The question of Christianity's relation to the other religions of the world is more pertinent and difficult today than ever before. While Christianity's historical failure to appreciate or actively engage Judaism is notorious, Christianity's even more shoddy record with respect to "pagan" religions is less understood. Christians have inherited a ...
The question of Christianity's relation to the other religions of the world is more pertinent and difficult today than ever before. While Christianity's historical failure to appreciate or actively engage Judaism is notorious, Christianity's even more shoddy record with respect to "pagan" religions is less understood. Christians have inherited a virtually unanimous theological tradition that thinks of paganism in terms of demonic possession, and of Christian missions as a rescue operation that saves pagans from inherently evil practices. In undertaking this fresh inquiry into early Christianity and Greco-Roman paganism, Luke Timothy Johnson begins with a broad definition of religion as a way of life organized around convictions and experiences concerning ultimate power. In the tradition of William James's "Variety of Religious Experience," he identifies four distinct ways of being religious: religion as participation in benefits, as moral transformation, as transcending the world, and as stabilizing the world. Using these criteria as the basis for his exploration of Christianity and paganism, Johnson finds multiple points of similarity in religious sensibility. Christianity's failure to adequately come to grips with its first pagan neighbors, Johnson asserts, inhibits any effort to engage positively with adherents of various world religions. This thoughtful and passionate study should help break down the walls between Christianity and other religious traditions.
Publishers Weekly, 2009-09-14 Defending the Christian religion against Greco-Roman paganism, the early Christian writer Tertullian once famously asked, "What indeed does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" In his thoughtful, judicious and provocative new book, New Testament scholar Johnson answers, "Plenty." Drawing deeply upon Greco-Roman literature, Johnson isolates four ways of being religious in the Greco-Roman world: the way of participation in divine benefits, the way of moral transformation, the way of transcending the world and the way of stabilizing the world. He illustrates each type of religiosity with a sketch of a Greco-Roman writer or text. Johnson then places this template of religiosity on the Christianity of the first through fourth centuries to illustrate how deeply embedded Greco-Roman patterns of religion influenced and contributed to the growth of Christianity. Johnson's careful and compelling approach avoids both the apologetic and the antagonistic tones that such conversations about early Christianity and Hellenistic religions often take. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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