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Westminster College Religion Professor Published in The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception and Implicit Religion

Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Dr. Bryan Rennie, Vira I. Heinz Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion, History, Philosophy, and Classics, recently published an article for a religion-focused encyclopedia and also wrote a review article for a journal.

Rennie wrote "Eliade, Mircea" for vol. 7 of The Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. The article discusses rezeptionstheorie, the study of people's reception of or response to things rather than simply of the things themselves. More specifically, the article discusses Mircea Eliade, one of the most prominent historians of religions in the U.S. and also a successful novelist in Romania, and his reception of the Bible.

Rennie was invited by one of the Encyclopedia editors, Eric Ziolkowski of Lafayette University, to contribute an entry on Eliade. Originally, the editors asked for only a 500 word encyclopedia entry, but eventually they increased his word allowance to 1,250 including a requested section on the implication of Eliade's fiction.

"Reception theory has become well-established in the academy in recent decades and the topic of the reception of the Bible is of obvious and lasting interest," Rennie said. "The implications of Eliade's fiction for his understanding of the Bible is not something that has been previously considered, so despite its modest proportions, I hope that this does constitute an original contribution to scholarship." 

Rennie also reviewed The Discipline of Religion: Structure, Meaning, and Rhetoric, and other works by Russell T. McCutcheon for the Implicit Religion journal. The article focuses on the work of McCutcheon, a scholar of religion at the University of Alabama, whose theories of "religion," or the class or category of things that society identifies as religious, has become very popular with graduate students in the field of religious studies.  McCutcheon argues that there are no independent characteristics that identify that class as a unique category. Rennie challenges McCutcheon's analysis and argues that there is a real, identifiable, and particular class of human behaviors that are genuinely identifiable as religion.

"The article is of particular interest to readers of the journal because they are interested in acts, objects, or events that are not normally considered religious but which may be amenable to analysis as implicitly religious," Rennie said.  "I point out that both McCutcheon and the influential Romanian American historian of religions, Mircea Eliade, with whom McCutcheon vehemently disagrees, both conclude, for rather different reasons, that religion is ultimately un-distinguishable from the secular."

Rennie has been with Westminster since 1992.  He earned an undergraduate degree, master's degree, and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.  His research interests focus on the works of Mircea Eliade, about whom he has authored four books and numerous articles.

Contact Rennie at 724-946-7151 or email for additional information.

Dr. Bryan Rennie, Vira I. Heinz Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion, History, Philosophy, and Classics