House - The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions

H. Wayne House - The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions

H. Wayne House - The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions

Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2018. – 624 p.
ISBN 978-1-4934-1590-8
The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions recognizes that from its inception Christianity has been a world religion. This may surprise many people who identify Christianity with Western Europe and North America. Christianity was birthed in the Middle East, and it quickly traveled the world. Christian communities emerged in Europe, Africa, India, and China within a relatively short time.
This historically global character of Christianity has only been accentuated in our increasingly global world. People and ideas are spreading across the globe in new and unprecedented ways. This means that Christians (and those of all religions) are more likely than ever to interact with people of other faiths in their travels or on their street. So here we include information that will help Christians understand their own faith better in this context and information they will find useful in their encounters with members of other faiths.
This dictionary contains articles that describe Christianity, particularly in its evangelical form. This will help evangelicals understand their own beliefs and how they differ both from other Christian traditions and from other world religions. The other main focus is on the nature and beliefs of other major world religions. In the category of world religions, we have included Buddhism, the Hindu tradition, Islam, and Judaism, as well as a number of smaller groups. Here we followed a fairly common academic practice of classing any religious movement with around ten million members as a world religion. Therefore, in most cases, the groups chosen contain more than ten million members worldwide. They are also groups that have members scattered around the globe. Finally, they are groups with a history—that is, ones that have demonstrated staying power over several generations. At the same time, we also included some information about smaller or more localized groups that people are likely to encounter in their daily lives.
Some people may be surprised that we included the Mormons, or more correctly the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our reason for classifying them as a “world religion” is threefold. First, there are now well over ten million Mormons worldwide, making them a global religious movement. Second, while the Mormon Church claims to be Christian and many Mormons attempt to live “Christian lives,” the core teachings of this new religion reject the Christian tradition and condemn all Christian groups as apostates. Third, when Mormon doctrines are examined closely (and even many Mormons do not realize this), they sharply differ from traditional Christianity and take the form of an entirely new religion.
We hope that The Evangelical Dictionary of World Religions will provide readers with a rich resource that will enable them to live as Christians in an increasingly complex world that reflects the religious confusion of the first century of the Christian era. In this way, we hope we have prepared Christians to understand the culture we now live in, their non-Christian colleagues and neighbors, and, in a possibly surprising way, the world of the New Testament.
All the contributors are Christians who hold to the core evangelical commitments. They are also scholars in the relevant fields, most in the academy, but others primarily in the field interacting with persons and groups of alternate faiths. So while much unites the contributors, there is certain to be a diversity in many areas, and we have not sought uniformity. Instead, scholarly differences will be seen in many matters, such as preferred dates for historical events and persons, preferred translations or transliterations of foreign-language terms, and the meaning or significance of various concepts.
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Sri Aurobindo (born Arvinda Ackroyd Ghose; 1872–1950) was an Indian-born scholar, mystic, and guru who popularized a distinctive form of Advaita Vedanta Hinduism (known as Integral Yoga) in the US. Aurobindo was taught by Irish nuns in Calcutta during his early childhood, and when he was seven years old, he and his two older brothers were sent to England to be formally educated; Aurobindo completed his collegiate studies in the early 1890s at King’s College, Cambridge. In 1893 he returned to India, initially working in the city of Baroda. During the next fifteen years, he was involved in various nationalistic political activities, mainly in association with the Swadeshi Movement. In 1906 he moved to Calcutta to serve as principal of the recently founded Bengal National College; the following year he was prosecuted for sedition and acquitted. In 1908 Aurobindo became head of the Bengal National Party—a political group seeking Bengali national independence from Great Britain—and was arrested and incarcerated for his activities that same year. While in prison, he spent considerable time reading the Hindu scriptures, especially the Bhagavad Gita, and engaging in yogic exercises. (He later claimed that while meditating in his jail cell, he was visited by the spirit of Swami Vivekananda and had visions of Vishnu.) He was released in May 1909 and relocated to Pondicherry province in February 1910. There, in 1914 Aurobindo met Mira Richard (1878–1973; a.k.a. The Mother), a Frenchwoman who convinced him that her earlier vision of Krishna actually had been a vision of him. That same year Aurobindo began publishing the Arya, a monthly journal of Hindu philosophy, which discussed subjects such as the meaning of the Vedas and the unification of the human race. The Arya ceased publication in 1921, at which time Aurobindo sequestered himself with several close disciples. Eventually there formed a fairly large group of people desiring to follow Aurobindo’s spiritual path; Mira Richard organized it into a community that came to be known as the Ashram. In November 1926, Aurobindo proclaimed that Krishna had manifested himself in the material realm. Shortly after this announcement, he went into seclusion, whereupon spiritual charge of the Ashram was taken up by Richard. Under her guidance, the Ashram grew to nearly twelve hundred members. Aurobindo died in December 1950, and his work was continued by Richard until her death in November 1973. Several centers that promote Aurobindo’s teachings have been established in the US; the two most significant are the Atmaniketan Ashram in Pomona, California, and the Matagiri in Mt. Tremper, New York.
Aurobindo repudiated those sects of Hinduism which insist that viewing the world primarily or exclusively as an illusion (maya) and at the same time committing oneself to asceticism and social withdrawal are prerequisites to attaining liberation (moksha). Instead, he advocated what he termed Integral Yoga, a general and flexible prescription of spiritual disciplines that presuppose and affirm the derived, phenomenal reality of the world and allow for active engagement with culture while one pursues enlightenment. Aurobindo permitted his followers to choose from among four main approaches to their spiritual evolution: the yoga of works, the yoga of knowledge, the yoga of love and devotion, and the yoga of self-perfection. Though Aurobindo held that ultimately there exists only one Eternal Consciousness (Brahma), which has manifested itself as a three-faceted reality of infinite existence, consciousness, and bliss (sachchidananda), he also believed that all finite creatures are ontologically unified in Brahma, though they are ignorant of this fact. (Aurobindo also taught that a fourth aspect of the divine, the supermind, mediates between sachchidananda and the phenomenal world.) Integral Yoga provides a means of escaping from this ignorance and its detrimental effects, aiding its practitioners in their evolution to a higher state of consciousness (“supramental” existence) in which they realize their inherent divinity and (corporately) have a transforming effect on global culture.
Bibliography. S. Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice; Aurobindo, The Life Divine, 7th ed.; Aurobindo, The Mind of Light; P. Heehs, Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography; R. A. McDermott, The Essential Aurobindo: Writings of Sri Aurobindo; M. P. Pandit, Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga.
H. W. House


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