Resources & Materials

★Latest Additions (October 29th, 2018)★

Dionysius Aropagita: A Christian Mysticism? by Alexander Golitzin (Marquette University)

Revisiting the ‘Sudden’: Epistle III in the Corpus Dionysiacum by Alexander Golitzin (Marquette University)

The Logic of the Incarnation – Dr. Einar Duenger Bøhn

Quadragesimo Anno – Catholic Social Teaching, PDF

Rerum Novarum – Catholic Social Teaching, PDF

Philosophy of Religion

The Involvement of God, Herbert McCabe, PDF

A Defense of Religious Exclusivism – Dr. Alvin Plantinga, PDF

Is Theism Really a Miracle? A Response to “The Miracle of Theism” – Dr. Alvin Plantinga, PDF

God and Other Minds – Dr. Alvin Plantinga, Google Book (preview)

Reformed Epistemology – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article

Warranted Christian Belief – Dr. Alvin Plantinga, Google Book (preview)

Religion & Science: Where the Conflict Really Lies – Dr. Alvin Plantinga, lecture

Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism – Dr. Alvin Plantinga, lecture

The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss – Dr. David B. Hart, lecture

Hume’s Abject Failure – Dr. John Earman, PDF

Miracles and David Hume – Dr. John A. Cramer, article

Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism – Review – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, William Lane Craig

Christological Argumentation

The Probability of the Resurrection of Jesus – by Dr. Richard Swinburne, Oxford, PDF

The Resurrection of God Incarnate – Review – Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Swinburne

The Resurrection of the Son of God – book by Dr. Nicholas Thomas Wright, explores posteriori evidence for the Resurrection, received praise from Antony Flew. A decent video lecture can be found here.

Biblical Stuff

The Complete Septuagint in English and Greek

Old Testament Background for Paul’s “Powers & Principalities,” PDF

The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary – Dr. Richard Thomas France, Google Book (preview)

The Trinity and Incarnation as Jewish Doctrines – Dr. J. C. O’ Neill, PDF

Dr. Michael S. Heiser lecture on the “Two Powers in Heaven” motif in the OT

The Delay of the Parousia, Dr. Bauckham, PDF

The Focus of Mark 13:24-27, Dr. Thomas Hatina, PDF

The Apocalypse of Baruch, Pseudo-Baruch, PDF

Criticisms of “Dying and Rising God” as a category – Wikipedia article

The Religious Polemics of Amos – Dr. Hans M. Barstad, p.151, “…we know that there is no evidence of any dying and rising deity to be found in these [Ugaritic] myths.”

The Ugaritic Baal Cycle vol 1 – Dr. Mark S. Smith, p. 73, “It would appear unwarranted to assume that Baal is “a dying and rising god.”

Jewish Recognition of Trinitarian Facts – (not scholarly but contains many scholars’ quotes), Youtube video

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist – Dr. Brant Pitre, lecture

Does Philo Help Explain Early Christianity? – Dr. Larry Hurtado, PDF

Making Sense of Prophecy – Dr. Robert B. Chisholm, PDF

Intersections of Scripture and Theology – Dr. David B. Hart, lecture video

Related to The Holy Trinity

St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Solution to the Logical Problem of the Trinity, Dr. Beau Branson, PDF

Positive Mysterianism Undefeated – Dr. James N. Anderson, PDF

Not Three Gods – St. Gregory of Nyssa, complete online version

Thomas Aquinas’ Views – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article

Trinity and Mystery part 1, part 2  – blog series, Dr. Ed Feser

Plotinus’ Triad vs. Holy Trinity, part 1, part 2, part 3 – blog series, Dr. Ed Feser

Dr. David B. Hart discusses – Closer to Truth video

Logic and the Absolute – Phillip Sherrard, essay

Trinity, Logic, and the Transcendence of Transcendence – Fr. Aiden Kimel, blog

An a priori case for the Trinity – Dr. Richard Swinburne, Oxford

Teleology Articles & Lectures

Finality Revived: powers and intentionality – by Dr. David S. Oderberg, PDF

Teleology: Inorganic and Organic – by Dr. David S. Oderberg, PDF

Dr. Ed Feser lecture on Final Causes, Youtube video

Deconstructing Dennett’s Darwin – Dr. Jerry Fodor, PDF

Ethical Stuff

Why I’m Not a Consequentialist – Dr. David S. Oderberg, PDF

The Anti-Theology of the Body – Dr. David B. Hart, article

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Old Testament Excavations vol. 1

In this blog series, I am going to share small, interesting things I find in the Old Testament.
Since I am not a scholar or specialist, I may be mistaken about some of the facts.
The connections that I draw here may seem tenuous to some, but this is because I will be utilizing a “Sensus Plenior” hermeneutic for my reading of the scriptures. That is, unlike the modern Historical Critical method and similar approaches that insist we read the Bible in some sort of mechanistic, reductivist fashion (as Historical Criticism’s 19th century Germanic founders did), I will be looking “to describe the supposed deeper meaning intended by God but not by the human author.” [1]
All Bible verses quoted in this series will use, unless otherwise noted, the Douay-Rheims English translation. All screenshots of Hebrew taken from BibleHub.

For this first post in the series, I am actually going to do a two-for-one post and share two interesting tidbits I found in recent reading.

1) Strike the rock, strike the shepherd

In Exodus chapter 17 verse 6, God instructs Moses to strike a stone in order to procure drinking water for the Israelites in the desert.
“Behold I will stand there before thee, upon the rock Horeb: and thou shalt strike the rock, and water shall come out of it that the people may drink. Moses did so before the ancients of Israel”

The Hebrew word for “strike” here is “wə·hik·kî·ṯā,” which Strong’s Hebrew Concordance tells us the root of which is “nakah.”

nakah
Please keep this word in mind as we go along.

There is an interesting parallel between God’s command to Moses to strike the rock, and the “Song of the Sword” in the book of Zechariah.
Zechariah chapter 13 verse 7 – 9 reads:
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that cleaveth to me, saith the Lord of hosts: strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand to the little ones.”

Once again the commandment is given to strike- however this time it is to “the man that cleaveth to me” (or “the man who is close to me” in other translations).
The word for strike here is “haḵ-” which once again, Strong’s Hebrew Concordance tell us has the root “nakah.”
Thus the etymologically related “haḵ-” and “wə·hik·kî·ṯā” are cognates.

I have to think that St. Paul was conscious of this parallelism. As he writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 4,
“And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea:
And did all eat the same spiritual food,
And all drank the same spiritual drink; (and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.)”

The piercing of the rock in Exodus forms a typological sequence that comes up again in Zechariah’s song of the sword striking God’s shepherd. And, finally,
St. Paul spells out explicitly what this all means when he says: “and the rock was Christ.”

2) I have graven thee in my hands, Yeshuah is ever before me

It may come as no surprise to many of my readers that the Hebrew word for “salvation” and the Hebrew name for Jesus are only one character apart.
The Hebrew word for “salvation” is “yeshuah” יְשׁוּעָ֥ה and the Hebrew name for Jesus is “Yeshua.” The spelling is identical, save for a final ה character.
And, of course, the two are etymologically linked, considering that the meaning of the name “Yeshua” is “God Saves.”

Yeshuah

Yeshua2

In Isaiah chapter 26 verse 1 (using the RSVCE translation this time) it says
“In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation[yeshuah]
as walls and bulwarks.”

This notion of “yeshuah” serving as the walls of a city is repeated in Isaiah chapter 60 verse 18 (again, using RSVCE):
“Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
devastation or destruction within your borders;
you shall call your walls Salvation [yeshuah],
and your gates Praise.”

Where this gets interesting, at least for me, is Isaiah chapter 49 verse 16, in which God tells Jerusalem he will not forget her:
“Behold, I have graven thee in my hands: thy walls are always before my eyes.”

However, these cannot be literal walls, as 26:1 and 60:18 make clear- the “walls” are “yeshuah” or “Salvation” as such.
Additionally, this may in fact be a prophecy of the crucifixion wounds which Christ sustained on the cross.
The word used for “graven” here is “ḥaq·qō·ṯîḵ,” which Strong’s Hebrew Concordance says the root of which is “chaqaq” or “A primitive root; properly, to hack, i.e. Engrave”
Brown Driver Briggs’ Hebrew Lexicon defines “chaqaq” as follows:

chaqaq

So the imagery of the “salvation” which is “graven” on YHWH’s hands is very much one of being “cut in” (not, as some translations say, “to draw” or “to write”)

One might be so bold as to emend Isaiah 49:16 to say “Behold, I have cut thee into my hands: thy walls (that is, thy salvation) is always before my eyes.”

A Primer on Transubstantiation

Dr. John Goyette of Thomas Aquinas College has put up a succinct explanation of what exactly “transubstantiation” is, and what it does (and does not!) entail. It was a helpful read for me last year, so I feel I should share it.

https://thomasaquinas.edu/news/dr-john-j-goyette-st-thomas-aquinas-eucharist-spiritual-food

St. Thomas Aquinas is famous for his writing on the Eucharist. He wrote several Eucharistic hymns we use almost exclusively for Eucharistic adoration: “Panis Angelicus,” “Pange Lingua,” “O Salutaris Hostia,” and “Tantum Ergo.” He was commissioned by Pope Urban IV in 1264 to compose the celebratory Mass and the divine office for the newly instituted feast of Corpus Christi. Three hundred years later, the Council of Trent used St. Thomas’ treatment of the Eucharist as a basis for its own doctrinal formulations. Indeed, Thomas is so well known for his writings on the Eucharist that in addition to the title “Universal Doctor,” and “Angelic Doctor,” he is also named the “Doctor of the Eucharist.” At the College, we spend the last two weeks of Senior Theology studying St. Thomas’ treatment of the Eucharist from the Summa Theologiae.

There are, of course, many profound elements of Aquinas’ teaching about the mystery of the Eucharist. He discusses the purpose and fittingness of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the supernatural and miraculous conversion of bread and wine into the true body and blood of Christ (which is called “transubstantiation”), and the miraculous suspension of the accidents of bread and wine after the consecration. There is much to think and ponder about the Eucharist, but I would like to focus on just one element of Thomas’s teaching, the Eucharist as spiritual food.

In John 6, Jesus stuns His followers by saying: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The disciples begin to question. Jesus says even more shockingly:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (Jn 6:53-56)

The disciples begin to doubt: “Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’” (Jn 6:60) “But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this? … It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’” (Jn 6:61-3) According to St. Thomas, Jesus explains that His words are to be taken according to a spiritual meaning, rather than a material meaning. “Our Lord said that he would give himself to them as spiritual food, not as though the true flesh of Christ is not present in this sacrament of the altar, but because it is eaten in a certain spiritual and divine way” (Comm. on John, #992).

What is the difference between spiritual food and material food? Material food restores the strength and vitality of the body by changing into the one who eats it, whereas spiritual food nourishes by changing the person who eats it into Christ himself. When we eat Christ, we do not physically tear his body with our teeth, and digest him in some kind of cannibalistic ritual. It is rather we who are changed by what we receive: It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. To be clear: St. Thomas is not calling into question the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but explaining what being fed by His true body and Blood means. Spiritual eating is nothing other than being united to Christ by faith and charity. This is the proper effect of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

But doesn’t the recipient of the sacrament materially eat the body of Christ when he takes the host into his mouth and physically chews it up? The answer is no. What I chew with my teeth are the appearances of bread, that is, the “accidents” or “properties” of the bread. Christ himself is invisibly present under the accidents of the bread, but not in a manner that is subject to the actions of my teeth, or the digestive powers of my stomach. Indeed, the Christ that is present substantially under the accidents of bread and wine is Christ’s glorified and impassible body that is in heaven. It would be neither possible nor praiseworthy to eat Christ materially. Indeed, it would be an abomination. Hence, we eat Christ spiritually under the sacramental sign, the material eating of the appearances of bread. Just as the water of baptism is the external sign of an interior cleansing of the soul from sin, so the physical chewing of the host is an external sign of an interior and invisible eating which is nothing other than being united in friendship to Christ Himself who is in heaven.

But the pouring of the baptismal water, and the consumption of the sacramental species of bread and wine, are not merely signs or symbols of some spiritual reality. If they were mere signs or symbols, there would be no difference between what the Catholic Church teaches about the sacraments and the Protestant understanding of the sacraments as mere symbols. The water of baptism is not only a sign of spiritual cleansing, but also an instrument of divine power producing the interior effect. And the accidents of bread and wine are not merely a sign of spiritual food, they provide the sensible medium through which Christ makes himself really and truly present, the sacramental veil beneath which is His body, blood, soul, and divinity.

Understanding the nature of spiritual eating helps us to see why St. Thomas calls the Eucharist the “bread of angels.” Since the angels are united to Christ in perfect charity and in the beatific vision, St. Thomas says that they, too,  eat Christ spiritually, and do so in a higher and more perfect way. Indeed, our own spiritual eating in the sacrament of the altar is ordered toward the more perfect spiritual eating that the angels enjoy. The Eucharist is a called the “bread of angels” because it is a foretaste of heavenly fellowship and spiritual eating that the angels enjoy and we look forward to in the life to come.

Near the end of St. Thomas’s life, after completing his treatise on the Eucharist, he was seen praying in the chapel at the Dominican Friary in Naples. His confreres saw him lifted into the air, and heard a voice coming from the crucifix saying, “Thou has written well of me, Thomas, what reward will thou have?” He replied, “Nothing but you Lord.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

St. John Climacus on Insensibility

St. John Climacus (born 579 AD in Syria) is venerated as a Saint in the Roman Catholic

St John Climacus
St. John Climacus

Church as well as in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

While serving as the abbot of a monastery located on Mt. Sinai in Egypt, he penned a manual for his fellow monks for dealing with spiritual warfare. The work has come to be known as The Ladder of Divine Ascent and is one of the most important works for Eastern Christians. You can access the entire work as a PDF by clicking here.

For today’s post I want to share Step 18 of The Ladder, which deals with the vice of insensibility. This particular chapter stuck with me more than any other I had read up until that point, and I feel that in the 21st century this chapter has become more pertinent than ever.

Step 18
On insensibility, that is, deadening of the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body.

1. Insensibility both in the body and in the spirit is deadened feeling, which from long sickness and negligence lapses into loss of feeling.

2. Insensibility is negligence that has become habit; benumbed thought; the birth of presumption; a snare for zeal; the noose of courage; ignorance of compunction; a door to despair; the mother of forgetfulness, which gives birth to loss of the fear of God. And then she becomes the daughter of her
own daughter.

3. He who has lost sensibility is a brainless philosopher, a self-condemned commentator, a self-contradictory windbag, a blind man who teaches others to see. He talks about healing a wound, and does not stop irritating it. He complains of sickness, and does not stop eating what is harmful. He prays
against it, and immediately goes and does it. And when he has done it, he is angry with himself; and the wretched man is not ashamed of his own words. ‘I am doing wrong,’ he cries, and eagerly continues to do so. His mouth prays against his passion, and his body struggles for it. He philosophises about death, but he behaves as if he were immortal. He groans over the separation of soul and body, but drowses along as if he were eternal. He talks of temperance and self-control, but he lives for gluttony. He reads about the judgment and begins to smile. He reads about vainglory, and is vainglorious while actually reading. He repeats what he has learnt about vigil, and drops asleep on the spot. He praises prayer, but runs from it as from the plague. He blesses obedience, but he is the first to disobey. He praises detachment, but he is not ashamed to be spiteful and to fight for a rag. When angered he gets bitter, and he is angered again at his bitterness; and he does not feel that after one defeat he is suffering another. Having overeaten he repents, and a little later again gives way to it. He blesses silence, and praises it with a spate of words. He teaches meekness, and during the actual teaching frequently gets angry. Having woken from passion he sighs, and shaking his head, he again yields to passion. He condemns laughter, and lectures on mourning with a smile on his face. Before others he blames himself for being vainglorious, and in blaming himself is only angling for glory for himself. He looks people in the face with passion, and talks about chastity. While frequenting the world, he praises the solitary life, without realizing that he shames himself. He extols almsgivers, and reviles beggars. All the time he is his own accuser, and he does not want to come to his senses—I will not say cannot.

4. I have seen many people like this hear about death and the terrible judgment and shed tears, and with the tears still in their eyes they eagerly go to a meal. And I was amazed how this tyrant, this stinkpot of gluttony, by complete indifference, can grow so strong as to turn the tables even on mourning.

5. As far as my poor powers and knowledge allow, I have exposed the wiles and weals of this stony, obstinate, raging and stupid passion. I have not the patience to expatiate on it. He who is experienced and able in the Lord should not shrink from applying healing to the sores. For I am not ashamed to admit my own powerlessness, since I am sorely afflicted with this sickness. I should not have been able
to discover its wiles and tricks by myself if I had not caught it and held it firmly, probing it to make it acknowledge what has been said above, and plying it with the scourge of the fear of the Lord and with unceasing prayer. That is why this tyrant and evil doer said to me: ‘My subjects laugh when they see corpses. When they stand at prayer they are completely stony, hard and darkened. When they see the
holy altar they feel nothing; when they partake of the Gift, it is as if they had eaten ordinary bread.
When I see persons moved by compunction, I mock them. From my father I learnt to kill all good things which are born of courage and love. I am the mother of laughter, the nurse of sleep, the friend of a full belly. When exposed I do not grieve. I go hand in hand with sham piety.

6. I was astounded at the words of this raving creature and asked her about her father, wishing to know her name, and she said; ‘I have no single parentage; my conception is mixed and indefinite.
Satiety nourishes me, time makes me grow, and bad habit entrenches me. He who keeps this habit will never be rid of me. Be constant in vigil, meditating on the eternal judgment; then perhaps I shall to some extent relax my hold on you. Find out what caused me to be born in you, and then battle against my mother; for she is not in all cases the same. Pray often at the coffins, and engrave an indelible image of them in your heart. For unless you inscribe it there with the pencil of fasting, you will never conquer me.’

Catholicism in Japan

When one thinks of Japan, Catholicism is probably one of the furthest things from one’s mind.fff072e6779970aa72eee85e5a4237dc

I thought it would be neat to have a map just showing Catholic churches in Japan.

The map is still a work in progress, as I am still finding more and more churches to list.

The red house icons represent Catholic schools (which is also in-progress). I hope to someday layer on Catholic hospitals as well.

I think it can be seen from this map that one is never quite far from the Holy Eucharist in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Mapping the Eastern Catholic Church

I hope to add more data layers in the future. For now, this is a basic map of the Eastern Catholic Church seats. Click on a cross icon to see dates established, members, and other information.

 

The data came from this Wikipedia page (which says it is from 2010, meaning nearly a decade old). I put it into a table and assigned Latitude and Longitude based on the historic seats of the various Eastern Catholic Churches. In total, there were 17,796,273 Eastern Catholics (again, as of 2010… the current numbers may be higher or lower).

Is the “Hail Mary” Biblical?

※For optimal reading experience , fire up this Youtube link.

Many Protestants consider praying to the dead for intercession to be a form of EPSON MFP imagenecromancy or idolatry. The claim is often made that the “Hail Mary” prayer is a prime example of Catholicism inventing practices with no basis in scripture.

For today’s post, I would like to point out just how Biblical this prayer actually is.

Here is the text of the prayer:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

Let’s examine it line-by-line, shall we?

  • Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
    blessed art thou amongst women, → Luke 1:28, “And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…
  • and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. →  Luke 1:42, “And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
  • Holy Mary, Mother of God,→ Luke 1:43, “And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
  • pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. → James 5:16, “Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

So, we can see from this that the text of the prayer itself is actually nearly a word-for-word quotation of selected Bible verses. Additionally, it is very well known that, like ancient Judaism before it, Christians practiced intercessory prayer on one another’s behalf. That being said, the skeptic may still argue that it is unbiblical to ask a dead person to make intercession for them. Setting aside for a moment the idea that the “Hail Mary” is less a “prayer to Mary” and more a “prayer with Mary,” let’s examine this concern:

①The following verse strongly implies that dead saints aren’t actually dead, which is why they can and will be resurrected.

“And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying to you:  I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. ” Matthew 22:31-32

②We also have an Old Testament basis for intercessions being made by a righteous person from beyond the grave. 2 Maccabees depicts the Prophet Jeremiah showing up as a spirit to impart a special blessing on Israel’s armies (despite the fact that he had been physically dead for centuries).

“Now the vision was in this manner: Onias who had been high priest… holding up his hands, prayed for all the people of the Jews: After this there appeared also another man, admirable for age, and glory, and environed with great beauty and majesty: Then Onias answering, said: This is a lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel: this is he that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city, Jeremias the prophet of God.” 2 Maccabees 15:12-13

It should be noted that, to this day, Hasidic Jews pray to figures like Michael the Archangel for intercession.

③The New Testament, likewise, implies that Christians who have since passed on are still “hanging around” so-to-speak. Hence, the following:

And therefore we also havingso great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: ” Hebrews 12:1

The cloud of witnesses referred to by the author of Hebrews is unmistakably a reference to the Christian martyrs of his day, which he regarded as witnesses to the faith, and still “over our head” watching over us. This reference could be interpreted as showing that the idea of a “Communion of Saints” was already percolating in Christian thought.

④Once again, James 5:16 reminds us that “the insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.” Christians think nothing of asking a priest, a parent, or some such other person to pray for them in times of need or despair. Catholics merely take this thinking a step further, and via the Communion of Saints, reach out to those righteous persons who (though they no longer possess physical bodies) are spiritually quite alive.


When Prophecy Fails, Rely on Poor Science

One of the go-to studies for New Atheists in order to quickly explain away the rise of 220px-Пророк_Иеремия,_Микеланжело_Буонаротти.jpgChristianity, or prophecies in any religion, is Leon Festinger’s work “When Prophecy Fails.” A hundred years since Freud, and nowadays everyone likes to think they’re a psychoanalyst.

Stated briefly, Festinger and his fellow social psychologists infiltrated a UFO doomsday cult in Chicago. They found that when the prophecy did not appear to be fulfilled, the group developed a number of coping mechanisms in order to explain away the apparent lack of fulfillment.
Festinger developed his theory of Cognitive Dissonance based on his findings.

Festinger claimed that while the group, prior to the supposed cataclysm, was reclusive and secretive (only open to “true believers”), after the failed prediction they began an urgent campaign to spread its message and proselytize (possibly because gaining new members would help them cope with the failed prediction).

As intuitive and alluring as such a theory might seem in helping modern man feel that he has “figured out how religion works,” I am afraid it obscures more truth than it reveals.

By way of critique, I will offer three points.

① The first major problem with the Festinger study is one of methodology. Canadian sociologist of religion Lorne L. Dawson writes:

“Casting doubt on the methodology of the original study, several critics have argued that the findings are probably skewed by some “experimenter’s effect.” As Anthony van Fossen, Rodney Stark, and William Sims Bainbridge point out, it is difficult to put much faith in the evidence of Festinger et al. when so many of Mrs. Keech’s small band of followers were actually social scientists engaged in covert participant observation.”

Wikipedia tells us that the “experimenter’s effect” is “a form of reactivity in which a researcher’s cognitive bias causes them to subconsciously influence the participants of an experiment.”

② Methodological issues aside, sociologists of religion have argued that the hypothesis has not actually been confirmed any by further research.

Rodney Stark (1996:220) argues,

“There have been a number of subsequent tests of the [Festinger et al. thesis], none of which have found the predicted outcome.”

And Chris Bader (1999:120)

“[N]o case study of a failed prophecy… has provided support for the cognitive dissonance hypothesis.”

③ Finally, I would like to offer a criticism of my own (although I am not a sociologist or a psychologist).
Any “case study” that seeks to observe how religions “evolve” in the modern West must take into account that the West, for about 2000 years, has been marinating in Christian beliefs about the apocalypse. Thus, to derive a finding from a group in the modern Anglophone West would really only tell you about how religious beliefs evolve… in circa 21st Century America (and even then, it seems a bit silly to take such a mechanistic view of something like religious belief).
This is because there is no “control group,” as it were. One would be using a group already “contaminated” by 2000 years of Judeo-Christian influence, and thus how a religious group functions in the post-Christianity world (in 21st century America, say) may not tell us anything at all about how religion evolved in 1st Century Palestine.
There are so many cultural variables at play that it becomes an exercise in futility. I highly doubt there are such things as “cultural Laws of Nature” that just function like the Law of Gravity, but if there are, Festinger surely did not uncover one of them.