- Ian S. Markham, Virginia Theological Seminary, USA
Too often interfaith dialogue is generic and unfocused. Often it involves 'liberals' from each tradition coming together to criticize the 'conservatives' in their own traditions. This book provides a model for interfaith dialogue that challenges very directly the 'dialogue industry'.
This book involves a Christian theologian in deep conversation with a Muslim theologian. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877–1960) was born at the end of the Ottoman Empire and lived through the emergence of an aggressive secular state. He had to think through, in remarkably creative ways, the challenge of faith within a secular environment, the relationship of faith and politics, and the implications and challenge of diversity and difference. His entire project is captured in his magnum opus 'The Risale-i Nur'. In the first eight chapters of this book, we engage closely with the thought of Nursi and tease out insights that Christians can learn from and accommodate.
Having established the method, the second section of the book examines the precise implications for the interfaith movement. The problem with the interfaith movement is that it is an act of western cultural imperialism – they are taking the individualist assumptions of modern America and imposing them on the conversation. The problems with John Hick's and Leonard Swidler's approach are exposed. Moving out from Islam, the book then demonstrates how the model of interfaith changes when Christians are in conversation with Hinduism in India. A new set of Dialogue Ten Commandments are suggested. The book concludes with an appeal for a commitment to include and reach the 'conservatives' in the major religious traditions.
Contents: Part 1 Learning from Said Nursi: Introduction: Christian Theology and Islam; Religious basis for ethics; Challenging atheism; Living life accountable; Faith first, politics second; Engaging religious diversity; Coping with globalization; Grounded spirituality: the challenge of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi; What Christians can learn from Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. Part 2 Rethinking Dialogue: The dialogue industry; Learning from India; A new decalogue; Conservatives and dialogue: why it is essential to get conservatives excited about the dialogue project; Neither conservative nor liberal: a theology of Christian engagement with non-Christian traditions; Conclusion; Index
About the Author: The Very Revd Ian Markham is Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including: Understanding Christian Doctrine, (2007), Do Morals Matter? (2006), Islam, Globalization, and Ethics, with Ibraham Ozdemir, (2005), A Theology of Engagement (2004), September 11: Religious Perspectives and Consequences (2002), Theological Liberalism (2002), A World Religions Reader, 2nd edition (2000), Encountering Religion (1998), and Truth and the Reality of God (1998).
Reviews: 'Markham offers a model that presents a way beyond the current discourse about the relative truth of major world religions. ... Markham's innovative work is a welcome serious attempt to engage with this influential Muslim theologian.' Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations
'All in all, I heartily recommend this simple yet profound book to all who wish to find an honest, sincere way to understand and cooperate with the religious other, or even those who just want to know what the whole 'dialogue industry' is all about.' Journal of Islamic Studies
View Ian S. Markham's profile page on the Virginia Theological Seminary website
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