Orthodoxy & World Religions


Special Adult Religious Education Course

Orthodoxy and World Religions

Fall 2020

Robert K. Arakaki, Ph.D.

I combine traditional religious studies with sociology and anthropology in the presentation of the various world religions.  I approach religion as concrete social structures and lived experiences of real people, not as abstract theological systems. I take the approach that all religions find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is the Way to the Father (John 14:6).  In each class session we will look for points of commonalities that can be used to present Jesus Christ to those of other religions. The goal of this Adult Religious Education Class is twofold: (1) to learn about other world religions and (2) to prepare Orthodox Christians to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in a pluralistic, post-Christian society.

The Orthodox Study Bible will be the principle text for this class.  For supplemental texts, we will be using Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions and Robert Ballou’s The Portable World Bible

  • It will meet every Friday from October 16 to December 11 (skipping November 27) from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm (Hawaii time) via Zoom. 
  • Please contact Father Alexander if you are interested in attending the class:  fralexanderleong@yahoo.com
  • Please also provide him with your email addresses so that I can send you the PDF files of the selected reading materials in advance of the class sessions.
  • There is no charge for this course or its materials.



1 (October 16) – Religion in Hawaii and around the world today.  Defining religion: Robert Bellah, Clifford Geertz, Emile Durkheim.  Metaphors of religion: religion as a map and vehicle, religion as a tree, religion as a language and culture, religion as a philosophical system.  Don Richardson’s redemptive analogies.

2 (October 23) – Christianity and Other Religions: Apostle Paul’s speech at the Areopagus (Acts 17:22-34); Genesis 12:3; John 3:16; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:3-7; Justin Martyr’s “the seed of the word” (spermaticos logos).

3 (October 30) – Judaism: Yahweh and the other gods; the Exodus event, Keeping the Sabbath; the promise of the Messiah; Paul and the Galatians crisis; the tragedy of A.D. 70; the three branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed; Judaism as religion and Judaism as ethnic identity. 

4 (November 6) – Christianity: Who is Jesus?: a carpenter (Judaism), a prophet (Islam), and the Son of God (Christianity). The three branches of Christianity: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy.  The One Church of the first millennium, the Schism of 1054, the Reformation.

5 (November 13) – Islam: Origins: Muhammad’s call to prophethood, the Hijra, and the making of the Qur’an; the Five Pillars of Islam; Islam and Islams—the three branches of Islam: Sunni, Shia, and Sufi; the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism.

6 (November 20) – Hinduism: What is God: polytheism, monotheism, and atheism; reality and illusion; the Hindu understanding of life and salvation: dharma, samsara, karma, and union with atman. 

7 (December 4) – Buddhism: the life and example of SiddharthaGautama; the Buddhist understanding of life and salvation: Four Noble Truths; what is Nirvana; Buddhism and Buddhisms: Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Jodo Shinsu Buddhism.

8 (December 11)­ – Hawaiian religion: animism in pre-contact Hawaiian religion; the Hawaiians’ conversion to Christianity in 1820; the American takeover of Hawaii and Hawaiian identity; the Hawaiian renaissance; the TMT protests as post-Christian and post-modern Hawaiian identities.