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CHC 135S
A Dialogue Across Boundaries

United Theological Seminary
Professor Aaron Milavec
Winter Term, 2005-2006
Wednesdays, 6:30-9:30

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I. Course description

The first aim of this course is to offer the absolutely necessary knowledge about Islam, Russian Orthodoxy, and Buddhism that is prerequisite for dialogue. The secondary aim is to initiate dialogue intent upon discovering the lived "otherness" of these religions and to discern to what extent this "otherness" finds resonance and dissonance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Finally, future ministers will discover to what extend sincere dialogue and prudent collaboration with the followers of these religions can become (a) a true witness of their own Christian faith and life and (b) a means to acknowledge, preserve, and promote the spiritual gifts and the quest for justice that the Holy Spirit engenders outside the visible boundaries of the Christian churches.

On the practical level, we are aware that the world is becoming increasingly knit together into a "global village." After centuries wherein Christian missionaries moved East, in our own day, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, and Buddhists have come from the East, have made disciples, and have set up mosques, churches, and monasteries here in the United States. What indeed is our attitude toward their presence? To what degree are we ready to invite them to come together with us or to join them in working/praying for justice and peace?

II. Learning objectives

* to grasp the absolutely essential knowledge about Islam so as to be prepared to enter into dialogue with Muslims

a. origins of Islam: experience and deeds of Mohammed
b. historical sketch of contacts between Muslims and Christians
c. Islam as a way of divine salvation
d. historical developments within Islam: Sunni and Shii
e. basic beliefs and practices of a modern Muslim
f. Muslim difficulties with Christianity and the converse

* to enter into dialogue

* as above for Russian Orthodox Christians and Buddhists

III. Topics for classroom sessions

The Orthodox Churches

1/04 Overview and planning; Confidentiality and creating a trusting climate for interfaith exploration; Orthodox Basics I (Sources of Orthodoxy)

1. Introductions--"My earliest or most memorable experience of dialogue across the boundaries"

2. Confidentiality and creating a trusting climate for interfaith exploration

3. Identifying my Learning Partner; exchanging phone numbers; bell ringer

4. The experience of entering into an Orthodox Church--tape of Russian Orthodox liturgy

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After having an experience with the Orthodox liturgy, you are invited to post on the course discussion board your personal reflections. To help make these reflections more useful to others, I ask that you use the General Form for reflecting upon and posting your personal experiences. Once posted, you are encouraged to discuss, to pose questions, to signal what moves you and what turns you away. . . .

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5. The dating of "Christmas" -- calendar reform of 1923

6. Examining a flyer received at the door of the church. . . .

The Orthodox Church is the initial form of christianity, long before catholicism and protestantism.

The eastern churches are those called Orthodox. Orthodox comes from two Greek words orthe and doxa meaning, "True or correct belief." It is one of the names of the Eastern Church, implying that it alone has kept the true faith, unchanged, unaltered. . . . They do not put the Bishop as the head of the church like the pope, Jesus is at the head of the church. And they do not have the heirarchy of a pecking order which is prevalent even among the Protestants. http://latter-rain.com/ltrain/ortho.htm

7. History of the Orthodox Churches--video [short history]

8. Walking through the syllabus. Any suggestions?

Appendix I:. Conversion Stories

  • Olga and Vladimir, First Christian Rulers of Russia--Then we went on to Greece, and the Greeks led us to the edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations.... (From the Russian Primary Chronicle). Missionary labors of Cyril and Methodius.
  • (Bishop Kallistos) Timothy Ware--My initial impression of an absence was now replaced, with a sudden rush, by an overwhelming sense of presence. I felt that the church, so far from being empty, was full full of countless unseen worshipers, surrounding me on every side. . . .
  • Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh--While I was reading the beginning of St Mark's gospel, before I reached the third chapter, I became aware of a presence. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. It was no hallucination. It was a simple certainty that the Lord was standing there. . . .
  • Appendix II:. Othodoxy as the union of fifteen independent churches--The Orthodox church is a fellowship of administratively independent, or autocephalous (self - governing) local churches, united in faith, sacraments, and canonical discipline, each enjoying the right to elect its own head and its bishops. Traditionally, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) is recognized as the "first among equal" Orthodox bishops. He possesses privileges of chairmanship and initiative but no direct doctrinal or administrative authority [as wrongly claimed by the Patriarch of Rome]. The other heads of autocephalous churches, in order of precedence, are: the patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt, with jurisdiction over Africa; the patriarch of Antioch, now residing in Damascus, Syria, and heading Arab - speaking Orthodox Christians in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; the patriarch of Jerusalem, with jurisdiction over Palestine; the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; the patriarch - catholicos of Georgia ( U S S R ); the patriarch of Serbia (Yugoslavia); the patriarch of Romania; the patriarch of Bulgaria; the archbishop of Cyprus; the archbishop of Athens and all Greece; the metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland; the archbishop of Albania (presently suppressed); the metropolitan of Prague and all Czechoslovakia; and the archbishop of New York and North America.

    A. Eastern Orthodox Churches
    Slavonic/Russian Orthodox Church (92M)
    Romanian Orthodox Church (18M)
    Greek Orthodox Church (13M)
    Serbian Orthodox Church (8M)
    Ethiopian Orthodox Church (17M)
    Coptic Orthodox Church (8M)
    Armenian Orthodox Church (4M)
    Syrian Orthodox Church (0.2M)
    . . . .
    B. Eastern Rite Catholic Churches (9M)
    Uniates (dangerous term?)
    Ukrainian Oriental Catholic Church (2-3M)
    Maronite Oriental Catholic Church (2M)
    . . . .

    Appendix III: Proselytism by Western Churches in Orthodox turf

    Campus Crusade for Christ in Thessalonika
    Catholics Praying the Rosary as Mary's Plan for the Conversion of Russia
    Conversion Factors: Is it right to proselytize?

    Appendix IV: Links to Orthodox Dialogue on the WWW

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    In preparation for the next session, read Ware, chs. 1-5. Summarize (2 pp.) the chapter you have selected; Come to class with 12 copies ready for distribution. As you read, employ a special underlining system (red ink) to identify words of Bishop Ware that appear (a) "to reveal his joy," (b) "to reveal his pain" or (c) "to be making exaggerated claims." On a third sheet, type out what you identify as the two strongest citations (less than 25 words) under each of these headings. These will be shared and reflected upon during the class. Interested persons can visit the Orthodox Peace Fellowship (http://www.incommunion.org/articles/news-reports/iraq-appeal).

    Suggestion: The Georgian, Jerusalem and Serbian Orthodox Churches, as well as Afon monasteries living in line with the old-time Julian calendar, are to celebrate Christmas (the Epiphany) together with the Russian Orthodox Church in the early hours of January 7. Check the times for the Divine Liturgy at the Orthodox church you plan to attend. See Yellow Pages.

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    1/11 Orthodox Basics II

    1. Sharing experiences from the Orthodox liturgy

    News: President Vladimir Putin sending greetings to the faithful

    News: Russian Orthodox Protest Rally Planned for Catholic Christmas in Moscow

    2. First Key Issue that Separates Us--Filioque Controversy

    3. Second Key Issue that Separates Us--Extravagant Papal Claims

    4. Third Key Issue that Separates Us--Western Proselytism in Orthodox Countries

    Appendix I: SEARCHING FOR THE TRUE APOSTOLIC CHURCH: What Evangelicals Should Know about Eastern Orthodoxy


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    In preparation for the next session, read Ware, chs. 8, 11 (pp. 218-238), 12 (pp. 245-250, 254-263), 13 (pp. 264-267), 14 (all), 15 (pp. 303-306). In preparation for the next session, use the following sources to prepare a written response to the following on three separate pages: (1) What are the three most significant grievances which the Orthodox hold relative to the (Latin) churches in the West? (2) What steps have been taken by my denomination (or the WCC) toward addressing/healing ONE of these three wounds? (3) What steps have been taken by my denomination (or the WCC) toward recognition of the faith/sacraments/ministry of the Russian Orthodox churches, esp. when it comes to the mission of my denomination in Russia after 1989. The last two questions will require some fresh research. Limit yourself to one hour on the WWW or in the library or consultation with informed persons in your denomination. Come to class with 12 copies of my findings relative to issue (3) ready for distribution.

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    1/18 Orthodox Basics III & Exam

    Introduction: The surprise is that Orthodox Theology never passed through the "salvation by faith" vs. "salvation by deeds" that mark Western theology. They go back to an older understanding of Adam and Eve.

    A. Orthodox Theology teaches that God Himself was the first iconographer

    B. Rebellion of the fallen angels--offshoot of Adam being fashioned as an icon (image) of God

    C. Rereading Genesis

    Genesis 3:5 recounts how Satan tempted Adam and Eve, promising that in the day they ate of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the Garden, their eyes would be opened and they would become like God. Contemplating this verse in light of the Incarnation, St. John of Damascus (seventh century) writes: "Taking human form, Thou hast now bestowed upon humankind the joy of becoming godlike: for it was in hope of this that of old we fell from on high into the dark depths of the earth" (Second Nativity Canon, Canticle 7, second troparion). Through the Incarnation and by virtue of our union with Christ in baptism, we can become partakers of the Divine Nature, becoming more godlike.

    D. Orthodox Theology--Gradual Descent of the Logos and Gradual Ascent of God's People

    God became man that man might become God. Though He was rich he became poor that we might become rich. This sums up my belief on theosis. The Son of God who was God by nature, become man, and we who are man by nature shall become God. Just as the Logos did not loose his divinity when he took on a human nature, man shall not loose his humanity when he takes on the divine nature. What Jesus Christ is by nature, we become by grace.
    -David Waltz

    E. Orthodox Theology--Spirituality of Deification

    F. The icon of the crucifixion--Victory over death and hell is symbolized by a cavern, which opens at the foot of the cross, below the rocky summit of Golgotha, the rock that was rent, at the moment of Christ's death, to allow a skull to appear. It is the skull of Adam who, ' according to the belief of some", says St. John Chrysostom, would have been buried under Golgotha-the place of a skull" (John 19: 17). If the tradition of iconography adopted this detail coming from apochryphal sources, it was because it served to bring out the dogmatic meaning of the icon of the Crucifixion: the redemption of the first Adam by the blood of Christ, the New Adam, Who made Himself man to save the human race." (p. 181)

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    3. Orthodox Sacraments

    In preparation for the next class do your Specialized Study (explained below)

    2/01 Participant presentations and dialogue


    Read Ali, The Prophet of Islam, jotting down your questions ("My Questions Re. Muhammad") in your journal as you go. As you read, employ a special underlining system (red ink) to identify words of Ali that appear (a) "to reveal his joy," (b) "to reveal his pain" or (c) "to be making exaggerated claims." On a new page, write or type out what you judge to be the two strongest citations (less than 25 words) under each of these headings. These will be shared and reflected upon during the class. Do one of the following: (a) Read the short history of Islam in Imam Rauf, What's Right with Islam IS What's Right with America, pp. 173-199 (http://www.slate.com/id/2101698/) or (b) enjoy his interview with Zion's Herald (http://www.zionsherald.org/Nov2002_interview.html) or (c) listen in on his provocative public dialogue (http://www.hawkecentre.unisa.edu.au/events/lectures/Imam_transcript.htm). Summarize your findings in your journal. Give attention to how Imam Rauf reveals his pain. Be prepared to share two instances of this. For mosques in Ohio, see http://islam-usa.com/imona.html#36. For tours and services at the Greater Cincinnati Islamic Center (off I75 30 miles south of Dayton), see http://www.cincimasjid.com/choice.html.

    Ahmadiyya Movement In Islam
    637 Randolph St
    Dayton, OH 45408-1203
    Phone: (937) 268-0279
    Search the Web

    Islamic Society of Greater Dayton
    26 Josie St
    Dayton, OH 45403-2348
    Phone: (937) 228-1503
    Search the Web

    2/08 Islamic basics I -- call to prayer

    In preparation for the next class: (a) Recite the evening prayer (call to prayer: http://www.toursaudiarabia.com/prayer.html) and spend a quiet ten minutes reading and musing over the Quran (The English Translation Of The Holy Qur'an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali -- http://web.umr.edu/~msaumr/Quran/) (b) Note your impressions in your journal. (c) Read Aziz, Introduction to Islam, jotting down your questions ("My Questions Re. Aziz") in your journal as you go. As you read, employ a special underlining system (red ink) to identify words of Aziz that appear (1) "to reveal his joy," (2) "to reveal his pain," or (3) "to be making exaggerated claims." (d) Read The Path of Muhammad, pp. 48-53, describing the Hajj. Make note of your discoveries in your journal.

    2/15 Islamic basics II

    In preparation for the next class: Read http://www.submission.org/4-answering-Islam.htm giving special attention to questions 42-45, 49, 51, 58, 60, 67, 70 (related to 80, 81). What new discoveries have you made? What problems encountered? Note them as "New Discoveries & Confusion" in your journal. Take an hour to read from the Hadith (Hadith or Recollections by the Followers of Muhammad; Translation of the official collection of Sahih Bukhari -- http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/). What new discoveries have you made? What problems encountered? Note them as "Hadith Discoveries & Confusion" in your journal. Read "A Philosophical Explanation of the Doctrine of Hell" @ Ahmadiyya Islam -- http://www.alislam.org/library/links/00000017.html

    3/01 Islamic basics III (Abraham & Jesus @ Islam)

    In preparation for the next class do your Specialized Study.

    3/08 Participant presentations and dialogue


    In preparation for the next class, read a short life of Siddartha Gautama (the Buddha). Possibility: http://buddhistbookreport.blogspot.com/2005/05/part-1-chapter-2.html and http://buddhistbookreport.blogspot.com/2005/05/part-1-chapter-3.html
    Bring a stiff pillow to class for a sitting meditation.

    Gar Drolma Buddhist Center is a Tibetan Buddhist Dharma Center located in Dayton Ohio. Gar Drolma Buddhist Center was founded in 2002 by His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche, a high lama in the Drikung Kagyu lineage. According to the wishes of Garchen Rinpoche, we are a Rime center and honor all traditions within Tibetan Buddhsim. Meditation and classes at Gar Drolma are relaxed and informal and everyone should feel welcome to attend - no matter what level of experience you have with Buddhism. We often have newcomers, and students from throughout the Dayton area and our program is organized to accommodate newcomers. Everyone is welcome at any time - people who may be just curious to learn a little about the Dharma, new practitioners, and those who have more experience.

    3/15 Buddhist basics I

    In preparation for the next class read The Compassionate Life, chs. 1-4. As you read, employ a special underlining system (red ink) to identify words of the Dalai Lama that appear (a) "to reveal his joy," (b) "to reveal his pain" or (c) "to be making exaggerated claims." On a fresh sheet, type out what you identify as the two strongest citations (less than 25 words) under each of these headings. These will be shared and reflected upon during the class.

    3/22 Buddhist basics II

    In preparation for the next class read The Compassionate Life, chs. 5-6. Note in your journal three foundational discoveries that have a practical importance for you. Explain why these three are personally important. Endeavor to enter into the stillness and mindfulness of Buddhist meditation and to visualize the "gift" or "discovery" that you have made and to allow yourself to dwell within it (wordlessly). Following your meditation, reflect in your journal on your meditation. Finally, read meditatively and reverently the "Final Discourse of the Buddha to his Followers" (http://www.ic.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/sutras/foyijiaojing.html) sec. III, IV, and V. What part of the final wisdom of the Buddha registers with you as "this I am already faithfully doing"? What part of the final wisdom of the Buddha registers with you as "this I furthest away from doing"? Note these in your journal. Does sec. V register for you as the proper state of mindfulness that a disciple should take at the imminent death of his master? Explain in your journal and be ready to do the same in class.

    3/29 Buddhist basics II; Is salvation possible "only in the Name of Jesus" or does God move mysteriously within the world religions?

    In preparation for the next class do your Specialized Study.

    4/05 Participants presentations and dialogue

    IV. Texts

    Ali, Maulana Muhammad, The Prophet of Islam (Ahmadiyya Anjuman; 1315 Kingsgate Rd.; Columbus, OH 45331; PHONE: 614-457-8504 FAX: 614-457- 4455)

    Aziz, Zahid, Introduction to Islam: Over 100 basic questions answered (Ahadiyya Anjuman; 1315 Kingsgate Rd.; Columbus, OH 45331; 1993; PHONE: 614-457-8504 FAX: 614-457-4455)

    Lama, The Dalai
    2003 The Compassionate Life. Boston: The Wisdom Publications.
    · Paperback: 144 pages
    · Publisher: Wisdom Publications; Reprint edition (October 25, 2003)
    · Language: English
    · ISBN: 0861713788

    Ware, Timothy
    1993 The Orthodox Church. Second Edition. Penguin.
    · Paperback: 368 pages
    · Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); 2nd edition (June 1, 1993)
    · Language: English
    · ISBN: 0140146563

    Key online texts:

    The English Translation Of The Holy Qur'an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali -- http://web.umr.edu/~msaumr/Quran/

    Hadith or Recollections by the Followers of Muhammad; Translation of the official collection of Sahih Bukhari -- http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/

    THE DISCOURSE OF THE TEACHING BEQUEATHED BY THE BUDDHA -- http://www.ic.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/sutras/foyijiaojing.html

    THE DIAMOND SUTRA 11-15 -- http://community.palouse.net/lotus/diamond11-15.htm

    V. The Specialized Study

    During the twelve weeks of this course, in addition to attaining the minimum necessary knowledge for dialogue, each one is asked to choose for him/herself a specialized arena of interest. This specialized interest will occupy your attention three times during the term. In effect, you can declare an interest which cuts across all the religions considered (e.g. the role of women in Islam, Orthodoxy, Buddhism) or choose three different topics. From time to time, I will suggest sources and/or topics for those who have not yet arrived at a selection. The internet may be of help for those seeking sources.

    In pursuing your Specialized Study, (a) read, contact, or experience what is necessary for you to become informed, (b) reflect upon your experience/issue, (c) prepare a typed three-page report (line spacing =1.5). Use endnotes for citations. Include a "Works Consulted" final page listing your sources (persons consulted, experiences, printed and electronic sources) & approximate minutes (in parentheses after each source) devoted to each. Such reports will be due in their final form on the three evenings designated "participant presentations" above. You will be requested to offer the seminar participants an appropriate presentation during three to eight minutes relative to the issue/experience of your Specialized Study. Do not read your presentation. Act as a engaging teacher: (a) Draw upon the experience of the class. Create interest. Use a leading question. Ask participants to take a stand before your begin. (b) Develop the clear lines of your research and explain/demonstrate your results. (c) Indicate how you have grown or changed your mind in the course of your chosen research. Have visual displays and/or pass out key texts if helpful.

     Please use the General Form for Declaring my Specialized Study.

    VI. Class Preparation

    In preparation for each class having to do with the basics for dialogue, a reading section is specified. Each participant is expected to design a suitable mode for active reading using underlining, marginal notes, periodic summaries. Keep a journal as described above in doing all of your reading assignments. Modify this method to fit your own needs for the second and following sessions.

    VII. Evaluations

    The weight given to the various areas contributing to the final grade will be as follows. In each case, productions will be evaluated on the basis of thoughtfulness, completeness, and growth in interfaith awareness/sensitivity.

    30% journal
    30% three Specialized Studies
    40% interfaith experiences & dialogue

    Learning activities and expectations:

    A. Effective class preparation and participation
    B. Mastery of the ecumenical issues
    1. Active reading of assigned reading material
    2. Three Specialized Studies
    3. Exam on Orthodoxy (further exams should not be necessary)
    C. Interfaith experiences (each with a one-page reflection sheet)
    1. Orthodox Divine Liturgy
    2. Islamic Prayer or equivalent
    3. Buddhist assembly/event
    4. Dialogue on the internet and in class

    Deadlines serve the interests of all concerned; hence, productions submitted late, save for circumstances beyond personal control, will be automatically downgraded one letter grade.

    III. Learning Partners and other miscellaneous items

    Participants would be advised to obtain a learning partner early in the course. Minimally, such a learning partner would be willing to collect handouts and to deliver assignments in those instances when you are prevented from attending any given class session. Even if you do not anticipate being absent, you would do well to find yourself a learning partner such that, should there be an unforeseen sickness or emergency, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that someone is taking care of class matters for you without having to be notified.

    Past participants have found ingenious ways to profit from having a learning partner. Two former participants told me that they discussed the readings together over coffee for an hour every Wednesday before the class. Another participant told me that her learning partner was a good sounding board when it came to talking through her Specialized Study before she began typing. In other cases, learning partners went to a religious site together for worship. In any case, these are only suggestions. Find your own rhythm and do what works for you.

    The agenda for each session will incorporate a ten?minute break after the first 60-70 minutes of class. Hot and cold drinks are available.

    Due to the concentrated nature of this program, anyone absent from two sessions, for whatever cause, effectively misses one-fourth of the class time. In such cases, credit for the course cannot ordinarily be given. In addition, assignments must be completed on time. No incomplete grades are permitted.

    Should you need to reach me during the time of this course, please feel free to send me an email (Moderator@fuse.net). I can be reached evenings by telephone at home (513) 481-xxxx. I intend to arrive fifteen minutes early for each of the sessions for the purpose of meeting informally with those who elect to come early. I am also free to spend some time after class as well. In any case, do not hesitate to make use of me when I can assist your learning.