Bard News & Events

Press Release


Emily M. Darrow
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY—On Saturday, October 4, the Institue of Advanced Theology at Bard College will present a symposium titled “Miracles in the World’s Religions.” The featured speaker is Kenneth L. Woodward, a contributing editor of Newsweek and author of The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Free and open to the public, the program will begin at 3:00 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the Bertelsmann Campus Center. “Opinion polls tell us that 84 percent of adult Americans not only believe God works miracles, but 48 percent claim they have witnessed a miracle in their own lives or in the lives of someone they know,” says Woodward. “But what is a miracle and how do we know when a miracle occurs? These are questions polls do not answer.” Every religious tradition contains miracle workers and miracle stories. Woodward states that “although miracle stories can be found in all five traditions—Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism—what counts as a miracle differs within each tradition. It follows that when a miracle occurs, it is recognized as such because it replicates the classic miracle stories as found in the sacred texts, and in the stories of the great saints, sages, and spiritual masters recognized by each tradition. Conversely, I would argue, miracle stories in one tradition are usually not accepted as such by members of other religious traditions. In this respect, miracle stories resemble family secrets or family photo albums—things meant to be shared, appreciated and understood only among those within the community. In most interfaith dialogues, therefore, miracle stories are excluded.” Each of the panelists—Bard professors Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton (Christianity), Richard Davis (Hinduism), Jacob Neusner (Judaism), Nerina Rustomji (Islam), and Kristin Schieble (Buddhism)—will relate what he or she regards as paradigmatic miracle stories from his or her tradition by way of elucidating the meaning and function of miracles within each tradition. They also will consider the extent to which the integrity and coherence of each tradition depends upon the belief in miracles, at least in the classic miracle stories. “The aim of the symposium,” says Woodward, “is to show how miracle stories reveal a worldview particular to a given tradition. This would be, I believe, the first time the question of miracles and their meanings has been addressed at an interreligious forum.” Kenneth L. Woodward was the religion editor at Newsweek for 38 years. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Smithsonian, Commonweal, The Nation, and America, among other publications. He is also the winner of a National Magazine Award and the author of Making Saints: How the Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes a Saint, Who Doesn’t, and Why. The Institute of Advanced Theology was established to foster critical understanding, based on scholarship, which aims to make true religious pluralism possible. Since its inception in 1996, the Institute’s work has focused on how religions influence history, society, and other religions, and are in turn influenced by them. The Institute gratefully acknowledges support provided by members of the Institute, the Crohn Family Trust, and the Tisch Family Foundation, as well as grants from The Levy Economics Institute and Bard College. For futher information, call the Institute of Advanced Theology at 845-758-7279, e-mail, or visit # # # (09.02.03)


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This event was last updated on 10-08-2003