Oct. 24, 1996
Vol. 16, No. 4

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    On eve of millenium, thoughts turn to world's demise

    Is the end of the world at hand? Scholars from around the world who have studied that question as it has been asked for thousands of years will gather on campus for the conference "Apocalypticism: On the Eve of the New Millennium," to be held Sunday, Nov. 3, through Tuesday, Nov. 5.

    "Apocalypticism -- the belief that God has revealed the imminent conclusion of the struggle between good and evil -- has played a major role in the three Western monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam," said Bernard McGinn, the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor in the Divinity School. "I believe that it is one of the most important religious themes in Western history.

    "There is also a lot of secularized apocalypticism in our society -- certain aspects of the ecological movement, the criticism of technology run rampant, the belief that the world will be destroyed in a short time if we don't change our ways."

    McGinn, along with John Collins, Professor in the Divinity School, and Stephen Stein, professor of religious studies at Indiana University, are the editors of the Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, a three-volume series to be published in late 1998 that explores the many different aspects of apocalypticism. This work-in-progress will be previewed in the conference.

    "For the past 30 or 40 years, there has been considerable scholarly interest in the origins and development of apocalypticism. Before that, it was a neglected aspect of Western intellectual and social history," McGinn said. "But now with the approach of the millennium, the public is as interested in apocalypticism as the scholars are. In putting together the conference and the encyclopedia, we wanted to make sure that the scholarly interests weren't forgotten beneath all the media hubbub."

    The conference will feature presentations by many of the scholars engaged in the Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism project, including Said Arjomand, professor of sociology of religion at SUNY-Stony Brook; James Moorhead, professor of American religious history at Princeton Theological Seminary; Avi Ravitzky, professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew University in Jerusalem; and Chicago faculty member Linda Seidel, Professor in Art, among others. The conference will conclude with a roundtable discussion by Bruce Lincoln, Professor in the Divinity School; Martin Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor in the Divinity School; and Stephen O'Leary, University of Southern California.

    "Apocalypticism: On the Eve of the New Millennium" is free and open to the public. All lectures will be held in Swift Lecture Hall. For a schedule of lectures or more information, call 702-7170.