2016 Religious Studies Publications and Grants

Chung-Kim, Esther, “John Calvin on Poverty and Wealth,” Calvinus Pastor Ecclesiae: Papers of the Eleventh International Congress on Calvin Research, edited by Herman J. Selderhuis and Arnold Huijsen, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2016.

Abstract: Rejecting the misconception of Calvinism as an elitist movement that was only concerned with religious issues, I would argue three points: 1) that the Reformation in Geneva had its origins in a grass-roots movement with people who were marginalized religiously; 2) that Calvin was not only a religious leader of the Genevan church but a social leader for the French immigrant community.  The French Fund records show that Calvin was a regular donor to the French Fund and a recommender of persons needing assistance. Receiving his citizenship only nine years before his death, Calvin understood what it meant to be an outsider, since he was marginalized socially and culturally as a Frenchman; 3) Calvin was not the only person in history to join wealth and social responsibility, but he did it at time when many others were not.  Calvin and other prominent French leaders sponsored a social support system sponsored by the church, run by men and women for disenfranchised immigrants whose displacement meant economic struggles and instability.  Calvin’s economics of faith was a catalyst for a program to accommodate the enormous financial needs of poor strangers hoping to settle in Geneva or to find their way home. While Calvin does not necessarily defy the early modern system of economic stratification and inequality, his views when heard, challenge perhaps even haunt those who live in the richest nations with a large dose of social responsibility and an awareness of the struggles facing those who are marginalized religiously, culturally or socially. 

Davis, Stephen T. Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity. InterVarsity Press, 2016.

Abstract: If God exists, why doesn’t he eliminate suffering and evil? Does evolution disprove Christianity? Can religion be explained by cognitive science? People have grappled for ages with these kinds of questions. And many in today’s academic world find Christian belief untenable. But renowned philosopher Stephen Davis argues that belief in God is indeed a rational and intellectually sound endeavor. Drawing on a lifetime of rigorous reflection and critical thinking, he explores perennial and contemporary challenges to Christian faith. Davis appraises objections fairly and openly, offering thoughtful approaches to common intellectual problems.

Davis, Stephen T. “Thoughts on Atheism and Relativism.” The City. Vol. VIII, No. 2. March 11, 2016.

A Russian Translation of God, Reason, and Theistic Proofs (Edinburgh University Press, 1997) appeared (Moscow: Kauka-Vostachanaya Literatura, 2016).

Espinosa, Gastón. Latino Pentecostals in America: Faith and Politics in Action, paperback edition, Harvard University Press, 2016.

Abstract: Every year an estimated 600,000 U.S. Latinos convert from Catholicism to Protestantism. Today, 12.5 million Latinos self-identify as Protestant—a population larger than all U.S. Jews and Muslims combined. Spearheading this spiritual transformation is the Pentecostal movement and Assemblies of God, which is the destination for one out of four converts. In a deeply researched social and cultural history, Gastón Espinosa uncovers the roots of this remarkable turn and the Latino AG’s growing leadership nationwide. Latino Pentecostals in America traces the Latino AG back to the Azusa Street Revivals in Los Angeles and Apostolic Faith Revivals in Houston from 1906 to 1909. Espinosa describes the uphill struggles for indigenous leadership, racial equality, women in the ministry, social and political activism, and immigration reform. His analysis of their independent political views and voting patterns from 1996 to 2012 challenges the stereotypes that they are all apolitical, right-wing, or politically marginal. Their outspoken commitment to an active faith has led a new generation of leaders to blend righteousness and justice, by which they mean the reconciling message of Billy Graham and the social transformation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Latino AG leaders and their 2,400 churches across the nation represent a new and growing force in denominational, Evangelical, and presidential politics. This eye-opening study explains why this group of working-class Latinos once called “The Silent Pentecostals” is silent no more. By giving voice to their untold story, Espinosa enriches our understanding of the diversity of Latino religion, Evangelicalism, and American culture.

Espinosa, Gastón. William J. Seymour and the Origins of Global Pentecostalism: A Biography and Documentary History, paperback edition, Duke University Press, 2016.

Abstract: In 1906, William J. Seymour (1870–1922) preached Pentecostal revival at the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles. From these and other humble origins the movement has blossomed to 631 million people around the world. Gastón Espinosa provides new insight into the life and ministry of Seymour, the Azusa Street revival, and Seymour's influence on global Pentecostal origins. After defining key terms and concepts, he surveys the changing interpretations of Seymour over the past 100 years, critically engages them in a biography, and then provides an unparalleled collection of primary sources, all in a single volume. He pays particular attention to race relations, Seymour's paradigmatic global influence from 1906 to 1912, and the break between Seymour and Charles Parham, another founder of Pentecostalism. Espinosa's fragmentation thesis argues that the Pentecostal propensity to invoke direct unmediated experiences with the Holy Spirit empowers ordinary people to break the bottle of denominationalism and to rapidly indigenize and spread their message. The 104 primary sources include all of Seymour's extant writings in full and without alteration and some of Parham's theological, social, and racial writings, which help explain why the two parted company. To capture the revival's diversity and global influence, this book includes Black, Latino, Swedish, and Irish testimonies, along with those of missionaries and leaders who spread Seymour's vision of Pentecostalism globally.

Espinosa, Gastón, Harold Morales, and Juan Galvan. Latino Muslims in America Report: Reversion, Politics, and Islamidad, Princeton University, 2016.

External Grant: 2016-2017 William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and Public Life, Department of Politics, Princeton University.

Velji, Jamel A. An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire. Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

Abstract: How can religion transform a society? This book investigates the ways in which a medieval Islamic movement harnessed Quranic visions of utopia to construct one of the most brilliant and lasting empires in Islamic history (979-1171). The Fatimids’ apocalyptic vision of their central place in an imminent utopia played a critical role in transfiguring the intellectual and political terrains of North Africa in the early tenth century. Yet the realities that they faced on the ground often challenged their status as the custodians of a pristine Islam at the end of time. Through a detailed examination of some of the structural features of the Fatimid revolution, as well as early works of ta'wil, or symbolic interpretation, Jamel Velji illustrates how the Fatimids conceived of their mission as one that would bring about an imminent utopia. He then examines how the Fatimids reinterpreted their place in history when the expected end never materialized. The book ends with an extensive discussion of another apocalyptic event linked to a Fatimid lineage: the Nizari Ismaili declaration of the end of time on August 8, 1164.

Velji. Jamel A. "Apocalyptic Rhetoric and the Construction of Authority in Medieval Ismailism," in Roads to Paradise: Eschatology and Concepts of the Hereafter in Islam (2 vols.). Sebastian Guenther and Todd Lawson, eds, with the assistance of Christian Mauder. Leiden: Brill, 2016.

Abstract: This chapter focuses on some of the ways in which the eschatological/ apocalyptic portions of the Quran were deployed by two apocalyptic movements in the Islamic tradition--the Fatimid movement and the Nizari movement--to re-construct religious authority. An examination of the way in which these Quranic transcripts were deployed by these movements illustrates how their rhetorical force was used to re-shape the sacred in both cases, illustrating more broadly the potency of apocalyptic symbolism in the reshaping of social sentiments.

Velji, Jamel A. "Striving in the Path of God: Jihād and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought by Asma Afsaruddin." Journal of Religion and Violence 4.1, 2016, 107-109.