Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 13194

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
School of Philosophy, Institute for Christianity and Cross-Cultural Studies, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
Interests: religious studies; religious philosophy; comparative religious studies; ancient Chinese religious philosophy; medieval philosophy; Christian theology and philosophy; Augustine; Mysticism; Neoplatonism
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Institute for Marxist Religious Studies in New Era, Hangzhou City University, Hangzhou 310015, China
Interests: religious studies; Christianity; patristics; Greek philosophy; metaphysics
School of Philosophy, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
Interests: medieval Islamic philosophy; religious philosophy; philosophy vs theology; Alfarabi; Neoplato-nism; metaphysics; political philosophy; Greek philosophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The medieval period marked the culmination of the transition from the practice of paganism to subscription to Abrahamic religions. In the medieval period, religion or theology influenced every aspect of human existence, including philosophical thought. The immense influence of theology on medieval philosophy is manifested by the fact that the names of the three dominant Abrahamic religions of that time are used to identify and distinguish three major strands of medieval philosophy: Christian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, and Jewish philosophy. The interplay between theology and philosophy has certainly endowed medieval thought with unique richness. This unique richness is supplemented by the interplay among various cultures of the medieval period. The theological and philosophical systems of thought of various medieval cultures are closely interconnected. This Special Issue aims to celebrate the unique richness and diversity of the medieval period by exploring the theological and philosophical thought of various medieval cultures and their mutual relationships. It also intends to explore the Greek heritage of medieval philosophy and theology, the influence of medieval philosophy and theology on modern philosophy and theology, and the encounter of medieval philosophy and theology with the cultural traditions of other periods.    

We welcome contributions related to any aspect of medieval theology and philosophy, preferably from a cross-cultural perspective. The contribution may be in the form of research paper, communication, or review article. The topics to be addressed in this Special Issue include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • Comparison between the theological and/or philosophical thought belonging to two or more medieval cultures.
  • Comparison between various aspects of the theological and/or philosophical thought of a specific medieval culture.
  • Relationship between theology and philosophy in the medieval period.
  • The role of religion in shaping medieval philosophical thought.
  • Research on any aspect of the theological and/or philosophical thought of medieval theologians and/or philosophers.
  • Significance of medieval theological and/or philosophical thought for the modern world.
  • The Greek heritage of medieval philosophy and theology.
  • The influence of medieval philosophy and theology on modern philosophy and theology.
  • The encounter of medieval philosophy and theology with the cultural traditions of other periods.

We request that, prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 400–600 words summarizing their intended contribution. Please send it to the guest editor (ishraq.ali@zju.edu.cn) or to the Religions editorial office (religions@mdpi.com). Abstracts will be reviewed by the guest editors for the purposes of ensuring proper fit within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo double-blind peer-review.

Tentative completion schedule:

  • Abstract submission deadline: March 31, 2023
  • Notification of abstract acceptance: April 30, 2023
  • Full manuscript deadline: October 31, 2023

Prof. Dr. Yuehua Chen
Prof. Dr. Xiaochao Wang
Dr. Ishraq Ali
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • medieval Christian theology and philosophy
  • medieval Muslim theology and philosophy
  • medi-eval Jewish theology and philosophy
  • medieval cross-cultural study
  • theology vs philosophy in medieval period
  • Greek heritage of medieval philosophy and theology

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

15 pages, 352 KiB  
Article
Wanwuyiti and Finding God in All Things: A Comparative Study between Neo-Confucian Self-Cultivation and Ignatian Spirituality
by Amy Yu Fu
Religions 2024, 15(5), 521; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15050521 - 23 Apr 2024
Viewed by 547
Abstract
It seems that the early Jesuits misinterpreted the key Neo-Confucian terms taiji/li from an Aristotelian perspective in the seventeenth century, thereby leading to a dialogical failure in their initial encounter with Neo-Confucian tradition. What necessitates interreligious dialogue today is a pluralistic stance that [...] Read more.
It seems that the early Jesuits misinterpreted the key Neo-Confucian terms taiji/li from an Aristotelian perspective in the seventeenth century, thereby leading to a dialogical failure in their initial encounter with Neo-Confucian tradition. What necessitates interreligious dialogue today is a pluralistic stance that deems all religious quests worthy in their own context. Therefore, this paper renews the dialogue between two spiritual traditions, long overdue, by reading two representative texts, side by side, from each tradition on self-cultivation: Reflections on Things at Hand (twelfth century) and The Spiritual Exercises (sixteenth century). The comparison showcases that the notion of “wanwuyiti”, a concomitant of the Confucian ren, is tantamount to a religious imperative for human ethical engagements, and the Ignatian axiom “Finding God in All Things” energizes a spiritual self-transformation to forge an intimate bond with God and the world. While Neo-Confucian cultivation focuses on the removal of desires, seeking to maintain “equilibrium” and “centrality”, the Ignatian exercises foreground commitment to “discernment” and “indifference”. The Neo-Confucians address human and worldly affairs in a procedural manner, with ever-broadening horizons, to establish an orderly society. In contrast, the Ignatian self is directed toward an orderly life to serve, love, and bring ever more to God’s Divine Majesty. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
18 pages, 273 KiB  
Article
Approaching Saint Bernard’s Sermons on the “Song of Songs” through the Book of Odes (Shijing): A Confluence of Medieval Theology and Chinese Culture
by Yanbo Zheng
Religions 2024, 15(4), 513; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040513 - 21 Apr 2024
Viewed by 547
Abstract
This paper aims to decode medieval theology from the vantage point of ancient Chinese poetry, employing a cross-textual methodology that encourages a fusion of horizons. It highlights Saint Bernard’s profound and influential theological exegesis of the “Song of Songs”, particularly his comparison of [...] Read more.
This paper aims to decode medieval theology from the vantage point of ancient Chinese poetry, employing a cross-textual methodology that encourages a fusion of horizons. It highlights Saint Bernard’s profound and influential theological exegesis of the “Song of Songs”, particularly his comparison of the divine–human relationship to the conjugal bond. The present study posits that readers from Chinese culture can gain access to Saint Bernard’s mystical theology through the sentiment of love, as portrayed in the Book of Odes (Shijing). Initially addressing love as a core human sentiment, this study progresses by juxtaposing the representations of love in the Book of Odes with those in the “Song of Songs”. This comparative analysis culminates in an exploration of Saint Bernard’s theological perspectives, illuminated through these analogous depictions of love. The results affirm that engaging with Saint Bernard’s discourse on love via the Book of Odes is not only feasible but also instrumental in dispelling widespread misconceptions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
22 pages, 545 KiB  
Article
On Proofs for the Existence of God: Aristotle, Avicenna, and Thomas Aquinas
by Xin Liu
Religions 2024, 15(2), 235; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020235 - 16 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1992
Abstract
In this paper, I examine Aristotle’s cosmological proof of God’s existence, Avicenna’s metaphysical proof, and Thomas Aquinas’s five-way proof. By comparing these proofs, I argue that philosophers and theologians take different approaches to proving God’s existence not only because they follow different epistemological [...] Read more.
In this paper, I examine Aristotle’s cosmological proof of God’s existence, Avicenna’s metaphysical proof, and Thomas Aquinas’s five-way proof. By comparing these proofs, I argue that philosophers and theologians take different approaches to proving God’s existence not only because they follow different epistemological principles but, more fundamentally, because they construct different metaphysical frameworks in which God as the Supreme Being plays different roles and is thus clarified differently. The proof of God’s existence is also of theological significance. This paper makes an original contribution by showing that, despite Avicenna’s harsh criticism, Aquinas returns to Aristotelian cosmological proof. Moreover, Aquinas goes beyond Aristotle by identifying God not only as the First Mover but also as the Creator. The theme of God’s existence bridges philosophy and theology, and it also clearly reflects the interplay and mutual influence of Greek philosophy, Arabic Aristotelianism, and Latin Scholastics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
16 pages, 304 KiB  
Article
Blind Man, Mirror, and Fire: Aquinas, Avicenna, and Averroes on Thinking
by Zhenyu Cai
Religions 2024, 15(2), 150; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15020150 - 25 Jan 2024
Viewed by 740
Abstract
In Islamic tradition, the Falsafa school is well known for its naturalistic account of religion. When Falsafa’s theory of religion made its way to the Latin West, it was embraced and developed into the so-called “double truth theory” in Latin Averroism. However, [...] Read more.
In Islamic tradition, the Falsafa school is well known for its naturalistic account of religion. When Falsafa’s theory of religion made its way to the Latin West, it was embraced and developed into the so-called “double truth theory” in Latin Averroism. However, this theory quickly lost its influence in the Latin tradition, primarily due to the critique by Thomas Aquinas. One of the key aspects of Aquinas’s critique is his criticism of the emanation theory of concepts and the doctrine of the unity of the intellect, which in turn undermines the foundation of Falsafa’s theory of religion, particularly their theory of natural prophecy. This paper aims to revisit the debate between Aquinas and Falsafa regarding the theory of intellect as the basis for natural prophecy, with a focus on highlighting Falsafa’s perspective. In particular, I examine how Aquinas’s arguments overlook the key insights that underpin Falsafa’s doctrine of the intellect. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
13 pages, 371 KiB  
Article
The Similarities and Differences in the Localization of Buddhism and Christianity—Taking the Discussional Strategies and Intellectual Backgrounds of Tertullian’s Apology and Mou Zi’s Answers to the Skeptics as Examples
by Lin Wang
Religions 2024, 15(1), 105; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010105 - 15 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1209
Abstract
After the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire and the introduction of Buddhism into China, Christianity and Buddhism were both faced with the adjustment of the existing society. In the Roman Empire, faced with some censure, apologists began to write articles to [...] Read more.
After the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire and the introduction of Buddhism into China, Christianity and Buddhism were both faced with the adjustment of the existing society. In the Roman Empire, faced with some censure, apologists began to write articles to clarify misunderstandings and express their beliefs. At the same time, there are similar argumentative documents on Buddhism in China. Their argumentation ideas also have many similarities, such as, firstly, distinguishing them from the original ideas, then using the existing ideas, and finally, actively integrating them into existing society. However, there are some bigger differences in the background of the debate between the Roman Empire and China—Christianity has strong political independence. The most fundamental difference is the atmosphere of the existing ruling ideology—China has been Confucianized, and the political independence of Confucianism is relatively weak. It is this fundamental difference that finally led to the final difference in the development paths of Christianity in the Roman Empire and Buddhism in China, which then affected their historical paths. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
11 pages, 192 KiB  
Article
Analogia Entis in a Monastic Vision: Thomas Merton’s Answer to the Modern World
by Xiaoyan Xu
Religions 2024, 15(1), 72; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010072 - 5 Jan 2024
Viewed by 773
Abstract
The idea of analogia entis has undergone a long intellectual development and gained unprecedented importance in the twentieth century with the elaboration of Przywara. It seems difficult to correlate the development of this classical theological idea with Thomas Merton (1915–1968). Nevertheless, in the [...] Read more.
The idea of analogia entis has undergone a long intellectual development and gained unprecedented importance in the twentieth century with the elaboration of Przywara. It seems difficult to correlate the development of this classical theological idea with Thomas Merton (1915–1968). Nevertheless, in the face of the challenges of the modern world, Merton’s way of thinking resonates with many of the connotations of analogia entis as articulated by Przywara. This paper attempts to argue that Merton, in his late works, alludes to the metaphysics, epistemology, and, by extension, the methodology of inter-religious dialogue that analogia entis entails by elaborating on the ideas of natural contemplation, symbolism, and metaphysical intuition. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
13 pages, 2352 KiB  
Article
A Comparative Study of Medieval Religious Spirituality: Bonaventure’s Theory of Six Stages of Spirituality and Śaṅkara’s Sixfold Practice Theory of Advaita Vedānta
by Yixuan Liu
Religions 2024, 15(1), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010039 - 26 Dec 2023
Viewed by 885
Abstract
In medieval India, the desire for “the unity of Brahman and Self” was present in the Vedānta tradition of Hinduism. Adi Śaṅkara, the master of Vedānta philosophy, proposed the six-fold sādhana: mind control, sense control, mental tranquility, endurance, potential faith, and concentration. These [...] Read more.
In medieval India, the desire for “the unity of Brahman and Self” was present in the Vedānta tradition of Hinduism. Adi Śaṅkara, the master of Vedānta philosophy, proposed the six-fold sādhana: mind control, sense control, mental tranquility, endurance, potential faith, and concentration. These six-fold practices can help Vedānta followers realize unity with Brahman. In medieval Christianity, mysticism was regarded as an important path for Christians to seek a closer relationship with God. Pursuing “the unity of God and man” became the goal and direction of Christians at that time, which could be achieved through spirituality. Bonaventure, known as the Seraphic Doctor, was a representative figure of medieval Christian mysticism. He proposed six stages of spirituality: Sense, Imagination, Reason, Intelligence, Understanding, and Spark of Conscience, through which one can achieve unity with God. This article attempts to compare Bonaventure’s theory of six stages of spirituality with Śaṅkara’s idea of six-fold practice and discover the similarities and differences between Eastern and Western religious spirituality in the Middle Ages. Through this comparison, we can further explore the medieval religious believers’ desire for ultimate reality and try to find the possibility of dialogue between Christianity and Advaita Vedānta. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
16 pages, 824 KiB  
Article
Balancing the Poles of the Seesaw: The Parallel Paths of Eckhart and Hindu Vedānta toward Oneness with God/Brahman
by Jianye Liu and Zhicheng Wang
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1529; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121529 - 11 Dec 2023
Viewed by 883
Abstract
The ultimate aim of both Eckhart’s philosophy and Vedānta philosophy is to attain oneness with God/Brahman. Nevertheless, their different philosophical starting points and the conflict between the sublime ideal of the theory and reality means that their philosophies present a structural symmetry. They [...] Read more.
The ultimate aim of both Eckhart’s philosophy and Vedānta philosophy is to attain oneness with God/Brahman. Nevertheless, their different philosophical starting points and the conflict between the sublime ideal of the theory and reality means that their philosophies present a structural symmetry. They both have to face two dilemmas: “How can we claim that humans are already one with God?” and “Why is it that humans are not already one with God?”. Eckhart’s inherited tradition emphasizes the distinction between humans and God, while the Vedānta philosophical tradition emphasizes that “I am Brahman”. Each of them starts from one pole of the seesaw of the dilemma and encounters the other’s issue at the other pole. Eventually, they converge at the point of balance, with unity with God/Brahman realized in all human activities. Here, this worldly life becomes significant, all human work expresses the Divinity, and the importance of God is replaced by an impersonal Divinity that combines being and nothingness. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
8 pages, 414 KiB  
Article
Being and Essence of Creation in Liber de Causis and Aquinas’s Reception
by Lingchang Gui
Religions 2023, 14(11), 1407; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14111407 - 10 Nov 2023
Viewed by 989
Abstract
Derived from Proclus’s Elementatio Theologica, Liber de Causis (LDC), with the concept of “creation” at its core, provides a substantial monotheistic adaptation of the former that was absorbed and criticized by medieval philosophers represented by Aquinas. Taking Aquinas’s classical distinction [...] Read more.
Derived from Proclus’s Elementatio Theologica, Liber de Causis (LDC), with the concept of “creation” at its core, provides a substantial monotheistic adaptation of the former that was absorbed and criticized by medieval philosophers represented by Aquinas. Taking Aquinas’s classical distinction between being and essence as the axis of inquiry, this paper first points out that, in contrast to Proclus, LDC not only introduces the concept of creation but also includes in this concept the distinction between being and essence. By reviewing the different readings of Avicenna and Aquinas on the division, this paper then sketches out two different tendencies in the medieval Arab and Latin worlds to either accept the concept of creation in LDC that both being and essence of individua are given from the One via intelligence or to take a further monotheistical transformation, which declaims the One bestowing the being of creations directly. Through this case study, this paper attempts to show the influence of LDC on Aquinas’s thought and demonstrate the civilizational transitions, fusions, and exchanges that characterized medieval philosophy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
12 pages, 300 KiB  
Article
Ibn ‘Arabī and the Theologization of Aristotelian Hylomorphism
by Ismail Lala
Religions 2023, 14(8), 1066; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14081066 - 19 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 865
Abstract
The works of Aristotle left an indelible impression on Arabic philosophy after the translation movement. While many philosophers accepted the works of the revered First Teacher (Al-Mu‘allim al-awwal), as Aristotle was designated, others sought to reformulate his ideas in accordance with [...] Read more.
The works of Aristotle left an indelible impression on Arabic philosophy after the translation movement. While many philosophers accepted the works of the revered First Teacher (Al-Mu‘allim al-awwal), as Aristotle was designated, others sought to reformulate his ideas in accordance with their own priorities. One such thinker is the hugely influential mystical theorist, Muḥyī al-Dīn ibn ‘Arabī (d. 638/1240), who agrees with Aristotle that all existents are hylomorphic compounds made from the combination of form with matter that comes from prime matter, or hyle (hayūlā), which he frequently uses interchangeably with ‘substance’ (jawhar). He claims that prime matter or substance accepts all forms (ṣuwar), but he theologizes these terms as he believes all things are loci of divine manifestation. Ibn ‘Arabī thus situates Aristotelian hylomorphism within the framework of his own metaphysics. He proceeds to equate the universal hayūlā with the primordial ‘cloud’ (‘amā’), mentioned in prophetic traditions, from which all things in the different levels of existence derive because of the existentiating divine breath. When it comes to the sensible world in particular, Ibn ‘Arabī employs the Qur’anic term of ‘dust’ (habā’) to denote prime matter that serves as the basis of sensible hylomorphic compounds. This study conducts close textual content analysis to demonstrate the way in which Ibn ‘Arabī theologizes Aristotelian hylomorphism to expound his conception of the different realms of existence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
9 pages, 221 KiB  
Article
Philosophy and Religion in the Political Thought of Alfarabi
by Ishraq Ali
Religions 2023, 14(7), 908; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14070908 - 13 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2200
Abstract
Philosophy and religion were the two important sources of knowledge for medieval Arab Muslim polymaths. Owing to the difference between the nature of philosophy and religion, the interplay between philosophy and religion often takes the form of conflict in medieval Muslim thought as [...] Read more.
Philosophy and religion were the two important sources of knowledge for medieval Arab Muslim polymaths. Owing to the difference between the nature of philosophy and religion, the interplay between philosophy and religion often takes the form of conflict in medieval Muslim thought as exemplified by the Al-Ghazali versus Averroes (Ibn Rusd) polemic. Unlike the Al-Ghazali versus Averroes (Ibn Rushd) polemic, the interplay between philosophy and religion in the political philosophy of Abu Nasr Alfarabi takes the form of harmonious co-existence. Although, for Alfarabi, religion is an inferior form of knowledge as compared to philosophy, the present article will show that philosophy and religion play equally significant roles in Alfarabi’s virtuous city and that in the absence of either philosophy or religion, the political system proposed by Alfarabi cannot exist. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Medieval Theology and Philosophy from a Cross-Cultural Perspective)
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