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For the soul, home is where prayer is, and a soul without prayer is a soul without a home.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Like living stones let yourselves be built on Christ as a spiritual house in the Spirit.
1 Peter 2:5
Faith in divine unity [tawhîd] brings about insight [while] the state of trust in divine providence [tawakkul] will only be perfected by confidence in the trustworthy One.
Abu Hamîd al-Ghazâli
Comparative theology is a fledgling discipline, taking its cue from Nostra aetate, its impetus from Karl Rahner's celebrated “world church” essay of 1979, and its form from recent practitioners like Frank Clooney. As a result, those who have been formed in traditional theology curricula, most of which bear the stamp of some form of “Christendom,” tend to see exercises in comparative theology as addenda to the “real thing,” a modish appendix to proper theology. The aim of this chapter is not so much to bring such critics up to date as to remind them how pervasive comparative efforts have been in shaping Christian theological tradition from the outset. What has altered radically has been the attitude that Christians take toward other faiths, as nearly all forms of Christianity have responded to the cue of Nostra aetate. It then becomes my task, in a volume dedicated to the uniquely Christian doctrine of “the Trinity,” to translate that profound change in attitude into a locus theologicus, a “clearing” in which we can delineate how alterations in attitude can inaugurate a fresh stage in the development of Christian theology, yet one quite continuous with its tradition. The theologian axial to this endeavor will be Bernard Lonergan, SJ, whose manner of displaying theological inquiry as “faith seeking understanding” will provide us with tools to carry out Rahner's impetus to theological renewal from “other faiths.” Often identified as “a theologian's theologian,” Lonergan devoted himself before, during, and after Vatican Council II to shaping a mode of thinking which could bring the ressourcement elaborated by the nouvelle théologie to a systematic focus, thereby showing us how to let theological attitudes disseminated in that council bear fruit in genuine developments in theology. Yet given the relentlessly philosophical quality of the inquiry he stimulated, his “influence” was inevitably more subterranean than evident, so one can understand his absence from the theologians treated in this volume, yet also welcome the opportunity an interfaith perspective provides to reclaim his signal role in trinitarian theology. All of this should help show how “comparative theology” can contribute to genuine development in Christian theology itself, perhaps because of the staunchly philosophical strategies it must employ to bridge between apparently fixed traditions, notably by showing how they have always been fluid, so that fixing them will betray them as traditions.
It is certainly remarkable that it took the fledgling Christian movement four centuries to respond to its central faith question concerning Jesus: who and what is he? Moreover, the long-standing quest for clarity regarding Jesus doubtless overshadowed more explicit reflection on the first article of the creed as well: ‘I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.’ As Robert Sokolowski observes: ‘The issue the church had to settle first, once it acquired public and official recognition under Constantine and could turn to controversies regarding its teaching, was the issue of the being and actions of Christ.’ Yet he goes on to insist:
[While] the Council of Chalcedon, and the councils and controversies that led up to it, were concerned with the mystery of Christ, … they also tell us about the God who became incarnate in Christ. They tell us first that God does not destroy the natural necessities of things he becomes involved with, even in the intimate union of the incarnation. What is according to nature, and what reason can disclose in nature, retains its integrity before the Christian God [who] is not a part of the world and is not a ‘kind’ of being at all. Therefore, the incarnation is not meaningless or impossible or destructive.
Moreover, what Sokolowski calls:
the Christian distinction between God and the world, the denial that God in his divinity is part of or dependent on the world, was brought forward with greater clarity through the discussion of the way the Word became flesh.[…]
Castel Gandolfo, the venerable summer residence of popes, has for over three hundred years been home to the Vatican Observatory. In recent years the Jesuits who run this very ancient and, at the same time, very modern institution have hosted successive gatherings of scholars exploring the interrelations between science and faith. It was during one of these that William Stoeger, S. J., and Janet Soskice got to speaking about creatio ex nihilo. This teaching, central to the theology of the early and medieval Church, is crucial to the traditional doctrine of God and not in any way in tension with modern science, yet its potency and sophistication, we considered, has been strangely overlooked by the modern science and religion dialogue. A conference seemed called for. Creatio ex nihilo has the further advantage of being a place of convergence for all the religions of radical monotheism. Because of this, Bill and Janet immediately thought to ask David Burrell, C. S. C., to be part of the planning team. David was delighted at the opportunity to bring Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars together – philosophers as well as theologians and scientists. Carlo Cogliati's gracious response to our invitation to be amanuensis for the group assured genial proceedings, as his introduction displays so well.
Our hope was that bringing astute thinkers from Judaism, Christianity and Islam around a common table – some of them old hands at science and religion debates and others not – would help restore the dialectical interaction of faith and reason proper to each of these traditions.
Creatio ex nihilo is a foundational doctrine in the Abrahamic faiths. It states that God created the world freely out of nothing - from no pre-existent matter, space or time. This teaching is central to classical accounts of divine action, free will, grace, theodicy, religious language, intercessory prayer and questions of divine temporality and, as such, the foundation of a scriptural God but also the transcendent Creator of all that is. This edited collection explores how we might now recover a place for this doctrine, and, with it, a consistent defence of the God of Abraham in philosophical, scientific and theological terms. The contributions span the religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and cover a wide range of sources, including historical, philosophical, scientific and theological. As such, the book develops these perspectives to reveal the relevance of this idea within the modern world.
Writing in the heyday of 'modernist rationalism', John Henry Newman's analysis of the fiduciary roots of all inquiry - an argument reproduced in our century by Hans-Georg Gadamer - offers us a benign understanding of the 'postmodern': that one ought not simply oppose knowing and believing, notably when the object of belief is divine revelation. Yet in finding room for faith, his mode of argument resists including any belief whatsoever under that rubric. So the quality of discernment whereby one discriminates among different modes of faith represents a primary and indispensable use of reason. Like Socrates, Newman believed in the capacity of human intelligence to discriminate, with proper tutelage and catechesis, the relevant from the spurious. In fact, one always hears the tutor in his writings, as he poses issues in commonplace ways only to lead us to greater appreciation of the nuances needed to move beyond oppositional clichés or crude descriptors like 'modernist rationalism' (found in the opening sentence of this chapter). Newman's preponderant legacy, I suggest, lies in teaching us how to elude distracting oppositions by effectively neutralizing their appeal.
“Originator (Badī') of the heavens and earth. When He decrees a thing, He says only 'Be! And it is.”
There are eight names for God, among the canonical ninety-nine, which direct our attention to Allah as the source of all that is: al-Badī' (Absolute Cause), al-Bāri' (Producer), al-Khāliq (Creator), al-Mubdi' (Beginner), al-Muqtadir (All-Determiner), al-Musawwir (Fashioner), al-Qādir (All-Powerful) and al-Qahhār (Dominator), each with various connotations of creating. Nothing seems simpler than identifying the one God as creator of all that is; indeed, that has ever been the preferred route for calling attention to the fact of divinity, as in the so-called “proofs” that there is a God. And understandably, since the standing link between such a One and everything else is its origin in that One, so that originary fact connects the revelations proper to each Abrahamic faith tradition with everything we encounter: “the heavens and the earth”, as well as the human speculation which attends everything that surrounds us, and especially ourselves as the portion of creation impelled to that speculation. Moreover, when one is urged by those revelations to make the fantastic attestation of a single creator of all, what results is an ontological divide between the one creator and everything else. For if the God of Abraham can be defined, as Thomas Aquinas does at the outset of his Summa Theologiae, as “the beginning and end of all things, and especially of rational creatures”, that lapidary formula has but one clear implication: God is not one of those things, and this affirmation sums up Islamic tawhīd.
As the gospels testify, Jesus was hardly drawn to Jerusalem. The turning-point verse in Luke's Gospel underscores the tension: 'he set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem' (9.51 NEB). Moreover, after his resurrection that same Gospel directs his disciples to proclaim 'repentance bringing the forgiveness of sins . . . to all nations beginning from Jerusalem' (24.47), as they are sent (in the companion narrative of the Acts of the Apostles) to 'bear witness for me in Jerusalem, and throughout Judaea and Samaria, and even in the farthest corners of the earth' (Acts 1.8). So the New Testament explicitly reverses the centripetal movement of all nations gathering to Jerusalem (in the messianic prophecies of Isaiah) to a centrifugal one, leaving Jerusalem to be a centre whose role would remain ambiguous throughout Christian history. In her masterful account, Karen Armstrong (1996) delineates these ambiguities through a history punctuated and shaped by diverse interactions with Jews and Muslims. Peter Walker (1990) provides an early set of reflections from Eusebius and Cyril (see also Walker 1994), while Robert Wilken (1992) offers textual evidence of the richly theological exchange between Jews and Christians in the context of this holy city. Frank Peters (1985) offers a rich compendium of texts from 'chroniclers, visitors, pilgrims and prophets from the days of Abraham to the beginning of modern times'.
As an exercise in comparative philosophical theology, our approach is more concerned with conceptual strategies than with historical “influences,” although the animadversions of those versed in the history of each period will assist in reading the texts of each thinker. We need historians to make us aware of the questions to which thinkers of other ages and cultures were directing their energies, as well as the forms of thought available to them in making their response; but we philosophers hope to be able to proceed without having to arm ourselves with extensive knowledge of the surrounding milieu, trusting that others more knowledgeable will correct and extend our efforts. Our contribution should then be one of offering perspectives within which further discourse may profitably proceed, suitably challenged and amended in the course of a common inquiry. Since my familiarity is with Aquinas, and since he comes chronologically first, I shall begin with him, though there is no discernible connection between the two thinkers other than their preoccupation with establishing the primacy of existing in a metaphysical discourse which had hitherto obscured its significance.