Academic Engagements With Course Materials Term Paper

Pages: 13 (4321 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] " And somehow, Maimela continues, this theology of oppression builds a case for concept of an "authoritarian" God who "establishes different social classes in every society." In other words, Maimela is viewing the Christian church mainstream as perpetuating the belief that God doesn't care about the oppressed people of color, and also the belief that God accepts injustice as par for the course.

What options does Maimela offer; what do I think of his issues and options?

On the other hand, Maimela writes that critics of liberation theology (AKA, in support of black theology) miss the point that God's love is "unconditional" (149) and that God "accepts the unacceptable, the rejected, and the worthless." God is in fact, Maimela states, the liberator of slaves, and there needs to be "alternative Biblical and theological models (visions)" with which the struggling black masses can be "encouraged and empowered to become subjects of their own history and destiny."

And meantime (157), Maimela suggests that black theologians "must simply tell foes and admirers alike that the oppressed black community needs an alternative theology"; and that black theologians "must take upon themselves the responsibility of searching for new ways of talking about God's presence in the world." This then will potentially build a new theology that leads to "black liberation, self-realization, and fuller humanization."

Many of Maimela's issues are valid; it's true that in the rich communities and neighborhoods, the Christian church, no matter what denomination, tends to cater to the beliefs and values of the wealthy, and tends to look the other way at poverty, racism, homelessness, drug addiction and the other problems inherent in struggling urban areas. But that does not mean that all members of the richer congregations are uncaring racists. It does not mean we must all invent new ways to come to terms with God and his Word.

Writers like Maimela have good points to make, but it might be more beneficial to the overall level of understanding of all Christians, of all ethnicities and economic status, to find a middle ground where Christians can bond their common values, where they may work together towards solutions for the world's most pressing problems (such as tsunami relief), blending together and combining energies as a team, not as a series of distinctly different groups of separate and unequal Christians.

What are the major issues for J. Severino Croatto?

Croatto writes (140) that there could be as many variations on interpreting the Bible as there are theologies, and in that fact, the Bible "seems quite distant from our new problems." And that said -- in his essay, "Biblical Hermeneutics in the Theologies of Liberation"

-- he asks, in effect, how does the Bible fit into the theology of and for "oppressed peoples of the Third World?"

He offers four way to approach the problem of how the Bible -- which seems quite distant from the "real world" problems of poor people -- can become relevant in the Third World (141-142): one, relegate the Bible "to a secondary role," as literature reflecting "the past"; two, search for some relationship between what is happening to us, and what the Bible reports about the human condition; three, attempt to "rediscover" the cultural and historical background against which the Bible was initially written; that way, readers can more easily understand the context under which the Bible was written; and four, look at the Bible hermeneutically, or interpretively, with an eye towards carefully examining the language used, and realize it was actually written down from spoken words in most cases.

Croatto (144-145) goes to great lengths to fully examine the technicalities of language relative to how the Bible was written, and how the spoken word was then received by a writer, who interpreted what was said and transcribed the message as best he or she could. His discussion of semiotics ("a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics ... " -- Merriam-Webster Online) becomes rather tedious, and even esoteric. Indeed, Croatto's lengthy description of the "process of the [Bible's] production" is apparently not meant for the lay person interested merely in how to interpret the Bible, but rather, for the scholar or the theologian, to add to the discourse on the Bible's relevancy.

What options does Croatto offer; what do I think of his issues and options?

While Croatto's essay is somewhat difficult to follow, and he seemed to move from discussing liberation theology to semiotics and semantics without a clear transition in tone and meaning, he does write a very cogent line on page 154. "Semiotics teaches us that the message of a text is not in a fragment of its report, but in its totality, as a structure that encodes a meaning." Taking that line, and changing it a bit, one could deduce from Croatto and other scholars that indeed the message in the Bible is not found in a "fragment" of its volumes and chapters, but rather in the "totality" of its combined stories.

What are the major issues for Ernst Troeltsch?

In his book, The Absoluteness of Christianity and the History of Religions

, Troeltsch takes an historic view, far more philosophical and reverent towards Christianity than the previous writers reviewed for this paper -- and more focused on pluralism, the understanding that there are many faiths that view God as the supreme being, and the degree to which one faith (denomination) tolerates others.

Troeltsch's work is referring in many forms and through many examples to the "historical uniqueness of Christianity" (p. 48); but though he clearly sees Christianity as the true religion in and of history, he postulates on page 49 that "There exists, in reality, only one religion, namely, the principle or essence of religion, and this principle of religion, this essence of religion, is latent in all historical religions as their ground and goal."

Troeltsch refers to Christianity as "the absolute religion," and Christianity -- "this universally latent essence" -- has appeared throughout history "in untrammeled and exhaustive perfection." The author goes to great lengths, and writes in sometimes complicated yet deeply theoretical / philosophical passages, to explain that history shows all religions are "relative truths" and Christianity must be interpreted "in relation to these relative truths as the absolute and completed form of religion."

He explains (52) that man is "cut off from the light of knowledge by the darkness of sin," but the "manifestation" that is required to lift man up from that darkness is "divine" (e.g., created by or of God). Christianity, in the author's view, is that "manifestation" which is recognized "as divine precisely because it transcends and nullifies all likeness to human events." In other words, in lay terms, it appears that he is saying that if one perceives that Christianity as a "miracle" (and Jesus being born to a virgin and later being raised from the dead is a miracle), that is a "guarantee" of one being a believer.

Believing in miracles related to God is accepting "supernaturalism," and also it entails accepting the "absoluteness" -- albeit, on page 53 he explains that Christians have only receive "a down payment and a pledge of the truth"; and "anxiety, guilt, and sin have been overcome but that the divine light with its perfect clarity has sent only one of its rays into the midst of a vast, profound darkness."

Finally, to understand what Troeltsch is writing, on pages 53-54 it seems clear that through knowledge a human has the ability to discover relating to God is finite, but that cursory knowledge "tangled reality becomes crystal clear"; "absoluteness" then is the "self-realization of god in the human consciousness."

What options does Troeltsch offer; what do I think of his issues and options?

Troeltsch offers two great theories to explain the "absoluteness" of Christianity in relations to the other religions. One theory relies on the absolute "miracle of an inner renewal that transcends all natural powers," and the other is that the true "essence" of religion is Christianity -- an "idealistic-evolutionary theory" which attempts to rule out every means of "isolating Christianity from the rest of history on the basis of miracle." My viewpoint is, if one does not believe in the miracle of Christ's birth, of his many miracles witnessed by numerous people, and the miracle of his ascension from the dead, then Christianity won't work for that person in any event.

It's interesting for august theologians to postulate and speculate on why Christianity is or isn't the "absolute" religion, but in the end, religion -- and of course Christianity -- is a very personal issue, and not one that requires accepting anyone's opinion, any scholar's research, or even any denomination's dogma at all. Believing is merely a matter of accepting God, and if one is a Christian, one accepts God through Jesus Christ.

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