet, the poetry, songs, and practices of uncommon humans who have not only left behind social norms, but also, devoting their lives to the worship of the divine, achieved forms of divine realization, people like the mystics, saints and sādhus of Hindu traditions, laud the liberating power and insights of nirguṇa bhakti. The Hindu sādhus featured in this article describe their experiences of nirguṇa bhakti through the use of the idiom of a “one-hundred rupee note” to distinguish its superior value and, as significantly, to indicate that humans “earn” God (Brahman) through the practice of nirguṇa devotion. As a “precious” spiritual asset on the path of liberation, nirguṇa bhakti establishes the religious authority and authenticity of sādhus, while setting them apart from other sādhus and holy figures in a vibrant North Indian religious landscape.
    • East-European Critical Thought: Myth, Religion, and Magic versus Literature, Sign and Narrative

      Dennis Ioffe (MDPI AG, 2021-09-01)
      The Introductory article offers a general overview of the highly complicated topic of religious and mythological consciousness discussed in sub-species narrative critique and literary theory. It also provides a detailed context for the wide array of religious matters discussed in this special volume of Religions. Each of the nineteen papers is positioned within its own particular thematic discourse.
    • Eastern Church Fathers on Being Human—Dichotomy in Essence and Wholeness in Deification

      Olga Chistyakova (MDPI AG, 2021-07-01)
      The article traces the formation of Eastern Christian anthropology as a new religious and philosophical tradition within the Early Byzantine culture. The notion “Patristics” is reasoned as a corpus of ideas of the Church Fathers, both Eastern and Western. The term “Eastern Patristics” means the works by Greek-Byzantine Church Fathers, who in the theological disputes with the Western Church Fathers elaborated the Christian creed. Based on an analysis of the texts of Greek-Byzantine Church Fathers, the most important provisions of Eastern Patristics are deduced and discussed, which determined the specificity of Christian anthropology. In this context, different approaches of the Eastern Fathers to the explanation of the Old Testament thesis on the creation of man in God’s <i>image</i> and <i>likeness</i> and the justification of the <i>duality</i> of human essence are shown. Particular attention is paid to considering the idea of <i>deification</i> as overcoming the human dualism and the entire created universe, the doctrine of the Divine Logoi as God’s energies, and the potential elimination of the antinomianism of the earthly and Divine worlds. The article reflects the anthropological ideas of the pre-Nicene Church Father Irenaeus, the non-canonical early Christian work <i>The Shepherd of Hermas</i>, and the teachings on the man of the classical Eastern Patristics period by Athanasius of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus the Confessor.
    • Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Uses of the Past in Contemporary Greece

      Victor Roudometof (MDPI AG, 2011-05-01)
      The article examines the use of Orthodox Christianity in the debates over the cultural heritage of contemporary Greece. Since the birth of modern Greece, Orthodox Christianity has been used as one of the foundational cultural markers for the construction of Modern Greek national identity. This employment of religion is particularly evident in the case of history in its popularized format. In contemporary cultural politics, debates over the building of a mosque in Athens or the role of Orthodoxy in history textbooks offer particular illustrations of the public significance of Orthodox Christianity. This high profile role was particularly pronounced during the reign of the late Archbishop Christodoulos (1998–2008). The article suggests that the engagement and influence of the Church on public debates depends upon the nature of the affair: The Church enjoys more authority in ecclesiastical issues and is far less influential on issues of broader interest, such as geopolitical disputes.
    • Eating and Being Eaten: Interspecies Vulnerability as Eucharist

      Lisa Dahill (MDPI AG, 2020-04-01)
      Living in a time of urgent ecological crisis, Christians need outdoor ritual experience of their faith: of what is wild, of the living Earth, stranger faces of the divine: taking eco-alienated people out of the building and into the streets, the river, the forest. Moving liturgy outdoors makes possible an opening to both human and more-than-human strangeness on their own terms, in actual, present, sensory experience. It also opens worshipers’ experience of the Christian sacraments into the disconcerting realm of our bodies’ physical edibility to other creatures: the possibility of our own flesh becoming food. Using the work of Val Plumwood, David Abram, and Eric Meyer, this paper examines Eucharistic ritual language and theologies of resurrection as these contribute to a worldview that maintains a human versus food dualism incommensurate with biological processes. Ultimately, the paper calls for Eucharistic practices that allow participants to pray being prey.
    • Ecclesial Opposition to Large-Scale Mining on Samar: Neoliberalism Meets the Church of the Poor in a Wounded Land

      William Norman Holden (MDPI AG, 2012-09-01)
      In recent years, the government of the Philippines (adhering to the precepts of neoliberalism) has promoted large-scale mining as a method of stimulating economic development. Mining, an activity with substantial potential for environmental harm, is staunchly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, particularly on the island of Samar. The crux of the church’s opposition to mining are the adverse environmental consequences that mining may impose upon the rural poor who, engaging in subsistence agriculture and aquaculture, are vitally dependent upon access to natural resources. Should there be a mining-related environmental disruption, these people will be thrust from subsistence into destitution. The commitment of the church to act on behalf of the poor emanates from the conciliar documents of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the fertile ground for liberation theology in the Philippines provided by the Marcos dictatorship (1972–1986), and by the commitment of the church in its 1992 Second Plenary Council to become a church of the poor. Samar contains quality mineralization set amid a wealth of biodiversity, grinding poverty, a simmering Maoist insurgency, and a vulnerability to natural hazards such as typhoons and El Niño induced drought. The opposition of the church to mining on Samar demonstrates the commitment of the church to be a church of the poor and how this praxis stands in contradistinction to the intellectual hegemony of neoliberalism.
    • Eco Valley or New Vraja Dham? Competing Emic Interpretations of the Hungarian Krishna Valley

      Judit Farkas (MDPI AG, 2021-08-01)
      One of the reasons for the spread of the Western Hare Krishna movement is that it offers several alternatives for the practice of religion: devotees can be full-fledged members of the church in congregations located in complex urban or in simple rural contexts. An example of the latter is Krishna Valley, where approximately 130 Krishna-devotees live austere lives. My paper presents the interpretations of this settlement concentrating on (multiple) internal (emic) views: On the one hand, I will show how the leadership of the church contextualizes and interprets Krishna Valley and how they wish the inhabitants to conceptualize it. On the other hand, I will also show what Krishna Valley means for its ordinary inhabitants and what interpretations those living there attach to it. When I was gathering material for the current paper, Krishna Valley was in flux. The settlement has always favored following a sustainable lifestyle but—due in part to the strengthening of the Hungarian eco-village movement—it was at this time that the conceptualization of Krishna Valley as an eco-village gained momentum. This was the heyday of the Eco Valley Foundation, which was to strengthen the eco-village aspect of the Valley, and in the communication of Krishna Valley the ecological aspect became paramount, drowning out all other interpretations. Not all inhabitants of the village welcomed this change and in response some began to emphasize the interpretation of Krishna Valley as a sacred place. In the current paper, I will present these two processes and the relationship between them through the lens of the interpretations of the members of the community.
    • Eco-Theology and Environmental Leadership in Orthodox and Evangelical Perspectives in Russia and Ukraine

      Alexander Negrov; Alexander Malov (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
      Environmental leadership and eco-theology have not been a priority for Evangelical and Orthodox Christians in the countries of the former Soviet Union (particularly, Ukraine and Russia) due to various historical, political, social, and theological reasons. However, contemporary environmental global challenges suggest that both Orthodox and Evangelical Christians should revisit their perspectives and efforts related to responsible stewardship by humankind of the earth and its life forms. This article presents the analysis of multiple forms of data (relevant Orthodox and Evangelical documents, specialized literature, and individual interviews/focus groups). We conducted individual interviews and focus groups with 101 Evangelical and 50 Orthodox Christians from Russia and Ukraine. Although the majority of interviewees agreed that the ecological crisis exists and should be addressed, only some of them admitted that they actively care for creation. While Orthodox Christians are more active in practical care for creation, Evangelicals have a stronger grasp of the biblical teaching concerning nature and humans’ responsibility for it. We argue that Evangelical and Orthodox Churches in Ukraine and Russia can learn from each other and impact their communities: engage minds, touch hearts, feed souls, and respond to environmental challenges as an expression of their faith and leadership.
    • Ecofaith: Reading Scripture in an Era of Ecological Crisis

      J. J. Johnson Leese (MDPI AG, 2019-03-01)
      This essay outlines the emerging field of ecological theology (ecotheology) with a primary focus on the methods of ecological hermeneutics developed by biblical scholars, ethicists, and theologians. This relatively new approach to reading ancient sacred texts has emerged in tandem with, and partially as a result of, increased public, political, and scientific consensus on the impacts of anthropogenic global warming and the ranging environmentally related effects (e.g., reduction of biodiversity and ecosystems, deforestation, loss of fertile lands, and so forth). The demands of our current context have challenged scholars to consider how religious anthropocentric worldviews have influenced historical readings of the Bible in ways that have contributed to the crisis and constricted the ecological contours of the ancient text. In order to place these developments within a broader historical context, the first section summarizes the history and trajectory of ecological hermeneutics over the past four decades. The main section of this work outlines and summarizes the different types of reading strategies being considered and debated among scholars today and includes promising examples of ecocritical readings of biblical texts. These readings are based on a constructive and critical engagement of ancient texts in light of the modern environmental challenges.
    • Ecological Apocalypse in the Poetry of Patrick and Emily Brontë

      Simon Marsden (MDPI AG, 2021-07-01)
      This essay considers relationships between nature, ecology and apocalypse in the poetry of Patrick Brontë (1777–1861) and Emily Brontë (1818–1848). It argues that though Patrick’s poetry emphasises the spiritual benefits of human connection with the natural world, his apocalypticism leads him to see no eschatological future for the natural world. Emily’s poetry is more attentive to destruction and violence in the natural world, but it also offers an eschatological vision of a future in which all of creation participates. Reading Emily’s poetry in theological conversation with that of her father, this essay argues that Emily reinterprets Patrick’s evangelical apocalypticism in the light of her understanding of God as the eternal source of all finite being. Drawing on a theological view of creation as God’s eternal relationship with the earth, Emily suggests that meaningful eschatological hope can be located only in a future in which the whole of creation participates with the human.
    • Ecological Perspectives on Religion and Positive Youth Development

      Mona M. Abo-Zena; Meenal Rana (MDPI AG, 2020-08-01)
      A positivist orientation that marginalized the study of religion and spirituality in social science research has limited both its scope and focus. Given a primarily cognitive orientation to this inquiry, children, adolescents, and emerging adults were typically not the focus of research. More recently, the scope of research has been broadened to emphasize the need to understand contextual and developmental nuances, which are increasingly being reflected in a range of research designs, methods, and samples. The burgeoning scholarship on the role of religion and spirituality in the development of youth during this particularly formative developmental period has begun to shed light on how religion promotes and challenges positive youth development. While this expanding focus has begun to describe youth’s developmental experiences, the deep interconnections between individual youth, religious and spiritual systems, and the contexts and relationships in which youth develop remain understudied. This special issue on the role of religion and spirituality on positive youth development asserts the import of exploring ecological perspectives and influences when studying the role of religion and spirituality in the development of diverse youth and draws from interdisciplinary and lifespan perspectives to continue mapping the terrain of this area of study and ways to navigate it.
    • Ecology as a New Foundation for Natural Theology

      Andreas Gonçalves Lind; Bruno Nobre (MDPI AG, 2021-08-01)
      The erosion of metaphysics that began in Modernity has led to the discredit of the whole project of natural theology as a means to reach God, establish the classical divine attributes, and account for divine action. After the deconstruction of classical metaphysics propelled by thinkers associated with the Protestant tradition and by philosophers affiliated with the Nietzschean critique, it may appear that only an apophatic approach to God would then be possible. However, the attempt to establish a consensual foundation for the theological discourse has not lost its relevance. In this sense, the attempts to revitalize natural theology are most welcome. It would be naive, however, to think that approaches to natural theology based on classical metaphysics will easily gather consensus. This will not happen. The departing point for a renewed and credible approach to natural theology cannot be the theoretical universal reason associated with Modernity, which is no longer acknowledged as a common ground. As such, a viable approach to natural theology has to find a new consensual starting point. The goal of this article is to argue that the emergence of a new ecological urgency and sensibility, which nowadays gather a high degree of consensus, offers an opportunity for the renewal of natural theology. It is our aim: (i) to show the extent to which God grounds the intrinsic value of nature, which, as such, deserves respect, and (ii) to suggest that the reverence for nature may naturally lead contemporary human beings to God.
    • Economic Functions of Monasticism in Cyprus: The Case of the Kykkos Monastery

      Michalis N. Michael; Victor Roudometof (MDPI AG, 2010-12-01)
      The article presents a comprehensive overview of the various economic activities performed by the Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus in its long history (11th–20th centuries). The article begins with a brief review of the early centuries of Cypriot monasticism and the foundation of the monastery in the 11th century. Then, the analysis focuses on the economic activities performed during the period of the Ottoman rule (1571–1878). Using primary sources from the monastery’s archives, this section offers an overview of the various types of monastic land holdings in the Ottoman era and the strategies used to purchase them. Using 19th century primary sources, it further presents a detailed account of the multifaceted involvement and illustrates the prominent role of the monastery in the island’s economic life (land ownership, stockbreeding activities, lending of money, etc.). Next, it examines the changes in monastic possessions caused by the legislation enacted by the post-1878 British colonial administration. The legislation caused the loss of extensive land holdings and was the subject of extensive controversy.
    • Economic Inequality: An Ethical Response

      Shaji George Kochuthara (MDPI AG, 2017-08-01)
      This essay will inquire into the nature of economic inequality from the perspectives of Catholic social teaching and that of a theologian living and working in a developing country. My initial comments will discuss inequality within the context of economic globalization and the neo-liberal paradigm that dominates it. After commenting on the way that development is seen within that paradigm, I will show the impact upon the poor that has occurred as a result of neo-liberal economic policies in nations such as India. Following this exposition of what development according to the neo-liberal model looks like, I will offer another perspective on development drawn from the insights of Catholic social teaching. From that perspective, the importance of solidarity and its influence in shaping a more just and humane approach to development will be considered. The essay will conclude with a number of policy proposals that move away from the present and inadequate view of development to one inspired by a concern for solidarity with the least well off in our world.
    • Ecumenical Ecclesiology in its New Contexts: Considering the Transformed Relationship between Roman Catholic Ecclesiology and Ecumenism

      Kristin Colberg (MDPI AG, 2018-09-01)
      The quest for Christian unity is entering a new phase amidst the movement’s many voices, perspectives and tensions. Christians are witnessing the advent of an emerging ecumenical paradigm, which, because it is not fully realized, is still realizing its full definition. The paradigm operates in a global context rather than a Eurocentric one, and even as it is more global, it is simultaneously more local. It cultivates shared praxis while being less concerned with the comparison of dogmas. Ecclesiology is also entering a new paradigm which shares many features with its ecumenical counterpart, particularly its global perspective and interest in shared praxis ahead of dogmatic questions. Even though ecumenism and ecclesiology share common trajectories, their journeys are unfolding in largely parallel rather than cooperative and mutually-enriching ways. This raises the question: What opportunities might arise from examining the shifts in ecumenism and ecclesiology together? This article examines how new methodological and practical developments in these two fields can form and inform one another. It studies the shift to synodality in the Catholic Church and the turn towards discernment in the ecumenical sphere as manifestations of similar theological commitments and a common interest in cultivating participatory processes. The seismic changes reshaping the religious landscape are transforming the relationship between ecumenism and ecclesiology; yet a strong connection between them endures and illumines paths forward for the church in the third millennium.
    • Ecumenism and Communism in the Romanian Context: Fr. Andre Scrima in the Archives of the Securitate

      Iuliu-Marius Morariu (MDPI AG, 2021-09-01)
      Based on information offered by the archives of the former Romanian Securitate, this paper presents the way in which the image and actions of Fr. Andre Scrima, one of the most important Romanian theologians from abroad (and the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras to the Second Vatican Council), were a topic of interest for the aforementioned surveillance institution during the Romanian Communist regime. At the same time, the emphasis was on the relevance of the ecumenical area for the regime of Bucharest and its interest in using it in order to create the illusion of democracy and freedom. Ninety-five years after the birth of the Romanian theologian, who was not only the disciple of the Romanian Patriarch Justinian and of the aforementioned Greek Patriarch but also an important writer, professor, and abbot, this article aims to bring attention to his life and work, and to provide an investigation into an aspect of his biography which has not been investigated by contemporary researchers from the fields of theology and history until now.
    • Ecumenism: Rapprochement Through Co-working to Reconciliation

      Cyril Hovorun (MDPI AG, 2017-04-01)
      This paper explores some forms of interaction between the Catholic and Orthodox churches in different contexts. Some of these forms are helpful, but not always efficient, and some are not helpful. Theological dialogues belong to the former category of interactions: they are helpful, but not efficient. Alliances on an ideological basis, for instance on the basis of “traditional values,” are unhelpful, because they polarise the churches internally. This article instead proposes a collaboration in the public domain as an alternative way of rapprochement between the two churches. The Ukrainian Maidan (the revolution of 2014) exemplifies a co-working space, which proved to be efficient for restoring trust between Orthodox and Greek Catholics.
    • Editors’ Introduction to “European Perspectives on the New Comparative Theology”

      John Berthrong; Francis X. Clooney (MDPI AG, 2012-12-01)
      This thematic issue of Religions, “European Perspectives on the New Comparative Theology,” asks how comparative theology—an old discipline that has been infused with new energy in recent decades and merited new attention—has been received, understood, and critiqued among theologians and scholars of religions in Europe today. How does comparative theology look in light of current understandings of theology, the study of religions, and comparative studies, and the politics of learning in the churches today? [...]
    • Editor’s Introduction: Religion and Crime: Theory, Research, and Practice

      Kent R. Kerley (MDPI AG, 2018-08-01)
      The scientific study of religion is a relatively recent development in colleges and universitiesaround the world[...]
    • Educating Desire: Conversion and Ascent in Dante’s <i>Purgatorio</i>

      Paul A. Camacho (MDPI AG, 2019-05-01)
      In Cantos 17 and 18 of the <i>Purgatorio</i>, Dante’s Virgil lays out a theory of sin, freedom, and moral motivation based on a philosophical anthropology of loving-desire. As the commentary tradition has long recognized, because Dante placed Virgil’s discourse on love at the heart of the <i>Commedia</i>, the poet invites his readers to use love as a hermeneutic key to the text as a whole. When we contextualize Virgil’s discourse within the broader intention of the poem—to move its readers from disordered love to an ordered love of ultimate things—then we find in these central cantos not just a key to the structure and movement of the poem, but also a key to understanding Dante’s pedagogical aim. With his <i>Commedia</i>, Dante invites us to perform the interior transformation which the poem dramatizes in verse and symbol. He does so by awakening in his readers not only a desire for the beauty of his poetic creation, but also a desire for the beauty of the love described therein. In this way, the poem presents a pedagogy of love, in which the reader participates in the very experience of desire and delight enacted in the text. In this article, I offer an analysis of Virgil’s discourse on love in the <i>Purgatorio</i>, arguing for an explicit and necessary connection between loving-desire and true education. I demonstrate that what informs Dante’s pedagogy of love is the notion of love as ascent, a notion we find articulated especially in the Christian Platonism of Augustine. Finally, I conclude by offering a number of figures, passages, and themes from across the <i>Commedia</i> that provide fruitful material for teachers engaged in the task of educating desire.