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Paradise and Paradigm: Key Symbols in Persian Christianity and the Baha'i Faith (Studies in the Babi and Baha'i Religions, V. 10) Paperback – May 13, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in the Babi and Baha'i Religions, V. 10
  • Paperback: 430 pages
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press (May 13, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0791440621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0791440629
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,836,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

This volume is certainly the best comparative work on the Bahá'í Faith and another religious tradition that has yet appeared, and may serve as a model for future such studies. -- Collins, World Order 2002

As a piece of Baha'i scholarship it remains unparalleled. In terms of academic comparative efforts involving the Baha'i Faith, Buck's book is a pioneering work. -- Grolin, H-Net 2000

This is a provocative, ground-breaking work. Its careful attention to methodology and its attempt to work through the project with the attitude of experimentation will provide a significant impulse to the study of religion. --Rippin, U Toronto Q 2002

Paradise and Paradigm is a goldmine of information about two relatively little studied but fascinating developments in Middle Eastern religious history. -- Renard, MESA Bulletin 2000

Paradise and Paradigm opens new possibilities for comparison and suggests new methodological approaches. -- McVey, International Journal of Middle East Studies 2003

From the Author

Paradise & Paradigm is the first academic monograph on the Bahá'í Faith and Christianity. A work in the comparative phenomenology of religions, Paradise & Paradigm was originally a Ph.D. dissertation at the Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto. The external examiner was Jonathan Z. Smith, Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities, University of Chicago, arguably the world's leading authority on the comparative phenomenology of religions (i.e. "comparative religions") at that time. This is Jonathan Z. Smith's formal appraisal of the dissertation:
*  *  *
Appraisal, Mr. Christopher George Buck,
PARADISE AND PARADIGM:
KEY SYMBOLS IN PERSIAN CHRISTIANITY AND THE BAHA'I FAITH.
Centre for the Study of Religion. 
School of Graduate Studies. 
University of Toronto.  
Mr. Buck's thesis is a superior piece of work, one of the most sophisticated exercises on comparison that I have read, and, therefore, a work of historic importance with respect to the study of 'patristic' Christianity, a field that is notably 'primitive' with respect to comparative issues. Of the nearly one hundred dissertations I have served as director or reader for, in the fields of history of religions and early Christianities, this is, without question, one of the two or three best.
Mr. Buck's lengthy methodological introduction (pp. 1-27) is a remarkable theoretical essay. He shows a capacity to work with a variety of contemporary figures and issues in the general study of religion and to extract from serious conversation with them a complex, comprehensive, critical and constructive proposal that is both persuasive and original. This proposal is systematically carried through the body of the thesis, providing both the organizational principles for the data and the procedures which govern his comparisons. 
I am much impressed by his concluding chapter (295-308) which undertakes a self-critical evaluation of the models and methods he employed. (This last is all too often omitted in dissertations in the human sciences.) Obviously, I have some questions. As Mr. Buck notes, his model is eclectic, drawing from a variety of figures, so that figures of quite disparate orientations are made to support one another. With respect to his particular area of comparison, the proposal would have been enhanced by a specific and detailed contrast with the analogous projects of Robert Murray and Geo Widengren.   
I am most appreciative of Mr. Buck's thick historical narrative in which the symbolic investigations are situated. (More work could be done on the theoretical relations of the one to the other, but what he has done is well in advance of the vast majority of works in the field). Again, at times, we differ in historical judgement (e.g. it is increasingly less likely that [the] Gospel of Thomas can be claimed as a Syrian document) but these do not affect the overall thesis.   
The extraction of the central symbolic logic of both the Syriac and Baha'i materials is utterly convincing and reveals, among other virtues, a thorough command of both the primary and secondary literature. This, then, contributes to a comparison across differences of the logics which richly illuminates both the specific symbols and the cultural matrix in which they are found.  
This is one of those rare theses in which the parts are so intricately and necessarily interrelated that one hopes for the rapid publication of the entire work rather than the separate publication of one or two chapters.   
Without hesitation, I strongly recommend that the thesis be accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
/s/ Jonathan Z. Smith
Jonathan Z. Smith, Robert O. Anderson 
Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities
University of Chicago

More About the Author

AUTHOR PROFILE
About the Author:

Christopher Buck (Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1996; J.D. 2006), is a Pennsylvania attorney/independent scholar, who taught at Michigan State University (2000-2004), Quincy University (1999-2000), Millikin University (1997-1999), and Carleton University (1994-1996).

Dr. Buck's books include: As co-author with J. Gordon Melton (Editor), Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011); Religious Myths and Visions of America: How Minority Faiths Redefined America's World Role (Santa Barbara, CA/Westport, CT: ABC-CLIO/Praeger, 2009); Alain Locke: Faith and Philosophy (2005); Generation Y Speaks Out: A Policy Guide (2002); Paradise and Paradigm: Key Symbols in Persian Christianity and the Baha'i Faith (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999); Symbol and Secret: Qur'an Commentary in Baha'u'llah's Kitab-i-Iqan (1995/2004). Widely published, Buck also has authored book chapters as well as journal and encyclopedia articles on topics ranging from the comparative phenomenology of religions to African American studies. Many of his publications may be downloaded for free at Dr. Buck's academic website at christopherbuck DOT com.

For use in teaching the phenomenology of world religions, Buck is known for his "DREAMS Paradigm" -- DOCTRINAL, RITUAL, ETHICAL, ARTISTIC, MYSTICAL and SOCIAL dimensions of religion (with sub-dimensions). See: http://christopherbuck.com/Buck_PDFs/Buck_Momen_1999.pdf.

Buck is also known for his "CLEAR Argument Paradigm," an argument model to assist students in writing their own arguments. Based on the work of British philosopher, Stephen Toulmin (1922-2009), Buck's "CLEAR" mnemonic acronym stands for: CLAIM (Position), LIMITS (Qualifier), EVIDENCE (Reasons, Grounds), ASSUMPTIONS (Warrants & Backing), and REBUTTAL (to objections) See: Christopher Buck, "Religions Share Enduring Values." Enduring Questions for Religion. World Religions: Belief, Culture, and Controversy. Ed. J. Gordon Melton (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO: August 2011). See also: http://www.mackin.com/cms/uploads/eServices/ABC-CLIO_WorldReligions_Flyer_high.pdf.

Buck's biography of Alain Locke -- the first African American Rhodes Scholar (1907) and who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1968 speech, compared to Plato and Aristotle -- presents Locke's philosophy of democracy in nine dimensions. Buck later edited and introduced previously unpublished essays and speeches by Alain Locke. On June 10, 2011, Buck presented "Alain Locke: Pioneer in Multiculturalism & Race Amity" at the National Race Amity Conference in Boston.

Here are some reviews and endorsements of Religious Myths and Visions of America:

For your evaluation of this title, here are selected reviews and endorsements:

Reviews:

"The topic of America (i.e. the USA) and how it perceives itself is certainly of great current interest. In particular the rising awareness of the role played by religion, which makes this book an attractive read. The book is for the most part accessible for the non-specialist, with no background in Religious Studies, as well as specialists in fields such as American Studies or Political Science. There can be no doubt that Buck's book takes a novel look at America through the lenses of these religious traditions in a way that has not been done before. It provides a fascinating catalogue of religious traditions for inspection, which will be of interest to students of Comparative Religion as well as specialists in other fields. Non-specialists interested in religious views of America will also benefit from reading this to appreciate the diversity of views that populate the religious scenery of America."
-- Daniel Grolin, Bahá'í Studies Review 17.1 (September 2012): 195-197 [195].

"This volume may be of interest to readers involved not only in Religious Studies, but also in Political Science, History, Intellectual History, American Studies, and Cultural Studies. . . . In the course of the detailed and well-documented analysis of individual religions, Buck reveals a highly elaborate and in-depth picture of the various beliefs, which is indeed impressive. . . He argues that the original myth and vision of America as a nation was captured by the Protestant notion of manifest destiny. This has been challenged by the other faiths . . . that have transformed the idea of manifest destiny into America's common destiny. . . The book is overall a fresh and stimulating cultural reading of some of America's religions and the complex ways in which their followers make sense of and act in the world."
-- Irén E. Annus (University of Szeged, Hungary). Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 15.3 (February 2012): 139-141.

"Religious Myths and Visions of America has many strengths. The author has defended his thesis with solid research. He has also made an original contribution to American studies."
-- Richard Kyle (Tabor College), Journal of American History 98.1 (June 2011): 279-280 [280].

"This interesting, thoroughly researched scholarly study examines how ten minor religions interpreted America's reality ("nation and notion") and generated numerous religious myths and visions of America. Included are essays on Native Americans (especially Iroquois), Puritans, Catholics, Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist branches), Christian Identity ideologues, Black Muslims, Contemporary Muslims, Buddhists, and Baha'is. . . . The author is a well-known university professor who published other books and articles on comparative religions, and this volume is certainly a welcome addition to the topic of racial, cultural, and ethnic studies. Copious footnotes accompany each chapter. There is also a very extensive bibliography and a good general index. Recommended for comparative ethnic and religion collections."
-- Vladimir F. Wertsman (New York Public Library), Multicultural Review 18.4 (Winter 2009): 66.

Endorsements:

1. "Religious Myths and Visions of America is an intellectual feast, sparkling with original interpretations of how many religions have helped shape America's national character, from the Iroquois origin story, to Christian, Mormon, Bahá'í, and Black Muslim beliefs, among others. This book will provoke insights and controversy for years to come."

Bruce E. Johansen, Frederick W. Kayser Professor, School of Communication, University of Nebraska at Omaha--author of Forgotten Founders: Benjamin Franklin, the Iroquois, and the Rationale for the American Revolution (1982) and (with Donald A. Grinde, Jr.), Exemplar of Liberty: Native America and the Evolution of Democracy (1991).

2. "An experiment on the 'idea of America' with engaging results, this book examines the role of ten religions in redefining America's world role--a topic of importance given America's influence in world affairs. On the premise that America is both 'nation and notion,' this project is a breath of methodological fresh air. Religious Myths and Visions of America is a novel, imaginative and rigorously scholarly contribution to comparative religion, worthy of serious attention and debate. Of general contemporary and historical interest to students, scholars, and thinking people everywhere."

Todd Lawson, Professor of Islamic Studies, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto--author of Gnostic Apocalypse in Islam: Qur'an, Exegesis, Messianism and the Literary Origins of the Babi Religion (2009) and The Crucifixion and the Qur'an: A Study in the History of Muslim Thought (2009).

3. "Christopher Buck's new book is a timely and highly readable consideration of the way American religions have continued to remythologize the country. To this theme the author brings impressive research and notable facility in the comparative study of myth while at the same time presenting the material in an entirely accessible, lucid and interesting manner. Few topics are more relevant today, in a time when the self-definition of Americans is such an influential force on the global stage."

William E. Paden, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Vermont--author of Religious Worlds: The Comparative Study of Religion (1988/1994), and Interpreting the Sacred: Ways of Viewing Religion (1992/2003).

4. "This is an ambitious and unique work, covering a broad range of religious visions of America in their global context. Buck's firm theoretical framework and rigorous documentation make this a significant contribution to contemporary discussions of the place, role and future of the diversity of religions that make up America today."

Andrew Rippin, Professor of History (Specialist in Islamic Studies with an interest in the Qur'an and the history of its interpretation), Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Victoria, Canada--author of Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (2005), and editor of The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'an (2006) and The Islamic World (2008).

5. "For those of us who have yearned for a more readable and scholarly book on the multifaceted ways in which minorities, be they racial, cultural or religious, have 'redefined America's world role,' Christopher Buck's most recent book is a welcome addition to the fields of racial, cultural and ethnic studies. Using myths and visions of minority faiths, Buck has introduced an engaging and fresh new approach to understanding and appreciating the influence of these faiths on America's role in the world. He does this by bringing these minority faiths from the periphery of scholarly discourse to the center of a new, more inclusive scholarly discourse."

"Scholars have always known about the impact of race and ethnicity on religion throughout American history, but Buck's contribution is in the way that he explains the historical connections between race and religion and in the process of shaping America's role in the world. Above all, Buck keeps the reader engaged and intrigued in a study that reads like a good novel by a warm fire on a cold winter evening."

Richard W. Thomas, Professor of History, Michigan State University--author of Racial Unity: An Imperative For Social Progress (1993) and Understanding Interracial Unity: A Study of U.S. Race Relations (1996).

6. "In this remarkable book, Dr. Buck examines the key religious ideas that have shaped America's idea of itself. It's a broadly informed and beautifully written work that reveals the various strains in American mythology and religion. This country has always had a visionary aspect, a sense of the numinous; this impulse has taken many different forms. I can think of no subject in American studies more central to our national psyche. This is an important, interesting, thought-provoking work."

Jay Parini, D. E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing, Middlebury College--author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America (2008).

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
PARADISE AND PARADIGM Key Symbols in Persian Christianity and the Baha'i Faith Christopher Buck.
Comparing paradise imagery in two Persian religions, early Syriac Christianity and the Baha'i Faith, this work contributes to religious studies methodology by introducing "symbolic paradigm analysis."
"This is an extremely powerful contribution to an important part of comparative religions, and will establish its author as a major academic scholar. Its purpose is to compare the symbologies of early pre-Muslim Persian (Sasanian) Christianity, especially in the work of Ephrem the Syrian, with the late nineteenth century Persian religion of the Baha'is, post-Islamic, as centered in the writings of Baha'u'llah. The symbolic center of the comparison is the family of symbols having to do with paradise. Both in its methodology and its scholarly treatments of Persian Christianity and Baha'i Faith, the book is insightful. It gives its subjects allure." -- Robert Cummings Neville, author of The Truth of Broken Symbols
In a novel approach that the author terms "symbolic paradigm analysis," Paradise and Paradigm offers a "theoretically modular" systematic comparison foundation of the East Syrian "Church of the East" (the Nestorian Church of Persia) and the Baha'i Faith, a new world religion. The author compares the hymns of the greatest poet of early Christianity, Saint Ephrem the Syrian, and the richly imagistic writings of the founder of the Baha'i religion, Baha'u'llah. The book employs an original analytic technique in the creation of "symbolic profiles" constructed on Ninian Smart's dimensional model of religion.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Paradise and Paradigm, by Dr. Christopher Buck, is possibly one of the most comprehensive and well documented academic works on religion available today. Dr. Buck's nearly exhaustive research on the subject, coupled with new insights and fascinating new ideas combine to present a must read for any serious student of religion. Even if your interests and studies don't involve Persian Christianity or the Baha'i Faith, Dr. Buck presents new Paradigms that provide conceptual tools that no academic student of religions can do without.
The only thing that keeps this work from earning five stars is that it is truly for the Academic. Lay readers will struggle through terms and ideas that will be unfamiliar to those not versed in the lexicon of academic studies of religion.
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