Reading the Signs of Christianity

It is a truism that Christianity is a world of signs. In Roman Catholic Christianity, it is believed to be founded upon seven classical signs in its sacramental theology. The very definition of sacrament is semiotic in structure and orientation, as even the most elementary statement drawn from The Penny Catechism shows A. A Sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace, ordained by Jesus Christ, by which grace is given to our souls.230 Other, more sophisticated, statements of the same theme...

Christian Tradition Definitions and Distinctions

Lexically the word 'tradition' has several facets. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English provides four fundamental definitions 1. Opinion or belief or custom handed down handing down of these, from ancestors to posterity esp. orally or by practice. 2. (Theol.) Doctrine etc. supposed to have divine authority but not committed to writing, esp. (1) laws held by Pharisees to have been delivered by God to Moses, (2) oral teaching of Christ and Apostles not recorded in writing by immediate...

Christianity Sources of Authority and Right Doctrines

Both Christianity and Islam teach obedience to God's authority and man's properly constituted and delegated authority. From the former spring what the theologians will construe and articulate as right doctrines in all their glorious diversity from the latter spring what the statesmen and politicians will establish as right order. The fundamental paradigm in both Islam and Christianity is that man's authority should flow from God's authority.23 (Practice does not always follow theory ) In...

Phenomenology Husserl and Heidegger Object

Phenomenology is one of the slipperiest of philosophical methods. It can also be one of the most complex. Modern phenomenology is ineluctably bound up with the names of Edmund Husserl (i 59-i93 ) and his successor in his Professorship at the University of Freiburg, Martin Heidegger (i 9-i976).377 And, as Paul Ricoeur insists, while Husserl's thought does not constitute the sum total of phenomenology, it lies at the very heart of that philosophical method.37 Husserl's phenomenology has been...

The Authority of the Text 1 Ibn Hanbal and the Text Transcendent

When one considers the mediaeval group of theologians who sheltered under the umbrella term of Mu'tazila, the great SunnI theologian Ahmad b. Hanbal (ad 780855) and the ninth-century Mihna or Inquisition, one is reminded most vividly of two modern pugilists in a boxing ring. The perception of the nature of the Text - in this case the Holy Qur'an - together with the religious and secular authority derived from that perception was the coveted prize for Caliph and 'ulama' alike. The contest is of...

Reading the Sacred in Christianity

The word sacred is a commonplace in Christianity. It infuses both language and worship itself. In Catholic Christianity, a cult of worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus developed which had its origins in mediaeval German mysticism and which was fiercely attacked by the Jansenists.255 In words which, from the comparative perspective though not of course in terms of content, seem to echo the mediaeval Islamic debates about the nature and union of the attributes of God - were they an identical,...

Post Conciliar The Spirit and Practice of Marcel Lefebvre

The Second Vatican Council, the 21st Council of the Catholic Church, lasted from 1962 to 1965. It provoked an intellectual, theological and, perhaps above all, insofar as it affected tradition Tradition, liturgical convulsion. The very brief survey of Dei Verbum above is important on two counts firstly, it is an example of developing attitudes in traditional exegesis. Secondly, the gloss by Bishop Kallistos Ware which we have just cited indicates how the 'spirit' of Vatican II was to be invoked...

The Authority of the ekklesia I Arius and Arianism

The case of Arius and Arianism is profoundly instructive in any study of the exercise of early Church authority and the establishment in that age of what were perceived to be 'right doctrines'. The Arian heresy bestraddled and challenged such concepts with powerful force. Maurice Wiles has rightly drawn attention to the real difficulties inherent in any quest for the historical Arius 'It may be that, in view of the nature of the sources, the historical Arius will always remain as elusive a...

Theology and Eliade The Sacred

The great historian of religion, Professor Mircea Eliade (1907-86), is best known for editing a massive multi-volume Encyclopedia of Religion.455 However, his list of other publications is huge, and his influence has been correspondingly extensive.456 At the end of an extraordinarily varied career, Eliade rejoiced in the title of Sewell L. Avery Distinguished Service Professor (later Emeritus) in the Divinity School, and Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, of the University of...

Neo Ijtihad and Return to the Salaf

Our survey of sunna, with its various definitions, distinctions and connotations, is intended to demonstrate and underline the fact that sunna and hadlth have as central a role in Islam as oral and written tradition do in Christianity. Furthermore, they can create and mould a mindset which will automatically reject innovation (bid'a) and, indeed, any criticism of that which is invincibly held to be sacred. Within such a mindset, the historico-literary critical approach beloved of modern...

Intra Conciliar Dei Verbum and John XXIII

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881-1963) came to the papal throne in 1958 and assumed the name of John XXIII. He was born in Sotto il Monte near Bergamo, in Italy, on Friday 25 November 1881, at 10 15 am.136 His early life of poverty 137 gave no hint of that conclave seventy-seven years later when he would boldly assume and sacralise a name supposedly made unusable by Baldassare Cossa, 'John XXIII' (reg.1410-15), an anti-pope, condottiere 'ex-pirate who had massacred, cheated and perjured his way...

Pre Conciliar Pascendi and Divino Afflante Spiritu

Pope Pius X (reg. 1903-14) famously characterised 'Modernism' as cumulatio omnium haeresium (the synthesis of all heresies) 39 he went on to say Undoubtedly, were anyone to attempt the task of collecting together all the errors that have been broached against the faith and to concentrate into one the sap and substance of them all, he could not succeed in doing so better than the Modernists have done. Nay, they have gone further than this, for, as We have already intimated, their system means...

The Sacred and the Profane

Eliade's volume entitled The Sacred and the Profane had as its subtitle The Nature of Religion. In this important work, he examined the ways in which the sacred has manifested itself under the four headings of sacred space, sacred time, sacred nature and sacred cosmos.490 As a portmanteau word by which to embrace the concept of the 'act of manifestation of the sacred', Eliade proposes that we use the term hiero-phany. He likes the neatness of this neologism because it does not transcend its...

Naipauls Among the Believers and Beyond Belief

In October 2001, Sir Vidia Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.339 Nalpaul speaks with a unique voice, whether it be in his fiction or his travelogues. He once observed that 'I am the kind of writer that people think other people are reading'.340 Jason Cowley assessed his work as follows His books are haunted by solitude and disciplined by a need to understand the anxieties of the decolonised world. Long ago, dissatisfied with the limitations of fiction, Naipaul liberated...

Semiotics and Eco Sign

Professor Umberto Eco born in 1932 , Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna, is the primary architect and high priest of semiotics in contemporary times.413 He has a huge intellectual range. His novels - The Name of the Rose,414 Foucault's Pendulum,415 The Island of the Day Before,416 Baudolino417 - have become as popular on airport bookstalls as his more serious philosophical works on semiotics have in the intellectual atmosphere of the academy. His essays and pieces of collected...

Reading the Phenomena of Christianity

Phenomenology may loosely, but lucidly, be described as the unadorned 'science of the Object'. We noted, earlier, useful definitions of the term as 'science of appearances or appearings', 'a theory of intentionality' and 'the study of phenomena in the sense of the ways in which things appear to us in different forms of conscious experience'.218 We noted Heidegger's view that phenomenology was the gateway to ontology, and that the latter was only possible because of the former.219 We surveyed,...

Islam Sources of Authority and Right Doctrines

We stressed earlier that obedience to God's authority and man's lawful, God-given authority are fundamental leitmotivs in both Islam and Christianity. For the Muslim, the text of the Qur'an is the divine fons et origo of doctrine suppemented by that part of the hadith literature which is deemed to be wholly reliable. The sacred text of the Qur'an is considered to be utterly incomparable and cannot be duplicated.281 The text, and the God from whom it emanates not in a Neoplatonic sense are...

Mircea Eliade the Sacred and Islam

Mircea Eliade was certainly aware of the religious and political significance of the founder-Prophet of Islam, Muhammad c. 570-632 . Indeed, the subtitle of the third volume of his A History of Religious Ideas is From Muhammad to the Age of Reforms. It is in this work that he provides one of the closest and most extensive insights into his thinking about Islam and the sacred.506 His sources are varied but, by the date of publication in i9 5, already somewhat dated. They range from A. J....

Gilsenans Recognizing Islam

Gilsenan's classic and immensely readable Recognizing Islam was the product of much 'material drawn from personal experience of Islam' and an attempt 'to recreate the surprise of the moment when my work really began, that moment when realization collided with illusion in South Arabia'.25 His themes range classically and widely from 'the formation and transformation of power and authority within Muslim societies' through an assessment of the 'ulama' to 'the sense of a world turned inside Many of...