This study will concern itself with two primary questions regarding Orthodox Christian evangelism: Why is the Orthodox East reticent when it comes to outspoken, mainstream evangelism, as it is presented in the Christian West, and what is the evangelical philosophy of the Orthodox Church? The research will endeavor to firstly introduce a little known branch of Christianity to an unaware public. Secondly, the writers will seek to demonstrate why a modest presence has worked well for Orthodoxy, preserving its integrity, with little compromise to its tradition. The final endeavor will be to represent Orthodox Christianity as a religion concerned with the public by discussing its efforts to disseminate information about itself through evangelism.
Faith Thinking Foundations: Online Religious (Meta)Literacy Education Within a Congregational Context06/05/2015
Online religious literacy education framed within metaliteracy in a congregational context is a little-researched topic. Congregational religious educators tend to focus more on in-person educational opportunities regarding static content and facts about religion or devotional materials and methods than providing members with the educational processes, tools, and framework needed to explore their faith questions and other theological and religious topics for lifelong learning from an integrative critical-devotional perspective. Available literature within the subject area of online religious and theological education generally focuses on the educational endeavors of seminarians, clergy, and students within K-12 educational institutions, thus leaving unaddressed the unique concerns and potentials of serious online religious and theological education for congregational members. The current study addresses this omission via qualitative and quantitative evaluation of an online religious literacy course, Faith Thinking Foundations, at Liberation Christian Church in St. Louis, MO, through narrative research, interviews, and surveying congregational members in their use of and attitudes regarding the course. The author examines available literature for online education within the areas of religious and theological studies, including that regarding evaluation and assessment of online courses, religious, and theological curricula. The author proposes that serious online religious and theological education is worthwhile for laypeople as well as seminarians, clergy, and other religious scholars. In conclusion, this project, by examining the role that the Faith Thinking Foundations online course has on congregational members, offers new insight on the potential of online religious learning for all of God’s people.
Faith Thinking Foundations, metaliteracy, information literacy, online education, religious literacy, theological literacy, religious education, Christian education
Online Religion? The Evolving Religious Information Landscapes of Zen Buddhism and Roman Catholicism06/05/2015
Abstract: Advances in technology allow for new modes of access to both secular and religious information. Historically, some religious groups seem to have been eager to acknowledge technological developments, while others have done so reluctantly. Nevertheless, the sustainability of a religious tradition depends on the ability of its practitioners to continually access information in an evolving world. Modern technology has occasioned such innovations as online religious communities and the wide availability of sacred texts and exegeses, to the extent that a person can practice a religion using entirely online tools—without ever setting foot in a physical place of worship. Through an analysis of the nature and historical development of Buddhism and Christianity, this study identifies the aspects inherent in each religious tradition that have influenced the information landscapes that surround each religion today. This study then explores the extent to which each religion can be practiced in an exclusively-online community. These findings suggest an opportunity for further investigation into the information behavior of Buddhist and Christian participants in online religious communities as a means to better understand the online religious experience.
Keywords: Christianity, Buddhism, information behavior, information history, Internet church
The mystery tradition known as Orphism is often misunderstood, largely due to the lack of evidence in existence. Mystery traditions are initiatory in nature; to reveal the secret information to non-initiates was forbidden, in some instances punishable by death. This secretive nature of mystery traditions makes it very difficult for modern scholars to discern what actually occurred within the cult. The Orphic mystery tradition is unique among ancient Greco-Roman cults. Whereas mainstream Greco-Roman cults were sanctioned by the state, with rituals that followed a set format of sacrifice and feasting, the Orphic tradition was a secret initiatory tradition, with written rituals relying heavily on sacred texts. The Orphic tradition is also unique in that, rather than operating out of temples, it has no set center of worship. Rather, itinerant priests traveled from location to location with their holy books, seeking individual worshippers. Because they traveled to different locations, the tradition is eclectic, as the priests combined local traditions with their own. This makes studying Orphism quite difficult, as one must separate the local customs with the Orphic teachings.
This eclectic nature has caused many modern scholars to assert that Orphism was not a set tradition, focusing on the regional variants as proof. However, by studying the extant Orphic texts within each individual context, common themes emerge that indicate a more solid tradition, contradicting modern scholarly thought. The studying of the Orphic tradition via the extant religious texts presents a unique challenge to scholars; many of the extant texts are fairly recent discoveries, found not in monasteries and private collections, but buried within followers’ tombs or under the sands of Hellenistic Egypt. As such, there is very little documentation of the transmission of the ideas contained within. In addition, there is a great likelihood that many of the Orphic texts began as oral tradition, since they often contain formulaic phrases. Martin West indicates that when dealing with ancient texts, particularly fragments, it is necessary to include the context when attempting any sort of textual criticism of ancient texts; this context is vital to deciphering the regional variations from the core ideas as well as identifying the true meaning of the text itself. By studying the use of these formulaic phrases throughout the Orphic texts, combined with ideas that are decidedly Orphic in nature, a relationship between the texts emerges that indicates that there is a core set of ideas for the cult, despite the regional variations.
In the twentieth century, works on Orphism by Otto and Guthrie asserted a true, cohesive Orphic tradition. However, as more texts were discovered by archaeologists, other scholars refuted this idea, instead holding to the bricoleur theory as described by Graf. While the bricoleur theory has a number of merits, it focuses too sharply on differences rather than commonalities. I propose an alternative bricoleur theory, based on analysis of the texts. I believe the Orphic priests engaged in bricolage by combining local customs with their existing tradition; however, there was a core tradition circulating in the Greco-Roman world via the information in the priests’ holy books. This study analyzes the texts currently classified as ‘Orphic,’ in order to determine how the formulaic phrases and ideas contained within the texts might have been transmitted.