Religions is an international, interdisciplinary, open access journal on religions and theology, published monthly online by Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI). MDPI's Editorial Office is in Basel, Switzerland.


The library contains articles of Religions as of vol. 1(2010) to current.

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  • Formation of the Traditional Chinese State Ritual System of Sacrifice to Mountain and Water Spirits

    Jinhua Jia (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    Sacrifice to mountain and water spirits was already a state ritual in the earliest dynasties of China, which later gradually formed a system of five sacred peaks, five strongholds, four seas, and four waterways, which was mainly constructed by the Confucian ritual culture. A number of modern scholars have studied the five sacred peaks from different perspectives, yielding fruitful results, but major issues are still being debated or need to be plumbed more broadly and deeply, and the whole sacrificial system has not yet drawn sufficient attention. Applying a combined approach of religious, historical, geographical, and political studies, I provide here, with new discoveries and conclusions, the first comprehensive study of the formational process of this sacrificial system and its embodied religious-political conceptions, showing how these geographical landmarks were gradually integrated with religious beliefs and ritual-political institutions to become symbols of territorial, sacred, and political legitimacy that helped to maintain the unification and government of the traditional Chinese imperium for two thousand years. A historical map of the locations of the sacrificial temples for the eighteen mountain and water spirits is appended.
  • Discipleship in Oriental Orthodox and Evangelical Communities

    Ralph Lee (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    In many countries with a strong Orthodox Christian presence there are tensions between Evangelicals and Orthodox Christians. These tensions are rooted in many theological, ecclesiological, and epistemological differences. In practice, one of the crucial causes of tension comes down to different practical understandings of what a Christian disciple looks like. This paper examines key aspects of discipleship as expressed in revival movements in Orthodox Churches Egypt, India and Ethiopia which are connected to the challenges presented by the huge expansion of Evangelical Protestant mission from the nineteenth century. Key aspects will be evaluated in comparison with aspects that are understood to characterize disciples in Evangelical expressions, including: differing understandings of the sacraments and their place in the life of a disciple; ways in which different traditions engage with the Bible and related literary works; contrasting outlooks on discipleship as an individual and a community way of life; and differing understanding of spiritual disciplines.
  • Heaven and the Goodness of God

    Jerry L. Walls (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    In this essay, I argue that we should take fully seriously the doctrine of heaven when dealing with the problem of evil in our world. The hope of heaven is integral to Christian theism so it cannot be neglected in any substantive discussion of the problem of evil. Indeed, heaven provides resources to respond to even the worst of evils and to fully redeem them in such a way that the victims of those evils can fully affirm the goodness of their lives. Anyone who achieves heaven will experience a good of such significance and value that the ultimate beauty and goodness of their life could not be questioned. The Christian doctrine of the afterlife also provides resources to make sense of ultimate accountability. The perpetrators of horrendous evil cannot escape and will be called to account for their actions. However, even those who have committed such evil evils can be fully transformed in such a way that they can be fully reconciled with their victims and heartily embraced by them. This shows the doctrine of heaven to be not only profoundly hopeful, but also starkly honest and realistic.
  • Introduction to the Special Issue “Islamic and Muslim Studies in Australia”

    Halim Rane (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    The field we call Islamic studies has a long history that could be said to date from the 8th and 9th centuries in the Middle East when Muslim scholars, including Quran exegetes, hadith compilers, jurists and historians, began to systematically write about the teachings of Islam [...]
  • Buddhism and Cognitive Sciences in Dialogue: Pedagogical Reflections on Teaching across Disciplines

    Eyal Aviv; Kaleigh Spires (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    In this essay, we, a professor and a student, share our experience of teaching and learning in a class on Buddhism and cognitive science at George Washington University. Our goal is not to argue for one approach over others, but to present a guide on this particular class experience. We offer a description of the course and deliberate on the complexities related to the subject matter. Using empirical data from a survey conducted after the commencement of the course, we reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the class and how it could improve. This essay provides a possible template for other faculty members interested in teaching a similar course to extend the dialogue to a new generation of young scholars.
  • “<i>Redha tu Ikhlas</i>”: The Social–Textual Significance of Islamic Virtue in Malay Forced Marriage Narratives

    Alicia Izharuddin (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    What accounts for the endurance of forced marriage (<i>kahwin paksa</i>) narratives in Malaysian public culture? How does one explain the ways popular fascination with forced marriage relate to assumptions about heteronormative institutions and practices? In a society where most who enter into marriages do so based on individual choice, the enduring popularity of forced marriage as a melodramatic trope in fictional love stories suggests an ambivalence about modernity and egalitarianism. This ambivalence is further excavated by illuminating the intertextual engagement by readers, publishers and booksellers of Malay romantic fiction with a mediated discourse on intimacy and cultural practices. This article finds that forced marriage in the intimate publics of Malay romance is delivered as a kind of melodramatic mode, a storytelling strategy to solve practical problems of experience. Intertextual narratives of pain and struggle cast light on ‘<i>redha</i>’ (submission to God’s will) and ‘<i>sabar</i>’ (patience), emotional virtues that are mobilised during personal hardship and the challenge of maintaining successful marital relations. I argue that ‘<i>redha</i>’ and ‘<i>sabar</i>’ serve as important linchpins for the reproduction of heteronormative institutions and wifely obedience (<i>taat</i>). This article also demonstrates the ways texts are interwoven in the narratives about gender roles, intimacy, and marital success (or lack thereof) and how they relate to the modes of romantic melodrama.
  • Coronavirus-Driven Digitalization of In-Person Communities. Analysis of the Catholic Church Online Response in Spain during the Pandemic

    Alba Sabaté Gauxachs; José María Albalad Aiguabella; Miriam Diez Bosch (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    COVID-19 has driven several global offline communities to go online. Restrictions to the free movement of people in response to the coronavirus pandemic triggered a profound rethinking of jobs, products and services, and among them, the activities of religious communities, which are well consolidated in the offline sphere. In Spain, since the lockdown established by the government in March 2020, the Catholic Church has reinvented its activity, as all the churches and other places of worship have been closed. This constituted a considerable challenge, considering the history and dynamics of the institution. This paper aims to analyze how Catholicism, as one of the most consolidated offline communities, reworked its communication, going online in a matter of days. With this objective, researchers surveyed each and every one of the 70 Spanish dioceses, taking them as representatives of the global Catholic community in the country. Their responses are complemented with an in-depth interview with the Director of Communications at the Spanish Conference of Bishops. The results highlight the huge and unprecedented step towards the digitalization of the community through consistent, creative and efficient action. New methods, platforms and languages have been implemented, even broadening community membership. Despite an offline essence that is still detected in some decisions, this pandemic has brought a new communicative paradigm to the Spanish Catholic community. Digitalization has been consolidated whilst preserving the best aspects of direct contact and action.
  • A Transcript of Submission: Jesus as Fated Victim of Divine Violence in the Old Saxon <i>Heliand</i>

    Samuel J. Youngs (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    The <i>Heliand</i>, written shortly after the conquest and conversion of the Saxons at the hands of Charlemagne, maintains a vexed place in the study of medieval European Christianity(ies). Some argue that the <i>Heliand</i>’s overarching intent was pastoral, meant to ease the fears and calm the rage of the defeated Saxons, while others posit that the <i>Heliand</i> reflects a “dissident gospel,” aimed at subverting the official theological outlook of the Carolingian empire. This study argues that while both theories capture something of the <i>Heliand</i>’s ingenious contextual impact, they underestimate one of its key themes: the role of wurd (fate) and its co-identification with the “power of God,” which drives Jesus to the cross and scaffolds his submission to the violence of the divine will. Thus, the <i>Heliand</i> presents compliant victimization as the proper “fate” of those who submit to God’s purposes, promising a heavenly reward and countermanding the Saxon ethos of resistance.
  • 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.
  • Introduction to the Special Issue “Religious and Spiritual Experiences”

    Anne Austad; Hanneke Muthert (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    William James’s seminal book, <i>The Varieties of Religious Experience</i> (1902/2012), describes the phenomenology and ‘fruits’ (James 2012, p [...]
  • Father André Scrima on Interdenominational Dialogue and Interreligious Openness

    Dragoş Boicu (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    Living and teaching among different cultures, Father André Scrima found a favourable environment that challenged him to understand the complex dynamic of the relationship with the ‘alien’, the ‘other’. He developed a fresh theological position and proposed a responsible openness to otherness. Through his entire diplomatic and didactic activity, and especially through the ideas he promoted in his courses, he tried to set in motion an approach to interfaith and interreligious dialogue that was as humble as possible, but creative and free. The purpose of this paper is to present, as authentically as possible, a part of his outstanding thinking on the matter of interdenominational dialogue and interreligious openness.
  • Professionalizing the Imam in Europe: Imam Training Programs as Sites of Deliberative Engagement

    Welmoet Boender (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    This article discusses the first experiences of a supplementary imam training program that has been designed in the Netherlands for community-based imams, female religious leaders and mosque committee members. This “Professionalization of Imams in the Netherlands” program (PIN) was set up as a cooperation of the Representative Council of Muslims (CMO) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, supported by state-subsidy. The article discusses how the initiators maneuvered within and beyond the politicized burden of expectation that has surrounded the establishment of European-based imam training programs for decades now. The article provides a unique insight into the program’s design, its collaborative partners and participants’ experiences, understanding the program as a site of deliberative engagement. It shows how the stakeholders ideally see ownership of the curriculum and trainee recruitment as a shared responsibility for the Muslim community and the public educational institution, whereas the state is willing to finance it. The article outlines how in this attempt the stakeholders must deal with some paradoxical dynamics that influence this notion of “shared ownership”. Sharing these analytical observations and recommendations will hopefully help stakeholders involved in setting up similar European programs to make rational decisions on content and format of (future) supplementary programs, within and beyond fields of power, authority and interest.
  • Medieval Monastery Gardens in Iceland and Norway

    Per Arvid Åsen (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    Gardening was an important part of the daily duties within several of the religious orders in Europe during the Middle Ages. The rule of Saint Benedict specified that the monastery should, if possible, contain a garden within itself, and before and above all things, special care should be taken of the sick, so that they may be served in very deed, as Christ himself. The cultivation of medicinal and utility plants was important to meet the material needs of the monastic institutions, but no physical garden has yet been found and excavated in either Scandinavia or Iceland. The Cistercians were particularly well known for being pioneer gardeners, but other orders like the Benedictines and Augustinians also practised gardening. The monasteries and nunneries operating in Iceland during medieval times are assumed to have belonged to either the Augustinian or the Benedictine orders. In Norway, some of the orders were the Dominicans, Fransiscans, Premonstratensians and Knights Hospitallers. Based on botanical investigations at all the Icelandic and Norwegian monastery sites, it is concluded that many of the plants found may have a medieval past as medicinal and utility plants and, with all the evidence combined, they were most probably cultivated in monastery gardens.
  • The Reality of Casas Grandes Potters: Realistic Portraits of Spirits and Shamans

    Christine S. VanPool; Todd L. VanPool (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    Most Native American groups believed in a form of animism in which spirit essence(s) infused forces of nature (e.g., the wind and thunder), many living plants and creatures, and many inanimate objects. This animism created other-than-human persons in which spirits were fused with matter that allowed them to interact with and even influence humans. Art in Western culture tends to denote “imagination”, and many scholars studying Native American art bring a similar perspective to their analyses. However, many Native Americans do not equate art with imagination in the same way, but instead use art to realistically portray these other-than-human persons, even when they are not typically visible in the natural world (e.g., the Southwestern horned-plumed serpent). Here, we apply a cognitive framework to evaluate the interplay of spirits at various levels that were created as Casas Grandes artisans used art as a means of depicting the inherent structure of the Casas Grandes spirit world. In doing so, they created links between ceremonially important objects such as pots and spirits that transformed these objects into newly created animated beings. The art thus simultaneously reflected the structure of the unseen world while also helping to determine the characteristics of these newly created other-than-human persons. One technique commonly used was to decorate objects with literal depictions of spirit beings (e.g., horned-plumed serpents) that would produce a natural affinity among the ceremonial objects and the spirit creatures. This affinity in turn allowed the animated ceremonial objects to mediate the interaction between humans and spirits. This approach transcends a view in which Casas Grandes art is considered symbolically significant and instead emphasizes the art as a component that literally helped create other-than-human collaborators that aided Casas Grandes people as they navigate ontologically significant relationships.
  • ‘To Hell with Bishops’: Rethinking the Nexus of State, Law and Religion in Times of Crisis in Zimbabwe

    Bekithemba Dube (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    The article addresses the responses of the government of Zimbabwe and its proxies to a letter issued by Catholic bishops on 14 August 2020, entitled ‘<i>The march is not ended</i>’. The response to the letter presents an ambivalent view of the nexus of the state, law and religion in Zimbabwe, which needs to be teased out and challenged in order to reinvent a democratic nation. This theoretical article taps into decoloniality theory to problematise state responses to the letter. The articles discuss responses by government actors, such as Monica Mutswanga and Nick Magwana, and regime enablers, such as Mutendi and Wutawunashe. The responses indicate the weaponization of religion and law to silence dissenting voices, and to enact a skewed nationalism. The article argues that, in the context of crisis, authoritarianism, and abuse of human rights, politicians and religious leaders should position their narratives to enact social justice, ontological density, peace and accountability, as a healing process to usher in sustainable development.
  • The Problem of Evil, Skeptical Theism and Moral Epistemology

    Scott M. Coley (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    This paper argues that skeptical theism isn’t susceptible to criticisms of the view presented in James Sterba’s new book on the logical problem of evil. Nevertheless, Sterba’s argument does serve to underscore the unpalatable moral-epistemological consequences of skeptical theistic skepticism (STS): for precisely the reasons that STS doesn’t succumb to Sterba’s critique, STS threatens to undermine moral knowledge altogether.
  • Is God Morally Obligated to Prevent Evil? A Response to James Sterba

    Joseph Brian Huffling (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    James Sterba’s book, <i>Is a Good God Logically Possible?</i>, argues that given the amount of significant and horrendous evil in the world, it is not possible for a (morally) good God to exist. This article draws on the work of Brian Davies’ interpretation of Thomistic metaphysics and theology proper and argues that God is not a moral being, and thus has no obligations to prevent such evil. If such is the case, then the problem of evil as presented by Sterba is not a problem for God’s existence.
  • Understanding Moral Disagreement: A Christian Perspectivalist Approach

    Blake McAllister (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    Deep moral disagreements exist between Christians and non-Christians. I argue that Christians should resist the temptation to pin all such disagreements on the irrationality of their disputants. To this end, I develop an epistemological framework on which both parties can be rational—the key being that their beliefs are formed from different perspectives and, hence, on the basis of different sets of evidence. I then alleviate concerns that such moral perspectivalism leads to relativism or skepticism, or that it prohibits rational discourse. I end by exploring new avenues for resolving deep moral disagreements opened up by the perspectivalist approach.
  • The Gender of God’s Gifts—Dividual Personhood, Spirits and the Statue of Mother Mary in a Sepik Society, Papua New Guinea

    Christiane Falck (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    A Sepik myth tells of a time in which women were in charge of powerful spirits before jealous men reversed the gender roles by force. Today, the men of Timbunmeli (Nyaura, West Iatmul) have lost control over spirits who have started to act through female bodies. Christian charismatic rituals hint at mythical times, and remind villagers that women are the original custodians of spirits now understood as being spirits of God. While previously, male bodies represented spirits in shamanic rituals and through male ritual regalia, now women are the predominant recipients of God’s gifts. This paper analyzes the current religious practices as onto-praxis in relation to the local concept of personhood and the relational ontology informing the Nyaura’s lifeworld. Building on Strathern, Bird-David, and Gell’s theories about the personhood of humans and things from an anthropology of ontology perspective and adding a gender perspective to the discussion, this paper argues that dividuality put into practice has not only informed the way the Nyaura have made charismatic Christianity their own, but is also central for understanding current events impacting gender relations in which material objects representing spirits play a crucial role.
  • The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil

    Edward Feser (MDPI AG, 2021-04-01)
    In his book ‘Is a Good God Logically Possible?’, James Sterba argues that the existence of much of the evil to be found in the world is logically incompatible with the existence of God. I defend the Thomistic view that when one properly understands the nature of God and of his relationship to the world, this so-called logical problem of evil does not arise. While Sterba has responded to the version of the Thomistic position presented by Brian Davies, I argue that his response fails.

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