Category: Religion


Desiderius Erasmus: A Brief Biographical Sketch

Desiderius Erasmus is one of the most influential Catholic theologians in the entire history of the faith.  He is remembered not only as a prominent member of the Church but also as a great Humanist.  He took a middle path approach to resolving conflicts between religion and rationalism.  He was despised by both sides for his preference for compromise over conflict. But his positions and views were based on pragmatism and not cowardice.  The proper way, for Erasmus, was to never resort to fanaticism even if one is right.  He understood well the nature of evil and he too hoped to see truth replace error and right triumph over wrong. But

“he showed discretion in his choice of tactics. If you wish to bring about peacefully true and lasting reforms, you do not, like the fanatics, indiscriminately attack not only the ideas you oppose but also the honesty, integrity, and sincerity of those who hold them. If you wish to convince a person he should change his ways, . . . Read More

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Mythological Creatures from Dante’s Inferno

The Inferno (Hell) is the first part of The Divine Comedy, followed by the Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Heaven). It is a classic Christian theological text that uses strong poetic imagination and allegorical allusion.  Though originally written in Italian between 1308 and 1321 AD, the work is widely translated and its themes are drawn upon by generations of writers since.  Written in first person narrative, the comedy is about the imaginative events and experiences of Dante (and his companion poet Virgil) as he traverses through Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso in his afterlife. Dante meets both mythological and real people during his long voyage.  He also comes across mythological creatures that pose moral dilemmas and questions to him.  By successfully resolving such challenges, Dante (and by extension anyone with faith in Christ) steadily attains spiritual salvation.  The rest of this essay will dwell on the mythological . . . Read More

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St. Augustine’s spiritual journey of divine reverence as evidenced in his Confessions

Although Augustine of Hippo’s early life was disordered and undisciplined, his adult life is marked by maturity and spiritual searching.  His steadfast spiritual journey – one identified with penance and dedication – will lead him to a profound understanding of the message of Christ.  He attains a refined reverence for the omnipotent will of God.  Although St. Augustine lived at an age that was far removed from St. Francis Assisi’s, some of the values cherished and preached by the latter is easily applicable to the former’s life. Reverence is one such Franciscan value that is represented by Augustine’s lifelong spiritual journey. The rest of this essay will highlight this connection by citing relevant passages from the Confessions as well as scholarly commentary given upon it.

One of the early influences on St. Augustine was the Greek theologian Plotinus, whose famous words ‘alone with the Alone’ made an impact on the young aspirant. This peculiar theory . . . Read More

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What have been the prevailing creationist/intelligent design explanations for the origin and development of organic beings and how have these views been challenged by Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Charles Darwin’s publication of the theory of evolution through natural selection is one of the pivotal moments in the history of science. But the theory was unveiled only in the middle of 19th century, by when great strides have already been made in other fields of science. Yet, when compared to the complexity and cumbersomeness of theories in the fields of astronomy, quantum physics or discrete mathematics, Darwin’s theory is remarkable for its simplicity.  Despite this fact the theory has generated a lot of controversy – both among the general public and among intellectuals. Leading the aggression are the religiously orthodox, who see a threat to the tenets of their faith. To overcome their insecurities they adopt one of two approaches. First, they try to reject evolution as valid scientific theory for want of adequate evidence supporting it. When this fails, they co-opt the theory into a religious understanding and project the process of evolution as God’s . . . Read More

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How might a theological anthropology enable Christians to resist ideologies of racial oppression in church and society?

Introduction

Despite Christian doctrine’s claims of all men being created in the image of God, the Church has historically been guilty of racial discrimination.  The very notion of slavery goes against Christian theology.  Western Christianity has especially failed to adequately interfere with this social malice in the centuries past.  In contrast, among cultures of the newer churches around the world there is more communal harmony and acceptance. This is evident in indigenous peoples from less materialistic and less consumerist cultures that practice Christianity.  There, we find “traditions of cherishing every creature, however small, and of living in close and respectful relationship with the earth itself. Openness to traditions like this could lead the church into a renewed relationship with the Creator and the creation, and to a deeper respect for life itself.” (McRae-McMahon, 1998)  This essay will elaborate how theological . . . Read More

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The Gospel According to Mark by Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges is famous for his short stories.  The Gospel According to Mark is an allegorical take on the time-worn story of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  It excels in all the essential features of good short fiction.  In particular, as this essay will argue, its theme, symbolisms, tone and style showcase the Borges’ mastery of the form. These elements unite and complement one another to produce a cohesive and powerful piece of fiction.

The most powerful element in The Gospel is its theme. The writer draws upon an ancient and codified biblical theme of sacrifice.  Just as Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for the salvation of his fellow brethren so does Espinosa end up being crucified.  But in Espinosa’s case it was involuntary and much to his shock.  This deviation from the original story comes to define the short story, for by transposing an eternal religious myth upon a real-life situation it questions the significance and meaning of the original . . . Read More

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How does the worldview presented in the movie ‘The Golden Compass’ converge or differ from a Christian worldview?

The Golden Compass is a bold movie in the sense that it tackles a major social malaise – namely religious authority.  Although references to Christianity in particular and God in general have been removed from the film version, there is no doubt that the sweeping authority of the Magisterium includes these two sources of authority.  The clue that religion, especially Christianity is being criticized is evident from the original novel by Philip Pullman that goes on to claims that “‘The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake… Every church is the same: control, destroy, and obliterate every good feeling…. For all its history [religion] has tried to suppress and control every natural impulse” (Pullman as quoted in Burke 2007).

The worldview espoused or promoted by the movie is very different to the Christian worldview.  The former suggests application of rationality and equitable humanism whereas the latter promotes dogma . . . Read More

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Is the concept ‘Socially Engaged Buddhism’ a philosophical contradiction?

In light of our discussion about Buddhism and medical ethics, and the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai lama, and the other examples of Socially Engaged Buddhism in the book, how do you feel about Socially Engaged Buddhism? Is it a philosophical contradiction? Why?

Far from being a novel offshoot of Buddhist practice, Socially Engaged Buddhism is the proper approach to take. In the previous centuries, monks and monasteries were cut-off from the mainstream social, cultural and political spheres.  As a result, worldly affairs continued to be rife with corruption, greed, hatred and delusion.  Buddhist religious leaders were solely focused on contemplation, meditation and spiritual progress.  What inputs they offered to society came in the form of Dharma talks, individual advice, guidance, etc.  But this proved ineffective in terms of changing the collective consciousness of humanity as a whole, beset as it is by vices and base natural tendencies.  . . . Read More

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The Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path of Buddhism: An exposition

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are fundamental to Buddhist philosophy.  The Four Noble Truths concern themselves with the issue of suffering.  It was recognized by Gautam Buddha that suffering is integral to the experience of quotidian life.  Human feelings and emotions such as anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, longing, etc are various manifestations of suffering.  The acknowledgement of this fundamental fact of existence is the first of the four noble truths. The second noble truth identifies the sources and processes through with suffering arise.  Mostly, it is human desires and attachments which are at founts for suffering.  The third noble truth recognizes that suffering is not inevitable and that it could be successfully overcome.  The fourth noble truth goes is an elaboration on the methods, techniques, attitudes and behaviors through which suffering could be made to cease. Indeed, the Eightfold Path can be seen as an extension of the fourth noble . . . Read More

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The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri: An Overview

The Inferno (Hell) is the first part of The Divine Comedy, followed by the Purgatorio (Purgatory) and Paradiso (Heaven). It is a classic Christian theological text that uses strong poetic imagination and allegorical allusion. Though originally written in Italian between 1308 and 1321 AD, the work is widely translated and its themes are drawn upon by generations of writers since. Written in first person narrative, the comedy is about the imaginative events and experiences of Dante as he traverses through Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso in his afterlife. The people and conditions he encounters in these places pose moral dilemmas and questions to Dante. By successfully resolving such challenges, Dante (and by extension anyone with faith in Christ) steadily attains spiritual salvation. This essay concerns itself with Inferno and recurrent imageries and motifs found in this section of the epic.

The first part Inferno begins on the eve of Good Friday in the year 1300. The world of . . . Read More

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