Category: Religion


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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Response to Critical Essays/Books on Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

There are strengths and weaknesses to the book by Kimnach et al.  Its strength is its comprehensiveness and its utility in the classroom environment.  The background essays included in the compilation help dispel some of the myths and simplistic caricatures surrounding the personal of Jonathan Edwards.  The book’s attempt to link the Sermon with the socio-historical phenomenon of the Great Awakening is of immeasurable value to students and lay readers.  It also traces Edwards’ opinions on conversion, as well as his take on Puritan methods for Christian propaganda. The book succeeds in making 18th century theology intelligible to twenty-first century minds, but it accomplishes this with grace and ease and transparency of thought that is the envy of any who have taught American religious history. For example, esoteric concepts like the “sovereignty of God, predestination of the elect, origin of sin, and divine justice” are all neatly explained and weaved . . . Read More

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Jonathan Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: Annotated Bibliography of its critique

Wilson H. Kimnach, Caleb J.D. Maskell, and Kenneth P. Minkema, editors. Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”: A Casebook. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010. 204 pages.

This book attempts to deconstruct the various dimensions of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon.  In other words, it offers the social, historical and theological contexts for the sermon for the novice reader.  Even for those practicing Christianity for a long time, the book offers key insights and asides with respect to the text in question. Included in the book are the authoritative/definitive version of the sermon; essays that tell how the sermon came about and place it in historical and theological context. It serves as a sampling of Edwards’ “theological, philosophical and personal writings to contextualize the sermon in the life and thought of the man; a number of contemporary and historical interpretations of the sermon; and . . . Read More

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – Jonathan Edwards – Enfield, Connecticut, July 8, 1741

The sermon issued by Jonathan Edwards in his Church in Enfield, Connecticut is a powerful oratorical work.  Delivered on July 8 1741, it is an important work that continues to hold relevance for its theological content as well as literary style.  Consistent with founding texts of Christianity, there is a pronounced tenor of Godly retribution in Edwards’ work.  For example, the following passage from the opening of the sermon indicates the scale of fear and inhibition which Edwards sought to place in the hearts of the congregated audience.

“They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell.  And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath.  Yes, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers . . . Read More

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The Colossal Buddha Statues of Afghanistan

The Giant Buddha Statues of Afghanistan, also called the Buddhas of Bamiyan, are two of the oldest and culturally significant monuments.  But, unfortunately, by decree of the Islamic religious fundamentalist group, the Taliban, they have been destroyed in 2002.  Yet, documentary and photographic evidence of the site prior to 2002 offer a rich historical narrative on the two statues. Also, since 2002 numerous new discoveries of ancient statues, caves and paintings surrounding the two giant statues have been made.  The Giant Statues are unique in several respects.  They are sculpted into naturally formed mountain cliffs. The Buddha figures are unusual in that they are in a standing posture.  Usually Buddha statues, paintings and miniatures show him in sitting position. (Wriggins 1996)  Incidentally, a big statue of Buddha in the reclining position is unearthed recently in the area proximal to the two Giant Statues.

The Giant Statues were built in 6th century AD . . . Read More

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William Paley’s Natural Theology

  1. What is the thesis (the central idea or main point?)

William Paley’s concept of Natural Theology argues for a synthesis between laws of nature and God. Natural Theology claims that the laws of the natural world are designed and made operant by the Divinity.  It is this divine hand at work which accounts for the stability and order in the cosmos.

  1. What are the main arguments made in supporting the thesis?

Paley was not only a theologian but also a brilliant lawyer. His training as a lawyer is put to rigorous use in constructing his arguments.  The grand thesis of Natural Theology is supported by numerous examples from geology, cosmology and the natural world.  For example, in the case of a wrist watch, there is a clear purpose as well as precision behind its design. This is circumstantial evidence for a Creator, in this case of the watchmaker.  There are numerous similar examples offered by Paley to support his . . . Read More

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The Bagavad Gita: Q & A

  1. In refusing to fight, what is Arjuna calling into question?

Arjuna is troubled by various facets of his war mission.  The first and foremost is the killing of his kin and kith. Across the battle line in Kurukshetra stand his cousins, uncles and former gurus.  How heartless one needs to be to be able to desimmate one’s own flesh and blood, he asks Krishna.  Arjuna is also uncertain of the legitimacy of war itself. How can so much bloodshed be toward a noble cause, he queries Krishna. Moreover, Arjuna fails to see how the enterprise of war could lead to liberation from worldly existence. To his intuition it appeared as if war stood for all that was denounced in the Vedas.

  1. What is Arjuna’s duty according to the Vedic ideal?

According to the Vedic scriptures, Arjuna should act according to his Svabava and the resulting SwadharmaSvabava can be loosely . . . Read More

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The conflict between religious fundamentalism and methods of science

Ever since the ushering of the Enlightenment in the early 18th century, religious dogma has increasingly been questioned. In the contemporary era scientists offer clear and logical explanations for the evolution of life, the formation of the solar system, etc. In the face of such indisputable scientific evidence, it is no longer possible to accommodate religious dogma.  Religious fundamentalism or the literal interpretation of scriptures offered a degree of solace to primitive people when their lives and livelihoods were under constant threat from natural disasters, epidemic diseases and barbaric warfare.  But as civilization has progressed, modern societies are reasonably well-equipped in regulating nature and offering protection from its extremes.  Therefore, there is no longer any necessity to hold on to blind faith as a source of consolation in a brutish world.  If I was invited to a public debate on the conflict between religious fundamentalism and the methods of . . . Read More

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The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri: An expository essay

The Divine Comedy 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 book 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 (Hell, Purgatory and Heaven) 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.

The first part Inferno begins on the eve of Good Friday in the year 1300.  The world of the Inferno is dangerous and dark.  Dante is lost in a thick forest (a symbol for sin) and he is haunted by wild carnivorous beasts such as lions and wolfs.  . . . Read More

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What evidence is there in support of Khayr Al-Din’s reform agenda in 19th Century Tunisia? How does he try to harmonize Islam and Western ideas of liberty?

Khayr Al-Din Pasha is a pivotal reformist figure in Tunisian political history.  Indeed, he is such a polymath that he contributed reformist ideas in the areas of Tunisian military, socio-politics and beyond.  At a time when Tunisia was suffering the excesses of Ottoman imperialism, Khayr Al-Din galvanized the spirit of the whole nation through his reform agenda. Khayr Al-Din was a truly enlightened thinker and he aspired for the most ideal Tunisian society and polity.  He viewed the established conception and orthodox methods of governance as the major hindrances to real progress.

Khayr Al-Din understood the importance of the principles outlined in Aqwam al-Masalik. The work outlined how to bring about the co-operation between statesmen and theologicians and how to make them work toward a common reform agenda.  Not only did Khayr Al-Din devise ingenious ways of achieving this cooperative atmosphere, but he also worked toward creating a fresh and forward-looking . . . Read More

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