Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

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Saul the Sadducee? A Rabbinical Thought Experiment

Charles David Isbell

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 85-119

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.01

In keeping with talmudic tradition, this article presents a rabbinical thought experiment that questions the authenticity—indeed the very historicity—of the Apostle Paul’s Pharisaic Jewish background. By examining current interpretations of Saul’s Damascus road conversion, as well as Lukan and Pauline accounts in the New Testament, it becomes evident that there exists a striking disparity between Paul and other first century Pharisees, particularly since he took far too many liberties with his beliefs and behaviors (pre- and post-conversion) that would have set him apart from his Pharisaic contemporaries. Moreover, Luke (a non-Jew writing in a post-Sadducean world) was both an unreliable biographer and yet the primary source for claiming Paul was a Pharisee. Thus, from a Jewish perspective, it is thought-provoking to ask whether the idea of Paul as originally a Sadducee best explains these disparities. Ultimately, the thesis of this article is that interpreters should not view Paul as having followed the standard path to becoming an authentic Pharisee. In fact, Paul’s radical revision of prevailing Pharisaic exegesis suggests he was likely never a Pharisee or, at the very least, not a consistent Pharisee in the tradition of Gamaliel. The purpose of this article is to trace just how modern scholarship would change if Pauline scholars presumed that Paul was, in fact, a Sadducee instead of a Pharisee. Undoubtedly, the consequence would suggest that both Paul and Luke were world-class (albeit opportunistic) rhetoricians who used Pharisaic imagery solely to add credibility to Paul’s image and his emerging influence on the primitive church.

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The Relevance (and Irrelevance) of Questions of Personhood (and Mindedness) to the Abortion Debate

David Kyle Johnson

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 121-153

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.02

Disagreements about abortion are often assumed to reduce to disagreements about fetal personhood (and mindedness). If one believes a fetus is a person (or has a mind), then they are “pro-life.” If one believes a fetus is not a person (or is not minded), they are “pro-choice.” The issue, however, is much more complicated. Not only is it not dichotomous—most everyone believes that abortion is permissible in some circumstances (e.g. to save the mother’s life) and not others (e.g. at nine months of a planned pregnancy)—but scholars on both sides of the issue (e.g. Don Marquis and Judith Thomson) have convincingly argued that fetal personhood (and mindedness) are irrelevant to the debate. To determine the extent to which they are right, this article will define “personhood,” its relationship to mindedness, and explore what science has revealed about the mind before exploring the relevance of both to questions of abortion’s morality and legality. In general, this article does not endorse a particular answer to these questions, but the article should enhance the reader’s ability to develop their own answers in a much more informed way.

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Patristic Exegesis: The Myth of the Alexandrian-Antiochene Schools of Interpretation

Darren M. Slade

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 155-176

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.03

The notion that there existed a distinction between so-called “Alexandrian” and “Antiochene” exegesis in the ancient church has become a common assumption among theologians. The typical belief is that Alexandria promoted an allegorical reading of Scripture, whereas Antioch endorsed a literal approach. However, church historians have long since recognized that this distinction is neither wholly accurate nor helpful to understanding ancient Christian hermeneutics. Indeed, neither school of interpretation sanctioned the practice of just one exegetical method. Rather, both Alexandrian and Antiochene theologians were expedient hermeneuts, meaning they utilized whichever exegetical practice (allegory, typology, literal, historical) that would supply them with their desired theology or interpretive conclusion. The difference between Alexandria and Antioch was not exegetical; it was theological. In other words, it was their respective theological paradigms that dictated their exegetical practices, allowing them to utilize whichever hermeneutical method was most expedient for their theological purposes. Ultimately, neither Alexandrian nor Antiochene exegetes possessed a greater respect for the biblical text over the other, nor did they adhere to modern-day historical-grammatical hermeneutics as theologians would like to believe.

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The Science of Unknowable and Imaginary Things

Jack David Eller

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 178-201

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.04

In this paper, I address the question of whether metaphysics and theology are or can become science. After examining the qualities of contemporary science, which evolved from an earlier historic concept of any body of literature into a formal method for obtaining empirical knowledge, I apply that standard to metaphysics and theology. I argue that neither metaphysics nor theology practices a scientific method or generates scientific knowledge. Worse, I conclude that both metaphysics and theology are at best purely cultural projects—exercises in exegesis of local cultural and religious ideas and language—and, therefore, that other cultures have produced or would produce radically different schemes of metaphysics or theology. At its worst, metaphysics is speculation about the unknowable, while theology is rumination about the imaginary.

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Comparative Metaphysics and Theology as a Scientific Endeavor: A Ruist (Confucian) Perspective

Bin Song

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 203-224

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.05

Understood as being nothing more than fallible assumptions about the boundary conditions of an inquisitive worldview, this article seeks to argue that metaphysics and theology can, in fact, be pursued as a scientific endeavor. If we broaden our understanding of how perceived realities furnish feedback in order to refine preestablished human discourses, Ruist (Confucian) metaphysics and theology especially can be recognized as being historically pursued as a science by its own right. Eventually, the distinction of Western and Ruist traditions of metaphysics and theology, as well as the imperfections in each of them, speaks to the need of mutual learning for constructing a more robust metaphysical worldview in the twenty-first century.

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Theology, Metaphysics, and Science: Twenty-First Century Hermeneutical Allies, Strangers, or Enemies?

Peter M. Antoci

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 226-239

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.06

This article answers the question of whether the study of theology and metaphysics can be classified currently, or ever qualify in the future, as a scientific endeavor. Rather than choose a particular theology or metaphysics as the subject of inquiry, this essay argues that it is not only necessary to recognize the role of hermeneutics within different fields of study, but that it is also necessary to begin a human hermeneutic with human experience. Changes in our global context, whether social, economic, political, or environmental, are important drivers of hermeneutical evolution. We should expect no less change in the areas of theology, metaphysics, and science. The question of truth, whether subjective or objective, is a hermeneutical one.

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Theology as a Science: An Historical and Linguistic Approach

Mark Moore

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 241-250

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.07

This article argues that, given the historical and linguistic background of the terms involved, the study of theology can, in fact, be considered a scientific endeavor, but one must clearly note what is inferred by the term “scientific.” Historically, the term “science” or “scientific” has dealt with the realm of knowledge of both the natural and supranatural world. The question of whether theology should be classified as a science arose during the formation of the medieval universities in the thirteenth century, as well as the formation of modern German universities in the nineteenth century. Theologians from Aquinas to Schleiermacher argued that theology should be considered a science and, therefore, a proper subject of study in the university. The affirmation of theology as a science in this article is based on this historical survey, as well as the broader linguistic understanding of the term “science.”

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Is Metaphysics a Science?

Thomas J. Burke

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 252-273

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.08

Once esteemed as the highest form of knowledge, the legitimacy of metaphysics as a rational discipline has been severely challenged since the rise of modern science, particularly since it seemed that while the latter reached overall consensus, the disputes in the former seemed interminable. The question naturally arises whether metaphysics could ever achieve the status of a science. The following article presents the view that metaphysics is not nor could ever become a science in the sense of the modern “hard” sciences today because a) it seeks a different sort of knowledge, which b) cannot be acquired by the methods of modern science; and c) metaphysics serves a different cognitive purpose than the sort of knowledge that science can provide. It is, nevertheless, a rational subject, one in fact that supplies the necessary rational foundation for the positive sciences.

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Theology and Metaphysics as Scientific Endeavors

Kirk R. MacGregor

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 275-289

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.09

This article contends that theology is a scientific endeavor if it 1) makes correlations between humanity’s deepest existential questions and the answers provided by any given religious tradition and/or 2) it describes the beliefs and practices of various religious traditions as accurately as possible. The correlations in methodology are made by psychology, sociology, anthropology, and/or neurobiology. The descriptions in method are also collectively furnished by archaeology, history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and other cognate disciplines. The article further maintains that metaphysics is a scientific endeavor if it explains 3) the constituent elements of reality as a whole, as well as 4) explains the presuppositions used to detect these elements. I take a scientific endeavor as one that requires empirical and/or logical verification of its claims. Since my conceptions of theology and metaphysics demand such verification, they should be considered scientific.

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Religious Involvement and Bridging Social Ties: The Role of Congregational Participation

Stephen M. Merino

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 291-308

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DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.10

Research indicates that religious communities are important sites for the development of social resources, including social capital. Several studies suggest that religious involvement beyond worship services is a meaningful predictor of civic engagement that may foster bridging social capital, or ties that bridge social groups and cross lines of status and identity. This article explores the relationship between religious involvement and bridging social ties. Using nationally representative survey data and a subsample of individuals who are affiliated with one particular congregation, the article examines how religious service attendance and congregational participation (beyond services) are associated with frequency of interaction with someone from one of nine different social groups that vary along dimensions of social status and identity. Congregational participation beyond services positively predicts contact with several of the groups. In contrast, service attendance is either negatively related or not at all significantly related to interaction with someone from each of these nine different social groups.

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Grounding Discernment in Data: Strategic Missional Planning Using GIS Technology and Market Segmentation Data

Kenneth W. Howard

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 310-325

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Free

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.11

Taking Jesus’ call to love our neighbors seriously requires engaging them in the neighborhoods where they live. However, neighborhoods are transforming demographically faster than ever before. If we can help congregations more quickly understand their neighborhoods, there is a much greater likelihood that they will grow to love them as they love themselves. The question before us is, how do we help faith communities and their leaders engage missional opportunities that are emerging from rapid population change? The goal of the FaithX Project is to make it possible for faith communities, their leaders, and the judicatories that support them to employ location intelligence and predictive analytics in order for them to discern emerging missional opportunities. FaithX then helps them to create effective missional strategies for engaging those opportunities by asking four essential questions: What is our neighborhood? Who are our neighbors? What are our neighborhood’s issues and opportunities? What are our neighborhood’s resources?

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Book Review: The Structure of Theological Revolutions: How the Fight Over Birth Control Transformed American Catholicism by Mark S. Massa, S. J.

Peter K. Fay

Vol. 1, No. 2

Fall 2019

Pages: 327-333

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Free

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2019.vol1.no2.12

Mark S. Massa argues that the history of natural law discourse in American Catholic moral theology, since the promulgation of Humanae Vitae in 1968, is marked more by discontinuity, rupture, and revolution than has been appreciated.