How can scholars of religion explain religious faith without explaining it away? Over the centuries many scholars have come to discuss religion as a purely human phenomenon, leaving no room for “special beings” like God, Jesus Christ, angels, or departed loved ones. Robert Orsi confronts such scholarship in his new book History and Presence, inviting scholars to take the experiences of religious believers more seriously.
But it’s a risky proposal. “Scholarship entails risk,” Orsi explains, “for the person whose world has been entered by the scholar, but for the scholar, too, whose own uncertainties ought to be on the line in the encounter.”
Orsi recently visited the Maxwell Institute to talk about how scholars should take special presences more seriously. We talk about it in this special 80th episode of the Maxwell Institute Podcast.
About the Guest
Robert Orsi is the Grace Craddock Nagle Chair in Catholic Studies at Northwestern University. He has also taught at Fordham University, Indiana University, and Harvard Divinity School. He is former president of the American Academy of Religion. He studies American Catholicism and also writes on theory and method for the study of religion. His latest book History and Presence is an ambitious intervention into the field of religious studies.
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