The past few days (since my last post) have been busy, though not much significant to report.

Mainly I presented my first paper to my “Problems in Philosophy of Religion” class taught by Professor McLelland.  While the paper was harder to write than I initially thought; I was ultimately happy with the work and I think it was well-accepted.

Tyndale SeminarySoon after, I had the chance to visit Toronto for a day, and I spent the day at Tyndale Seminary. I met Dr. Leggett as well as Dr. Beverly (both of whom have in some ways been associated with SAIACS). I also attended their chapel, which is held at about 11:30am; and for the first time in a long time, I participated in ‘contemporary’ praise and worship. The ‘sermon’ was ‘preached’ by Douglas Faulkner, a physically challenged poet, who appealed (literally appealed) the student body to care for the physically disabled in their congregations, to encourage them, to make them feel useful; for when they do, they will indeed see that the physically challenged can and will be used significantly by God.

I even attended a part of the Christian Ethics class (taught by Dr. Beverly) and quite enjoyed it. They were discussing ‘weird churches’ and ‘euthanasia’ both current issues faces the members of the class. It was especially touching to hear stories of students who had seen their family members suffer and pass away in hospitals and having to deal with issues of ‘euthanasia’ face-up. I also roamed around Tyndale a bit, and the book store was quite impressive, though expensive. They had a very good selection of books; not just text books. I didn’t have much time to see the library though (had to catch my bus back), but will probably get the opportunity at a later date.

Then, both my McGill classes have ended. The “Theories of Religions” class (taught by Dr. Kanaris) was quite interesting especially since it was an undergraduate class. I found the quality of discussions and class presentations of quite a high standard; and was amazed at the high level of exposure the students have to important theories. Samples of the final exam questions are:

Deconstruction is a peculiar form of diagnostic analysis. According to Jacques Derrida, deconstruction is simultaneously critical and constructive. Discuss in what ways this is the case with respect to notions explicitly relevant to religious studies (e.g. faith, messianicity, chora, and justice).

and if that wasn’t enough, then the next question….

Postcolonial theories of society are replete with references to religion. Neither is concerned with advocating religious beliefs as is done in phenomenology or systematic theology. To identify their general manner of inquiry and relevance for religious studies, compare and contrast the positions of Michel Foucault and Edward Said.

And another question that ‘must’ be answered which is interestingly also pertinent to my dissertation work:

A key figure who has sparked debate about religious studies in the university is Russell T. McCutcheon. In Manufacturing Religion (1997) McCutcheon takes on the institution of religious studies (qua classical phenomenology) as a self-validating discipline that constitutes its object of study (‘religion’) in a form that is ahistorical, apolitical, fetishized, and sacrosanct. As a result scholars of religion guard their field with a veneer of objectivity that is implicitly, complicity (in his view), theological. Interestingly, theologians and religionists have taken McCutcheon’s critique as an opportunity to rethink not only religious studies as a viable academic pursuit but theology as well. The arguments of Sheila Greeva Davaney, Linell E. Cady and Paula M. Cooey complement one another and build a mounting case. Weave their points together into a uniform argument for academic theology and religious studies as academic. In outlining your essay be clear about the positions being argued, pro and con; identify what allows these scholars to offer what at first seems counter-intuitive given McCutcheon’s views. You migh also state your opinion after organizing the material as described.

So, to remind you, this is UNDERGRADUATE, ie. Bachelor’s level. And I must admit that some Masters students in India would struggle to answer these questions, let alone understand the question. The reason I put the questions up however, is to point positively to the current research being exposed to the students at such an early stage. Meaning, they are doing Derrida, Foucault, Said, even McCutcheon. Most of these people are exposed in Indian seminaries/universities, only at a much later stage in their learning (too late, in my opinion).

Anyway, apart from all this, I also attended another Doktorklub, this time on “Barth’s view of Time and Eternity.” I found again that most specialist papers are received with ‘blank stares’ from the audience except by the faculty present or one/two daring students. Either Doktorklubs should present papers that are pertinent to the entire audience, or the students/audience should dare to dig deeper into the presenter’s thoughts to find the exercise useful. Most importantly, I think SAIACS has got it right by giving the papers in advance, because it at least provides the opportunity to grapple with the issues presented.

So that’s that. As you can see I’ve been busy. Now with the term end approaching, most of my work will shift to the libraries and my research. My next term engagements include attending a class in Concordia University, and hopefully more time in Toronto, hopefully in Toronto University.

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