Dr. Arik Greenberg is an ardent advocate of religious tolerance and the ecumenical movement. He believes that by studying the history of one’s faith, as well as the faiths of others, people will come to a greater understanding of the commonalities shared by religions as well as the need for tolerance and compassion as means to social justice. Dr. Greenberg has spent many years in the research side of academia and has been teaching for several years on the university level. Now he is working to bring the message of tolerance out to the world at large.
He holds advanced academic degrees in Religious Studies including a Ph.D. in early Christianity with emphases in late Second Temple Judaism and the religions and culture of the Greco-Roman world. He also has a strong background in Buddhism, Gnosticism, mystical traditions, and other world religions and spirituality.
Let him answer questions about the history of religions that you were always afraid to ask. Whatever your faith, you will leave his lectures better informed and better able to make deliberate and educated decisions about your personal religious beliefs. His speaking style is straightforward and accessible. He adds humor and liveliness to topical discussions about the history of early Christianity and other world religions. He uses the example of the often neglected diversity within earliest Christianity as a model for the possibilities within the modern ecumenical religious movement. His goal is to inspire and encourage students of all ages to be better people, and to come to a greater understanding of one’s own religious tradition as well as those of others. He offers positive suggestions on how to make the world a better place. He lectures regularly at places of worship, retreat centers, and universities.
Dr. Greenberg makes the history of Christianity accessible to inquiring minds, expounding answers to questions about religion that have often left people puzzled, and for which churches have often given no satisfactory answer.
He seeks not to break down people’s faith, but to meet them where their faith is, and help lead them to a deeper and more critical understanding of it. His teaching is living proof that academic scholarship does not have to destroy one’s faith, but should, in fact, bolster it. Many of his students have said that they are more religious after taking his class. He encourages a critical understanding of the origins of various theological ideas and doctrines, encouraging listeners to engage the original texts and make their own educated faith decisions: “You can leave my class believing the same things as when you entered, but I want you to know exactly why you believe that.” Since many people have been discouraged by churches’ dogmatic push toward blind faith, leaving many questions about theology unanswered, Dr. Greenberg takes a more explanatory approach, elucidating the origins of ideas and doctrines, the details of their debates in the early church, and explains that many early Christian thinkers were at variance from one another, debating for centuries over basic ideas about God and Christ.
The fact that many of the finest minds of early Christianity were at variance with one another proves that those who still have no definitive answers to these same questions today are in good company. The vast theological diversity of early Christian thought provides a model for modern religious ecumenism, reminding us that love, compassion, and tolerance are central to the survival of the human race.
“I’m asking people to actually choose their beliefs, rather than uncritically accept what they have been raised with. Most people go through their lives believing what they have been taught, and any questions about their faith often go unasked and unanswered for fear that they are questioning God and will upset him. But the result is that they neither gain a deeper understanding of their faith and they also lack a closer relationship with God, fearing him as a senseless despot, and many people fall away from their faiths to pursue other ones out of spite, or even become uninterested in religion altogether.”
If the deeper questions of faith go unasked, or are swept aside by clergy unwilling to admit that they do not know, then people will feel as if their religion has faults or is unfairly betraying them for their unbelief. People often leave a faith that does not disclose to them the ambiguities of their tradition or affirm their right to question. By studying and discussing the debates within early Christianity over doctrines that most take for granted today, such as the Trinity, or the divinity of Jesus, or when the end times would come, people begin to understand that there was really a variety of beliefs among the earliest of Jesus’ followers and not a consensus among all of the apostles. The dissenting beliefs among early Christians were not sparked first by heretics, but by the people that we today call “saints.” If they could not agree on what to believe, then how can we be expected to? Knowing this reminds us that we are in good company. It would be several hundred years before the church came to a consensus on many of its doctrines. And this model of diversity of belief in early Christianity authorizes a similar diversity of belief today. But the most important thing is that people understand the development of these early doctrines, learn about the history of the debates over them, the solutions of many early thinkers, and the persistent disagreement over them. Recognizing the diversity of belief within early Christianity, as well as early Judaism and many other world religions, will be a model for the acceptance of diversity within modern Christianity and also of other world religions, encouraging peace rather than conquest. Acceptance of diversity is the key to religious tolerance, and therefore central to the survival of the human race.
L. Arik Greenberg (B.A., Wesleyan U.; M.A.T.S., Claremont School of Theology; M.A., Ph. D., Claremont Graduate University), is a New Yorker by birth, and the product of an interfaith marriage, offering a uniquely ecumenical take on early Christianity and Second Temple Judaism. His teaching emphasizes the theological diversity within early Christianity, and treats this as a model for modern religious tolerance. His studies have focused on Greco-Roman history and religions, Second Temple Judaism, Early Christianity and New Testament Scripture, as well as Buddhism and other Asian religious traditions.
Dr. Greenberg lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife, Melissa, a Middle Eastern dance instructor and performer, as well as an entrepreneur in the field of natural living.
Dr. L. Arik Greenberg, Ph.D.
Scholar, Author, Lecturer
Dr. L. Arik Greenberg
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