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6. Sin

Hugh J. McCann Indiana University Press ePub


Traditional belief has it that God's providential care of the world is complete and meticulous: that each event in the history of creation is governed down to the finest detail by a completely loving and fully engaged Father, who wants only what is best for his creatures. If the previous chapter is correct, theists can uphold that belief and argue at the same time that rational creatures enjoy libertarian free will. We possess legitimate freedom as agents, but our actions remain entirely subject to God's will as creator. How, then, can he avoid implication in our wrongdoing? Indeed, why is he not what the Westminster Confession of Faith is at pains to deny: namely, the very “author or approver of sin,” and preeminently at fault for it? And even if it is possible to exonerate God from outright guilt in the matter, what could constitute a justification for the occurrence of sin? How can we possibly claim that it serves our good for God to will that we commit acts that are wrong? If, as it now appears, he could in fact have populated the universe according to J. L. Mackie's suggestion, with creatures none of whom would ever choose evil, why did he choose to do the exact opposite? Where is the love in a divine Father who involves all of his creatures in moral failure—some, as it appears, even to their eternal detriment? These are daunting questions, to which we should not assume our position as creatures will permit a completely satisfying answer. I think, however, that it is possible to make real progress with them.

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Medium 9780253008039

2 Religion and American Empire in Mississippi, 1790–1833

Michael Pasquier Indiana University Press ePub


Sylvester Johnson

Early in the autumn, the last party of the Choctaws departed for their new country at the West. The whole number removed was about 15,000. Many remained in the southern part of their old country, and a few in other parts; but the nation was gone, and they were mere individual Indians in a community of white men.

—Cyrus Kingsbury, 1833


This essay explains how American Christian foreign missions functioned as a “civilizing” religion of empire in strategic partnership with the War Department to transform the Mississippi Territory (which became the state of Mississippi in 1817) from a land of sovereign Indian nations to an Anglo-American region of white imperial dominion. Our story begins with the religious and political conditions of the late 1700s. I focus on two nations among the Mississippi Indians, the Choctaw and Chickasaw. The United States was a foreign country with respect to the Choctaw and Chickasaw, and the region organized in 1798 as the Mississippi Territory was a field ripe for harvest in the eyes of Anglo-American missionaries. The Natchez, Choctaw, and Chickasaw nations had established thriving trade networks throughout the region. For centuries, Indians of the American South traveled hundreds of miles if necessary to reach the city of Natchez, where they participated in an international exchange; this market network eventually incorporated Spanish, French, and English commerce. Its proximity to the mouth of the Mississippi River was not happenstance but the central reason that Natchez was one of the most important urban centers among North Americans long before the European invasions began. Hundreds of years before the South became defined as an aberrant, diminutive expression of America in the wake of the cultural meanings of the Civil War, the Mississippi River valley—Natchez especially—was renowned for its status as an international (in both Indian and European terms) destination of exchange. Spanish and French colonizers in the American South were keenly aware of the strategic importance of Natchez and eventually pillaged and killed most of the Natchez nation to assume control of the city in the 1700s. Other nations like the Chickasaw and Choctaw, however, preserved their autonomy for decades longer by defending their lands from violent white invasions and negotiating peace treaties with whites while easily embracing and naturalizing white families or (far more typically) white bachelors seeking to marry into the Indian nations of Mississippi.1

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1. Messianism between Judaism and Christianity

Edited by Michael L Morgan and Steven W Indiana University Press ePub

Annette Yoshiko Reed

In “Towards an Understanding of the Messianic Idea in Judaism,” Gershom Scholem famously proclaimed messianism as the defining difference between Christians and Jews: “It is here that the essential conflict between Judaism and Christianity has developed and continues to exist.”1 Few today would contest his assertion. In fact, the notion is now so widespread as to seem obvious. In what follows, however, I would like to take this apparent obviousness as an invitation to look more closely. I reflect upon the prehistory, power, and limits of the trope of messianism as defining difference, and I examine some of the most influential articulations and subversions of the trope, past and present. What I shall suggest is that Christianity’s origins in Jewish messianism has served as a potent site for reflection on religious identity—not just in the first century, but in Late Antiquity and modernity as well.

At the heart of this chapter is a paradox: it may be a truism that the belief in Jesus as Messiah is what differentiates “Christian” from “Jew,” but this point of differentiation is predicated on the entanglement of their histories. By both ancient and modern accounts, after all, the origins of Christianity are part of Jewish messianism. Already in the first century CE, the New Testament literature attests the culling of proof-texts from Jewish scriptures to argue for Jesus’s status as the mashiah (Greek, christos) long promised to the Jews. Into Late Antiquity and well beyond, Christian authors richly continued the practice, even while decrying Israel as superseded by the church or proclaiming the Torah as abrogated by the Gospel. Likewise, within modern scholarship, the earliest movement surrounding Jesus is commonly characterized as a Jewish messianic sect.2 Some scholars, in fact, reserve the term “Christianity” for a later age, when the movement reinvented itself as a distinct “religion.”3

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Chapter 12: Shinto

New World Library ePub

“Then she commanded her August Grandchild, saying:

‘This Reed-Plain-1500-autumns-fair-rice-ear Land is the region which my descendants shall be lords of. Do thou, my August Grandchild, proceed thither and govern it. Go! and may prosperity attend thy dynasty, and may it, like Heaven and Earth, endure for ever.’ ”

This myth, blessing the eternality of the imperial line, is today interpreted by Shinto believers as a myth blessing the eternality of all humans including the Japanese people who have the imperial line as their center. Within Shinto we believe in the endless advance of descendants within this world, and we must work hard in order to realize this.

The following declaration was presented at the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Association of Shinto Shrines, and since that time has been recited at the beginning of many meetings of Shrine Shinto.

1. Let us be grateful for kami’s grace and ancestors’ benevolence, and with bright and pure makoto (sincerity or true heart) perform religious services.

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Medium 9780253329653

11. Some Difficulties in Theistic Treatments of Evil

Edited by Daniel HowardSnyder Indiana University Press ePub


That the world contains the evils it does obviously poses a challenge to traditional theism. For some it is logical in that a contradiction is supposed to be deducible from the coexistence of God and evil. Almost everyone now believes that adequate defenses have been devised to neutralize this challenge, a defense being a description of a possible world containing both God and the evils in question. In such a world God has a morally exonerating excuse for permitting these evils. In particular, it is claimed that the free-will defense, in at least one of its many versions, succeeds in reconciling God’s existence with moral evil—evil that is attributable to creaturely misuse of free will. In my book, On the Nature and Existence of God, I argued that no version of this defense works, and thereby the logical problem posed by moral evil is still with us. This, however, will not be my concern in this paper.

Evil also can be seen as posing an evidential challenge because the evils found in the world are supposed to lower the probability that God exists, and, for some atheologians, so much so that it is less than one-half. There are two different theistic responses to this challenge. The strongest response takes the form of a theodicy, which is a defense plus some argument for thinking that the possible world in which God and evil coexist is the actual world. The weaker response, which I will call “defensive skepticism,” is either (i) a defense coupled with an argument for our not being cognitively capable of finding out whether or not the possible world described in this defense is the actual world or (ii) just an argument for our not being cognitively capable of determining whether or not any evil is “gratuitous” in the sense that there is not in fact, though there could be, a circumstance that would constitute a morally exonerating excuse for God’s permitting it.

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