Monday, December 11, 2017

Winter and Spring 2018 Lecture Topics

Our History, Philosophy, & Theology Group will meet every Tuesday evening in January, February, and March.

January 2, Tues (7:30 pm):History of the CalendarFor New Year’s we’ll look at our eclectic calendar: divided into base-sixty minutes and seconds, 24-hour days (with AM and PM halves), weeks of 7 days (named for Anglo-Saxon and Roman gods), 12 months “moonths” (named for Roman gods or numerals) that don’t correspond with the actual lunar cycle. We’ll recount the history of our calendar and compare it to other historic and current calendars.

January 9, Tues (7:30 pm): A Brief Biography of the DevilAlthough Christians have always read the Devil into the Garden of Eden's serpent, and John Milton wrote the character's role back further into the pre-existent heavens in "Paradise Lost," the Devil as he is now conceived did not exist in Israelite religion of the First Temple Period. We will look at the origin and evolution of our modern ideas about this character.

January 16, Tues (7:30 pm): Greco-Roman Stoicism. Stoicism was perhaps the most popular school of Greek philosophy in the Roman Empire, as exemplified by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who lived his life as an actual Stoic philosopher-king. We'll look at the ethics and world-view of the Stoics and consider Stoicisms' value for individuals and its possible impact on later Roman society, as well as the degree to which Stoic virtues continue to be admired today.

January 23, Tues (7:30 pm): Evangelicalism: The First Modern Religion. Evangelical Christianity emerged in the West in tandem with the rise of the liberal, secular state.  As a result, although seemingly challenged by modernity, this influential movement within Christianity has been well adapted to thrive as a reaction against modernity.  Our guest lecturer, Brian Carwana, Director of the Encounter World Religions Centre, has made the study of Evangalicalism the topic of religious studies dissertation. 

January 30, Tues (7:30 pm): Three Popes, One Church (1378–1417). During the later 14th Century, Western Christianity was divided on the question of who was the legitimate successor to St. Peter: the Pope in Rome or the Pope in Avignon?  An ecumenical council was called in Pisa to settle the question, which deposed both rivals and appointed a new Pope.  However, neither pope recognized the council's authority and thus from 1378 onward, Western Christianity had three Popes: one in Rome, one in Avignon, and one in Pisa.  We'll look at this interesting history but also talk about the background ideas of authority, divine monarchy vs. representative councils, and the division of church and state.

February 6, Tues (7:30 pm): The Ethiopic Book of Enoch. The Bible of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church includes a number of books not found in the Catholic or Protestant canons.  The Book of Enoch was considered scripture to many early Christians and Jews, including the author of the New Testament Book of Jude.  We'll look at this interesting apocalypse with its vision of angels and devils and consider its context within the apocalyptic tradition.

February 13, Tues (7:30 pm): Lost Christianities. All modern Christian sects are descended from the early "proto-Orthodox" Christians who successfully defined their doctrines and practices as correct.  We'll look at early Christianities that lost out, including Jewish Christians who argued for the continued relevance of Mosaic Law, and Gnostic Christians who rejected the Hebrew Bible altogether.


February 20, Tues (7:30 pm): Constructing Ancient Israelite Identity. How did the "Twelve Tribes" of Israel emerge from their ethnically related Canaanite neighbors?  In a follow-up to his lecture on the emergence of Israelite monotheism from Canaanite polytheism, Leandro Palacios will look at the legendary narratives recorded in the Bible and tease out the underlying pre-history of Israelite identity.


February 27, Tues (7:30 pm): Plato's Cave. The famous Allegory of the Cave is central to understanding Plato's argument that the perfect world of ideas is more real than the mutable physical world of our senses.  We'll dig into the allegory in depth and consider Pre-Socratic philosophical questions that led Plato to propose this radical solution, and also the legacy of Platonism to the present day.

March 6, Tues (7:30 pm): Movie Night: "I Heart Huckabees." Text to follow.

March 13, Tues (7:30 pm): The Failure of England's First Reigning Queen. When Henry I's heir, William Adelin, died in the White Ship disaster, the king made all his noble's swear to support his daughter Mathilda as heiress.  But upon Henry's death, most of these same nobles preferred to forget their oaths and recognize Henry's nephew Stephen as king, plunging the realm into civil war.  We'll look at the steep hurdles Queen Mathilda faced attempting to exercise authority over men in the Middle Ages and consider the extent to which these same gender biases continue to the present day.

March 20, Tues (7:30 pm): Joseph Smith's Redefinition of God. When Joseph Smith first described his vision in the grove, it was an orthodox view of Christ's forgiveness of sin. The Book of Mormon likewise described a trinitarian view of God, although modalist in its understanding. By the end of his life, Smith retold the First Vision story with "two distinct personages," and espoused theological propositions that seemed to reject Western monotheism itself.  We'll look at the implications of Smith's late Nauvoo-era theology.

March 27, Tues (7:30 pm): The Passion as Myth. Beyond the fact of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth under the Roman prefecture of Pontius Pilate, how much of the gospel accounts of the "Passion" story are historical?  In honor of Easter, we'll look at the case made by a number of Biblical scholars that the Passion story largely does not reflect historical memory, but instead was composed by early Christians who pieced together verses of the Hebrew Bible to construct the narrative as we have it.

April 10, Tues (7:30 pm): Afterlife for Pagans. Resurrection and eternal life in heaven has often been cited as a reason for Christianity's success against Paganism. To consider this proposition, we need to look in more depth at how different pagan religions envisioned the afterlife.



April 17, Tues (7:30 pm): Mysticism of the Sufis. In a followup to her presentation on the diverse expressions of Islam, Shaheen Bagha will share about the rich traditions of Sufi mysticism.  From the famous whirling dervishes to poets and ascetics, Sufism cuts across Muslim sectarian divides and provides an important, inward dimension for the religion, which receives little notice outside the movement.


April 24, Tues (7:30 pm): Who Wrote Genesis?  Genesis contains two creation stories, two entwined versions of the Flood story, two alternate lists of "begats", and three versions of the story of a patriarch and his wife staying with a foreign king during a time of famine.  We'll look at how the "Documentary Hypothesis" seeks to explain clear seams in the Biblical text, and what we can know about the Bible's underlying authors and editors.

May 1, Tues (7:30 pm): Revelatory Performance: The Gold Plates an Otherworldly Relic". Brent Metcalfe, editor of New Approaches to the Book of Mormonwill discuss the historical accounts of those who encountered the golden plates, the putative source of Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon dictation. Scholars have long grappled with the materiality of the record, generally concluding along the lines of belief that Joseph Smith possessed either an authentic ancient artifact or a forged modern prop. Metcalfe critiques these arguments within the collective magical worldview of Joseph Smith (revelatory performance) and his cadre of believers (revelatory audience).

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