Humanity: Texts and Contexts
Christian and Muslim Perspectives
Publication Year: 2010
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.
Published by: Georgetown University Press
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Many thanks are due to the president of Georgetown University, Dr. John J. De- Gioia, for generous and essential support for the 2007 Building Bridges seminar, and for assistance in making possible the publication of this record.We also wish to acknowledge the assistance and partnership of Syed Dr. Farid Alatas and colleagues in the National University of Singapore in hosting the event, and the kind hospitality of Tan Sri Francis ...
INTRODUCTION: Humanity in Context
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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 ...
PART ONE: Human Identity, Difference, and Guardianship
The six contributions in this part are in three pairs, each comprising a Christian and an Islamic perspective, and each contribution addresses aspects of three questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the significance of the diversity that is evident among human beings? What are the challenges that humans face in living within the natural world? In each case, although in different ways and from different theological ...
CHAPTER ONE. Being Human
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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 ...
CHAPTER TWO. Living with Difference
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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 ...
CHAPTER THREE. Guardians of the Environment
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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 ...
PART TWO: Scriptural Texts on Being Human
This part comprises six paired sets of readings from the Bible and the Qur’ān together with introductions given by scholars to present the texts to the seminar. The first three pairs address different aspects in the understanding of what it means to be human; in turn, they speak of human dignity, of human alienation, and of human destiny. The fourth and fifth pairs of texts engage with dimensions of the differences ...
CHAPTER FOUR. Human Dignity
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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 ...
CHAPTER FIVE. Human Alienation
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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 ...
CHAPTER SIX. Human Destiny
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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 ...
CHAPTER SEVEN. Humanity and Gender
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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 ...
CHAPTER EIGHT. Humanity and Diversity
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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 ...
CHAPTER NINE. Humanity and the Environment
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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. ...
AFTERWORD: Reflections on Humanity in Text and Context
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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 ...
INDEX TO BIBLICAL CITATIONS
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INDEX TO QUR’ĀNIC CITATIONS
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Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2010
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