Conversations may begin over an open air fire or on the warm wooden pews of a church. In these accustomed places, words matter and sink in. Theologian George Lindbeck argues that discussion and discourse will win more hearts and souls than words etched on stone. Such nuances and expressions of dialogue assist religious personnel in expressing their beliefs in a more ecumenical fashion, producing a better understanding of doctrine, which is more and more crucial in today's global society. This paper explores Lindbeck's theology through the deconstructionist concepts of philosopher Jacques Derrida, proposing that the breakdown and reconstruction of beliefs may lead to changes in attitudes and actions by the sender and the receiver. Faith is much more than belief. It is the language and practices that surround it. Often, that language is foreign, and so, in re-conceiving it for a broader, often ill-informed audience, it becomes more relevant, especially to modern times. Lindbeck stresses the need for new ways of understanding, and that need is so crucial in today's secular and alienated societies.
Pneumatological Understanding of Jonathan Edwards' "New Sense of the Heart." Dong Yaul Tae, Calvin Theological Seminary
How to understand the term "new sense of the heart," which was reshaped from Lockean terminology into a Calvinistic one by Jonathan Edwards, has been a hot issue in Edwards studies. For some scholars such as Paul Helm, the "new sense of the heart" has no connection to ordinary sense perception (or experience) and implies a kind of sixth sense. For others such as Perry Miller, it means a deeper vision of the present world or "a gracious emotion." In this conflict of views regarding the "new sense of the heart," this paper will show that Edwards' pneumatology is the key to understanding this term.
For Edwards, the Holy Spirit as an indwelling vital principle in the believer's thought, affection, volition, and action, works in and through these ordinary faculties of the believer without overriding or being subject to them. This implies that the "new sense of the heart" is for Edwards not a new added faculty of the soul or a gracious feeling, but a new principle of the ordinary faculties of the soul by the indwelling and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. For Edwards, this "new sense" as the new principle is also a "foundation for action," which gives the ordinary faculties of the believer the ability and disposition to freely exert new kinds of exercises such as discerning the true spiritual and holy beauty of divine things.
Temporary Public: Community Organizing of LGBTQ Muslims through Internet Usage. Mariam Mustafa, Western Michigan University
With the increase in visibility among LGBTQ Muslim populations in activist circles, the desire to understand the critical formation of this community and its impacts on individual identity construction is integral to the project of conflicting intersectional identity analysis. In this paper, I am troubling constructions of community through exploring temporal spatial configurations of support for LGBTQ-identified Muslims living in America. I assert that when community is not something one can physically access, use of the internet to create temporary spaces of community is critical in assessing identity reconciliation between intersectional conflicting identities. As it relates to LGBTQ-identified Muslims, where there is a distinct lack of public community, the level of crisis some individuals face is explored through their use of online vehicles to establish social support systems that would otherwise not be accessible. Analysis of community formation among LGBTQ Muslims includes ethnography through an online presence, in addition to fieldwork with this population throughout the state of Michigan.
Spirituality and Biomedicine. Joseph Schuetz, Western Michigan University
My paper analyzes intersections between spirituality and biomedical theory in contemporary academic and medical discourse. Recent research suggests a relationship between the spirituality or religiosity of patients and their health care outcomes. However, these findings are complicated by ongoing definitional debates over what counts as religion or spirituality and how to measure subjective experiences of health. Drawing on scholarship from medical anthropology, transcultural psychology, philosophy of science, and heath care research, I explore how interdisciplinary scholars assess and operationalize connections between spirituality and health. Based on this body of scholarship, I explain why spirituality is a notoriously difficult term to define for purposes of assessment in health care. Departing from traditional analyses, my paper underscores the importance of embodied spiritual experience and explores ways in which these subjective states can be incorporated into a holistic definition of spirituality. I then critique biomedical theory itself, which assumes an objective scientific stance as authoritative. I analyze the ways in which this objectivity, which informs clinical practice, regards many aspects of a substantive definition of spirituality as lying outside of its theoretical domain. I conclude by exploring models of biomedical objectivity that can account for a holistic, embodied spirituality.
The Church and Astronomy: A Committed but Complicated Relationship. Brenton Cordeiro, Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Asaad Istephan, Madonna University
The Church has a reputation for being critical of sciences and particularly astronomy. In fact, several Church leaders and theologians over the centuries expressed reservations and objections to the study of astronomy. Astronomical research was partly seen as a futile venture, and partly seen as a potential challenge to ancient Greek philosophy (the basis of much of Christian philosophy), and thus, seen as a threat to the entire foundation of theological study. Incidents like those with Galileo, whose clash with the Church over his support of a heliocentric system, led many to believe that the Church is opposed to science. Nevertheless, the Church's support of astronomy is clear through various contributions it has made to the field. From the Gregorian calendar, to the Vatican Observatory, to a host of clergy-astronomers, and even through its architecture, the Church has facilitated innovation in astronomy in ways that are not always highlighted. Undoubtedly, in some of these instances, the Church may have had its own objectives in supporting astronomical study, but the resulting benefit achieved for the field of astronomy cannot be denied. This paper demonstrates how the Church as an institution is committed to the study of astronomy, despite certain historical incidents that suggest otherwise.
The Impact of Global South Christianity on African Mission Churches: The Case of Adventism in East Africa. Christopher R. Mwashinga, Andrews University
In recent decades, Christianity has experienced two major phenomena as a religion: the decline of Christianity in the global North (Europe and North America) and its rise in the global South (Africa, Asia, and Latin America). Studies show that this southward movement of Christian demographics may continue for several decades. The manifestation and impact of the global South phenomenon is more prevalent on the continent of Africa than it is in other southern continents--Asia and Latin America. This phenomenon has impacted many mission churches in Africa in varied ways. This paper looks at the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in East Africa as a case study and examines the global South Christianity's impact on it. The paper argues that the recent reorganization of the denominational entities and the quest for expansion of educational and health care institutions in the region, are some of the church's reacrions to the impact of the global South Christianity trends. This study concludes that as the global South Christianity continues to impact mission churches in Africa, it also creates the need among individual denominations to readjust and reposition them in order to meet the ever increasing multi-faceted challenges and take advantage of the opportunities it provides.
Religion and the Body: Transformative Powers of the Buddhist Robe in Medieval Japanese Texts. Diane Riggs, Western Michigan University
The Buddhist robe, a rectangular piece of stitched cloth that wraps around the body, acquired esoteric significance and protective powers in medieval Japanese Buddhist texts. The significance of the garment went beyond simply identifying the wearer as a member of a Buddhist monastic order. For example, merely donning the robe was regarded as transformative, as in the case of a prostitute who put on a robe to entertain her clients, and was subsequently ordained as a Buddhist nun. This paper will analyze the structure of beliefs regarding the relationship of the body to the Buddhist robe in the medieval Japanese texts. During this period, a concern with identifying every aspect of Japanese geography and material culture as "sacred" combined with fearful beliefs about the apocalyptic period of the decline of the Dharma. Medieval Buddhist esoteric texts (kirikami), legends and tales (setsuwa) and hagiographies describe the robe variously as a map of the sacred (mandala); as having talismanic and protective qualities; and even extend to interpreting a baby born with a caul or second skin, as destined for spiritual greatness. I will argue that the powers attributed to the Buddhist robe challenge the notion of clerical dress as simply social identity.
Religion and the Body: Tattoo Culture after the New Age. Natalie St. Clair, Western Michigan University
In this paper I will investigate the correlation between contemporary tattoo culture and characteristics of the New Age Movement that have become integrated into mainstream culture in the West. The New Age Movement developed a fertile socio-cultural environment in which ideals such as individuality, small network communities, and anti-institutionalism took root and developed. Principles such as spirituality and individual spiritual expression manifest prominently both in the New Age and the post renaissance tattoo culture. The "tattoo renaissance" is marked as a point of extreme transformation with regards to the general attitudes towards tattoos in the West. Prior to the renaissance, tattoos had previously been worn by the criminally inclined, racially intolerant, or military personnel. As the American white middle class demographic began to accept the practice, so it became an accepted art form and source for a wealth of meaning. To provide a foundation for this analysis, the relationship between religion and tattoos in the West is examined as both prescribing and prohibiting. Finally, through a tri-part structure of individuality, community, and symbolism, I will analyze the New Age Movement and contemporary tattoo culture in correlation with one another as they exist separately, share influence, and express similar characteristics.
Religion and the Body: The Ambiguity of Asceticism--a Summary and Critique of Gavin Flood's The Ascetic Self. Jair Stout, Western Michigan University
Asceticism is an intriguing topic of study for both philosophers and historians of religion. The ubiquity of ascetic practices in religious traditions, despite their apparently marginal status, makes it a productive means of comparative analysis. I contend that the distinctive embodied practices of its adherents as well as the doxastic outlooks they maintain are useful windows onto human nature, human society, and even the nature of the world. Why do some people choose to renounce the self and sensual indulgence? However one answers this question, the precise nature of asceticism and its larger implications is of some philosophic import. The philosopher Schopenhauer, for example, incorporated a definition of asceticism into his metaphysical system and advocated its utility. More recently, Gavin Flood, a British scholar of religion, has written a comparative analysis of religious asceticism. Flood sees asceticism as inherently ambiguous for the reason that its adherents paradoxically seek freedom from bodily limitation by means of bodily limitation. Though valuable and illuminating in certain respects, contemporary accounts like Flood's crucially lack the depth found in accounts by figures like Schopenhauer.
Religion and the Body: Living Sacrifices and Kenotic Discourse in Evangelical Athleticism. Zachary Smith, Western Michigan University
This paper uses critical discourse analysis to examine themes of worship, bodily sacrifice, and violence in American evangelical athleticism as it is represented in media such as books, devotionals, blogs, and interviews. Recent scholarship suggests that since the 1980s, evangelical justifications for sport participation have shifted from proselytism to embodied transcendent experience. This research critically constructs evangelical theologies of sport, showing how sport offers a way for the Christian athlete to identify, in bodily fashion, with Christ. This identification with the crucified Christ functions to authorize painful, harmful, and even violent sport experiences as spiritual worship experiences.
This project provides a window through which to understand the body as a site of religious knowledge, aurhority, and meaning making for the athlete, and moves beyond mere symbolic social analyses of sport by offering insight into the lived experiences of athletes. Doing so enriches sports studies, as well as integrates the fields of sports and religious studies.
Do Not Neglect the Gatherings. Erhard H. Gallos, Andrews University
Do not neglect the Gatherings (Hebrews 10:25).
In a chain of hortatory subjunctives ("Let us draw nearer ..." [Heb. 10:22], "Let us hold on to the confession ..." [v.23], "Let us be concerned about one another..." [v. 24]), the author of Hebrews exhorts his audience "not to forsake the gatherings together, as is the custom of some" (Heb. 10:25a). The warning not to "forsake (engkataleipo)" their gatherings together connotes not simply neglect, but wrongful abandonment (cf. Matt 27:46; 2 Tim 4:10, 16; 2 Cor 4:9; Heb 13:5) based on the verb that is used both in Hebrews and elsewhere in the New Testament. The object of this abandonment is "the assembly (episynagoge)," a term the author uses to express the assembly of his addressees.
Why is the author of Hebrews so emphatically warning his audience about the fact that they should not forsake their gatherings together? What is so dangerous if they do neglect their gatherings? What kind of gatherings is the author talking about? Are those gatherings social gatherings, political gatherings, or religious gatherings? These are the questions this paper will pursue in order to find answers from within the book of Hebrews.
Audience Impact of Adventist Word Radio in India and Russia. Duane McBride and Petr Cincala, Andrews University; Rene Drumm, Southern Mississippi University; Karl Bailey, Andrews University
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has spent considerable resources in using media to impact new fields of evangelism. The focus of this project was to assess the audience awareness of Adventist World Radio (AWR) and to examine the perceived impact of AWR programs in two countries of special focus of the organization. These were India and Russia. In both countries, a sample of 500 was chosen from Adventist Churches in selected communities and 500 community members for a total of 1,000 in each country. In the community surveys, a passerby methodology was used in major shopping areas. Questions focused on the subject's use of media, their awareness of AWR, if they listened to AWR programs, what programs they liked and any impact of AWR programs on their lives. This impact included contacting a local Adventist church because of AWR. Data analysis showed less than five percent of those included in the market survey had ever heard of Adventist Word Radio with even less reporting any impact from the programs. Analysis showed the difficulty faced by AWR in attempting to impact cultures distant from its programming center in the Washington, D.C. area amidst a plethora of available media.
Imagining Yoga: Western Constructions of a Hindu Text and Practice. Abhishek Ghosh and Waverly Sisson, Grand Valley State University
Hinduism is a religion without one overarching text; and yet, during the colonial period, European missionaries and orientalists demanded of Hinduism a central, "holy book." The modern ramifications have resulted in the Bhagavad Gita becoming the "Bible of the Hindus," and in effect overshadowing the Vedas, Puranas, and other important Hindu texts. Similarly, yoga became "India's leading spiritual export to the West" after modern postural yoga (asana) became a multi-billion dollar industry under the auspices of US capitalism. This paper examines the intellectual history of the popularity of Bhagavad Gita, a central yoga text and asana, a physical part of an eight-fold yogic practice to ask whether Western cultural and religious hegemony helped this text and practice eclipse many other Hindu worldviews and practices important to indigenous adherents. By discussing the various imaginations of yoga in the Western world, beginning with Orientalist constructions of knowledge about the "East," the presence of Hindu movements in the United States (such as Transcendental Meditation and the Hare Krishna movement), and the multi-billion dollar US yoga industry, this paper shall examine whether there is a problem of "power-blindness" in the debate revolving around the contemporary popular question, "Is yoga Hindu?"
Rethinking Gematria in the Philosophical Theology of D. G. Leahy. Sarah Heidt and Sharrice Autry, Marygrove College
For centuries, gematria has been used by both Jews and Christians as a tool in Biblical exegesis. The process attempts to expose underlying identities or equivalences within scripture that might not be seen otherwise. In Foundation: Matter the Body Itself (1996), David G. Leahy proposed and demonstrated a novel method of the mathematical reading of language which utilizes the traditional Hebrew and Greek gematria values, but which he distinguishes from traditional ("irrational") gematria. The letters are treated as elements in a proportion and three different mathematical operations are used to yield three different values for the word or phrase under consideration. Theologian Thomas Altizer has called Leahy "our most isolated and unknown major thinker" and his work "profoundly Catholic." Leahy's use of the mathematical reading of Biblical texts is a surprising approach, but one which deserves more attention than it has received. His work cannot be fully comprehended without due attention to the novel gematria he uses, though many of his readers have preferred to avoid it. This paper will describe his objectives, demonstrate his method, and then expand upon his fascinating results.
American Muslim Women and the Mosque. Amber Coniglio, Western Michigan University
This paper will analyze debates among American Muslim women about their relationship with the mosque. Based on ethnographic accounts, documentaries, internet blogs, and newspaper reports, I will examine contestations over gender organization at the mosque, the women's-only mosque, and female prayer leaders. The paper will also attend to how ethnic and racial identity matters in these debates. Some American Muslim women feel that gender separation within the mosque is degrading, limiting, and unnecessary. They want equal access to imams, seminars, teaching opportunities, leadership, and prayer space. This paper will explain how these women are crossing racial and ethnic lines to push towards gender equality within the mosques as well as outside of the mosque. Other American Muslim women feel that gender segregation is beneficial for women. These women believe that gender segregation allows them more control within their own faith. These attitudes are rooted in their interpretation of religious scriptures, their cultures of origin ethnicity, and may be affected by factors such as the length of time spent in the United States. Both groups are able to gain support from other likeminded women, their brothers and male leaders, and their interpretation of religious texts.
The New Orientalism: Origins, Definition, Ideals, and Scope of Islamic "Law." Achmat Salie, University of Detroit Mercy
Islamic ethico-moral-legal thinking impacted several civilizations; it has much to offer a broken and deeply flawed American legal system, especially the criminal justice system. The paper will discuss ideas from experts on Islamic law and other related fields: Wael Hallaq, Sherman Jackson, Maria Dakake, Joseph Lumbard, Talal Asad, Taha Abdurahman, Shahab Ahmad, and others. The paper will further examine cases such as the Bhuiyan vs Stroman case during which Shariah law seemed to show more lenience and compassion than American law. The paper will compare the idealistic Islamic "ought" polity with the modern nation state. Other topics would include heretical secularism, liberalism, sovereignty, modernity and post-modernity, colonialism, and traditionalism that directly impact the understanding of Islamic law. Shari'ah equals the Taj Mahal, organ donation, pure altruism, political integrity, Rumi's poetry and inclusivity, defense of all houses of worship, abolition of slavery, and individual, women, and family empowerment--it is not an emergency ward for the chopping off of human limbs. The primary goal of Shari'ah is the development of a moral cosmology. The paper will debunk some myths and share the latest research in the field.
The Appropriation of the Concept of "Translation" as a Model for Missional Doctrinal Hermeneutics in Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Elmer A. Guzman, Andrews University
Missional doctrinal hermeneutics hold massive ramifications for Christian theology. However, theologians conceive of missional doctrinal hermeneutics in various ways. This paper addresses the problem of the missional hetmeneutics of Kevin J. Vanhoozer's appropriation of the concept of translation as it relates to the development of doctrine from a canonical perspective. This paper analyzes some of the foundational assumptions, and presuppositions thereof, that hold significant implications for conceptualizing the interconnections between doctrine, language, and translation, as they relate to systematic theology and missiology.
Pool of Bethesda as an Asclepius-Pagan Temple in a Hellenistic Jerusalem: How Would This Understanding Contribute to the Interpretation of John 5 as a Unit. Lincoln Nogueira, Andrews University
The Pool of Bethesda, and consequently John 5, has been reinterpreted in Jewish circles as an Asclepius-Pagan Temple due to a heavily Hellenistic influence in Jerusalem in the first century. This paper seeks to explore this possibility, and further, how this information can elucidate our interpretation of the following discourse of the chapter where Jesus dialogues with the Pharisees. A narrative analysis approach is employed in order to seek repeating snippets of the language John selects to make this whole chapter a unit. At the end, internal data seem to support this theory of it being an Asclepius temple pool at the time Jesus approaches the lame. The subsequent verses accentuate Jesus' claim that only in him can they find life and by going to wrong places they will never find it. In one more chapter the author presents integration of a particular story-event with intricate dialogues in order to enrich his gospel portrayal. Jesus is depicted in a combination of showing and telling. This connection is significant.
Religious and Migrant Minorities in Morocco: The Refugee Crisis in a Global Context. Rachael Pulice, Western Michigan University
Ongoing war in the Middle East and Africa has led to an increase in refugees whose identities differ from the host society. Receiving countries have developed and demonstrated different ideologies of pluralism and multi-culturalism. My paper analyzes the experiences of migrant Christian minorities in Morocco in terms of their human rights and the effectiveness of legislative efforts to achieve religious equality. Morocco is a Muslim-majority country with a deep religious identity. The government is a kingdom with a democratic parliamentary system which presents itself as multireligious, providing different contexts for religious diversity. Official declarations by religious leaders promote a spirit of coexistence, and music festivals foster public celebrations of many faiths. Regardless, studies and journal reports reveal that religious minorities are still marginalized. Morocco's Christian population often comes from Sub-Saharan Africa, seeking asylum and economic stability on their journey north to Europe. However, this faith is particularly challenging for some Moroccans to accept. Using both scholarly and journalistic accounts, my paper examines contradictions between official accommodation and everyday experience of Christian minorities, aiming to understand the social, cultural, and religious context of Morocco in an attempt to contribute to the discussion of the global struggle of religious minorities and migrants.