Inquisitive Minds Podcast Critical Thinking on History, Religion, Politics and Culture

In this week’s episode, Calogero Miceli discusses his recent contribution to the online Christian Apocrypha resource on the Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles (http://www.nasscal.com/e-clavis-christian-apocrypha/). He explores the little-known account of Peter and the apostles’ journey in which they meet with a pearl merchant named Lithargoel and a physician accompanied by a young man. Near the end of the story the figures turn out to be Jesus which prompts questions about shapeshifting as a literary trope and also what the figure of Jesus’ appearance may have been.  

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Are there stories about Jesus outside of the New Testament? Definitely! This week, Calogero Miceli will discuss such stories found in what is commonly known as Apocryphal Christian Literature. In particular, he will look at an apocryphal text entitled "The Epistle of Christ from Heaven". He recently published an article on this story of Jesus in a book edited by Tony Burke and Brent Landau, New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures: Volume 1. (Eerdmans, 2016).

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In the next two podcasts, we discuss some aspects of a recent conference entitled: Assaulting Cultural Heritage: ISIS's Fight to Destroy Diversity in Iraq and Syria. The event was organized by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) and was held at Concordia University on September 25-26, 2016. These episodes will focus on a paper given during the first panel of the conference on ISIS and the Intellectual Roots of Assaulting Cultural Heritage.

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Yesterday evening, we witnessed a super moon lunar eclipse or what Christian fundamentalists like to call a "blood moon". The latest craze among some evangelicals is the "Four Blood Moons Prophecy", an idea popularized by evangelists Mark Biltz and John Hagee. The event is interpreted in light of several apocalyptic texts from the Bible, which are believed to be tied to Israel's destiny. In this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we deconstruct the preposterous claims of this so-called prophecy. People who believe such ludicrous ideas clearly lack critical thinking skills. The same goes for fundamentalist Christian preachers who promote this "prophecy". They simply are unqualified to teach the Bible, the holy book they claim to know and believe.


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This is Part 2 of our interview with Dr. Hector Avalos (Iowa State University). In this week's episode, Prof. Avalos answers a wide array of questions. He shared his thoughts on the Historical Jesus, health care and the rise of Christianity, scarce resource theory in relation to religion and violence, the role and responsibilities of biblical and religion scholars in today's world, the end of biblical studies, and his future research projects, and many more topics. Once again, listeners will appreciate Dr. Avalos' perspective on such crucial issues.

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This episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast features Part 1 of an interview with Dr. Hector Avalos, professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, on his latest book entitled The Bad Jesus. The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015). Professor Avalos was a keynote speaker at a recent colloquium on religion and violence held at Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). During his visit to Montreal, Dr. Avalos graciously agreed to speak with us about his life story, his recent monograph, and his various research interests. Listeners will truly enjoy and learn from this exciting interview.

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This week we decided to tackle an issue that often comes up in discussions with people about the meaning of religious texts. Believe it or not, some people of faith sometimes label us as fundamentalists! Why? Because we seemingly read the Bible and the Qur'an too literally. If fundamentalism equates engaging in a literal interpretation of the Bible, then we can ask people if there are parts of their texts that they do not read literally, and if so, how do they determine what should be to understood literally or symbolically? One quickly realizes that people have no clear criteria on how to interpret their religious texts; it is all a matter of preference, and people develop the art or cherry-picking. We notice that texts that are more difficult to accept are either ignored or interpreted allegorically, and theological meaning is often given in order to sustain the Bible's or Qur'an's relevance. The problem with such an approach is that people are reading between the lines and not really reading the text. They are simply creating another story which sustains their own theological inclinations.

Please note that this will be our last podcast of 2014. We are taking a short break during the holidays and will be back with more exciting episodes on January 12, 2015. We want to thank all our listeners for a fantastic year and wish all a wonderful holiday season!
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We continue our discussion of Hector Avalos' book, Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence. Scholars have a social responsibility to denounce false reasoning when it comes to religion and violence; expose lies which contribute to the detriment of humanity. For example, several biblical scholars and most Bible believers maintain the relevance of their sacred text through "hermeneutical gymnastics", by offering "new" interpretations of ethically questionable biblical texts despite the fact of misrepresenting their content. It is also often thought that scholars should not be critical when it comes to certain religious / theological beliefs and practices; but such a stance in the context of the university would be unique, since all scholarly fields should normally adopt a critical perspective in research. According to Avalos, biblical and religion scholars are responsible to "analyze how religion may contribute to the detriment or well-being of humanity based on verifiable facts and reason."

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In this last episode on atheism, we critique Gavin Hyman's idea that today's atheistic discourse is a reaction to modern theological conceptions of God, as expressed thought the work of 14th century philosopher and theologian, John Duns Scotus. In reality, Scotus' theological language is not modern; rather, it is a return to biblical notions about God. Duns Scotus rejected Aquinas' doctrine of analogy and God's ontology in favor of the idea that "being" is univocal to the created and uncreated. In the end, is sophisticated theological discourse too virtual in nature?

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In this last podcast dedicated to Hector Avalos' book The End of Biblical Studies, we examine the final three chapters (7-10) which look at the role academia, learned societies, and the media play in trying to promote the idea that the Bible is still relevant today. We also discuss how the author's critical assessment resonates with our own experience as biblical scholars. After several weeks discussing this book, we hope that listeners understand and appreciate the significance of Dr. Avalos' important work.

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