Humanity: Texts and Contexts

Humanity: Texts and Contexts: Christian and Muslim Perspectives

Michael Ipgrave
David Marshall
Afterword by Archbishop Rowan Williams
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Humanity: Texts and Contexts
    Book Description:

    Humanity: Texts and Contexts is a record of the 2007 Singapore "Building Bridges" seminar, an annual dialogue between Muslim and Christian scholars cosponsored by Georgetown University and the Archbishop of Canterbury. This volume explores three central questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the significance of the diversity that is evident among human beings? And what are the challenges that humans face living within the natural world? A distinguished group of scholars focuses on the theological responses to each of these questions, drawing on the wealth of material found in both Christian and Islamic scriptures. Part one lays out the three issues of human identity, difference, and guardianship. Part two explores scriptural texts side by side, pairing Christian and Islamic scholars who examine such themes as human dignity, human alienation, human destiny, humanity and gender, humanity and diversity, and humanity and the environment. In addition to contributions from an international cast of outstanding scholars, the book includes an afterword by Archbishop Rowan Williams.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-759-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Participants
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION Humanity in Context
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Michael Ipgrave

    This volume provides a record of the papers delivered and the texts discussed at the sixth annual Building Bridges seminar of Christian and Muslim scholars, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the National University of Singapore in December 2007 on the theme “Humanity in Context.”¹ As in previous seminars in the series, an overarching subject of central interest to both Christians and Muslims was addressed by using the resources that each faith had to offer out of its own integrity, and formal and informal dialogue between the participants grew out of the structured presentations that are recorded here. This...

  6. Part One Human Identity, Difference, and Guardianship
    • CHAPTER ONE Being Human
      (pp. 3-21)
      Ng Kam Weng and Mona Siddiqui

      The human race has reason to be proud. It sends space probes beyond the solar system. It shatters the atom to capture the most elusive subatomic particles. It constructs mathematical models of the universe at its birth. Yet ironically, the very success of the modern knowledge enterprise has become a stumbling block to humankind’s quest for self-knowledge in the modern world.

      With its prowess in unlocking the secrets of nature and its technological power, the human race is convinced that it is master of its own destiny. It sees no relevance for religion. It prefers Prozac to priests. Why rely...

    • CHAPTER TWO Living with Difference
      (pp. 22-40)
      Michael Ipgrave and Vincent Cornell

      How do Christians live with difference? What resources and approaches do they bring to the challenge of diversity? That is the task I have been asked to address, with particular reference to issues of ethnic and cultural diversity, and of gender difference. Perhaps I can begin by pointing out something rather obvious but very important: that, for Christian faith, diversity in creation is an acknowledged and celebrated feature of the universe. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have created them all; the earth is full of your creatures,” the Psalmist exclaims.⁷¹ In more systematic mode, the...

    • CHAPTER THREE Guardians of the Environment
      (pp. 41-60)
      Azizan Baharuddin and Michael Northcott

      This essay will address the topic of environmental guardianship by first stressing the need for religious studies and theology to reinvigorate their role in the context of sustainable development, and to find their way into other disciplines’ ethical bases in economic and sociocultural terms. I begin from the premise that, just as the physical basis for any society is its bricks and mortar, so too in the human and social dimension of life there is a need to strengthen the belief and values basis. Guardianship as a value or belief is manifested in action in the form of sustainable development....

    • Notes to Part One
      (pp. 61-68)
  7. Part Two Scriptural Texts on Being Human
    • CHAPTER FOUR Human Dignity
      (pp. 71-77)
      Ellen Davis and Muhammad Abdel Haleem

      Although it occupies pride of place in the Bible, the Priestly poem of Creation (Genesis 1) is not an especially early text; most scholars would date it to the time of the Babylonian exile (sixth century BCE). But even if the poem of Creation comes somewhere in the middle in order of textual composition, canonical placement makes it a lens through which Jews and Christians read the rest of the Bible. The early history of humankind and Israel’s history in particular, as the Bible records them, may be read largely as an account of human attempts, conscious or not, to...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Human Alienation
      (pp. 78-86)
      Mona Siddiqui and Daniel Madigan

      The biblical passages discussed in this essay have been selected because of their significance for Christian reflection on human alienation. There is a great deal of material in these texts suggesting tensions and difficulties in the relationship of human beings to God, to each other, and to the natural environment. The following brief comments seek to give some impression of how these passages appear when read from a Muslim perspective.

      The narrative in Genesis 3 concerning the disobedience of Adam and Eve to God’s commandment and their consequent expulsion from Eden is paralleled at several points in the Qur’ān.²³ The...

    • CHAPTER SIX Human Destiny
      (pp. 87-96)
      Roland Chia and Seyed Amir Akrami

      In the closing chapters of Isaiah we find the promise that God would “create new heavens and a new earth” that will last for all eternity.⁴⁶ This promise finds its fulfillment in John’s vision of the holy city—the New Jerusalem—descending from heaven and taking its place in a creation totally transfigured by divine grace.⁴⁷ These two passages from the Old and New Testaments vividly and powerfully portray the eschatological life of the people of God mediated by the renewed creation. Accordingly, because of its future-oriented message, Isaiah 65:17–25 is read during Kingdomtide leading up to the beginning...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Humanity and Gender
      (pp. 97-105)
      Tim Winter and Jane Dammen McAuliffe

      Confronted with such complex texts, and with the sensitivity of the subject, I can do no more than offer a few personal reflections and reactions. Any Muslim contemplating a biblical text should recall the injunction not to rush in where angels fear to tread. It is not only that there is a formidable scholarship to assimilate. There is also the question of God’s presence. The Bible’s usual readers are, for us, ahl al-kitāb, people of the Book, and this is an honorific; indeed, the Sharī‘a typically requires us, when disposing of a text in Hebrew characters, to dispose of it...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Humanity and Diversity
      (pp. 106-123)
      John Prior and Osman Bakar

      These texts on the theme “humanity and ethnic or cultural diversity” speak of fostering international peace in a time of ongoing warfare, intercultural community building without cultural imperialism, and witnessing to hope in the face of apparently impossible odds.

      Some 2,700 years ago, in an age of political turmoil, shifting military alliances, and crass exploitation of the poor, the prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem inserted a vision of international justice and peace among his harsh judgment on the ruling elite. Peace among nations, but on whose terms? Seven hundred years later in what is today Turkey, small, scattered congregations of a...

    • CHAPTER NINE Humanity and the Environment
      (pp. 124-132)
      Michael Northcott and Mohamed Yunus Yasin

      Jeremiah 5 suggests a continuing confrontation between the chaotic powers of the primordial earth and the continuing ordering power of God. It also suggests a certain precariousness in the orders of creation. Creation is sustained in its beneficence by right relations between God and creatures, especially humans. It is threatened by abandonment of right relations, by injustice and idolatry.

      This relational conception of humans and other creatures is covenantal in the books of Jeremiah and Genesis. Jeremiah uses the Hebrew word for covenant to describe God’s ordering of night and day, and for God’s blessing of the line of David...

    • Notes to Part Two
      (pp. 133-144)
  8. AFTERWORD Reflections on Humanity in Text and Context
    (pp. 145-148)
    Rowan Williams

    The great issues of our century are all, in one way or another, about what human beings believe about themselves. At the most pronounced extreme, some people talk as though humanity were essentially identical with its own will to domination, as though to be human was to be involved in a struggle to become more and more completely emancipated from “nature” and free to exercise the choice to be whatever we will. The effects of this are obvious over a range of contexts. Most dramatically, this mindset stands behind our environmental crisis, but it is also visible in some of...

    (pp. 149-150)
    (pp. 151-152)
    (pp. 153-158)