Under the leadership of Dr. Terence Nichols and Dr. Adil Ozdemir, scholars were invited to write short commentaries on specific themes related to Muslim and Christian theology and spirituality. The fruits of this labor are presented below.
Christianity stands in fundamental awe that anything at all exists. Simply to exist is good, and so Christianity's first concern in respect to goodness is to understand what we and all other things are, and why we exist at all. A technical way to say this is that goodness is an ontological concern (ontos is the Greek word meaning "being," and so ontology is the study of existence) before it is a moral one: we seek to understand what reality is and who we are before we dare to make judgments about whether particular things or actions or persons are good or bad.
Adil Ozdemir and Terence Nichols
In Islamic revelation Allah is central to all the reality of existence as independent, infinite, and transcendent Being. Humanity, on the other hand, is finite and dependant on God. Ontologically speaking, human beings by their very nature are dependent and limited in knowledge and power. They need God for their existence and survival. Although human kind is created by God and dependant on Him for their existence, they are created in the perfect form compared to the rest of creation.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Fuad Naeem
What can religion offer for resolving the environmental crisis? How can we recover a sacred view of the universe? What resources can the Islamic and Christian traditions offer in response to the environmental crisis? This lecture examines the spiritual and intellectual origins of the environmental crisis, rooted in the desacralization of nature in the modern period. It surveys traditional Islamic and Christian views of nature and offer resources, from the Christian heritage and Islamic understandings of the relationship of God, humanity, and nature, that can address our contemporary environmental crisis and help recover a sacred view of the universe.
Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is regarded as one of the leading Islamic thinkers in the world today. A pioneer in addressing the roots of the environmental crisis from a theological perspective, he has also published widely in the fields of Islamic studies, Islamic philosophy, Islamic art and spirituality, and religion and modernity.
This annual symposium is held in memory of Terence Nichols (1941-2014), who was a professor of systematic theology and founder of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Center, which has now evolved into the "Encountering Islam" Initiative at the University of St. Thomas. This annual lecture is devoted to the broad-ranging intellectual pursuits of our beloved colleague.
Steven J. McMichael and Owais Bayunus
Christians believe that Jesus is the incarnate God: he is the Logos (Word) of God who is not only equal to God (John 1:1-3) but also became flesh (John 1:14) and lived among us. Christians use the word “begotten” in the sense that the Word was eternally born of the father without beginning or end. He became incarnate to save us from sin and death by the power of the Spirit and the willingness (fiat) of Mary to be the Mother of God.
Given the prominence that the term jihad has attained in western popular and academic literature it is important that we understand the Islamic pronouncements on this issue. The Qur’an uses the word jihad in a generic sense, denoting any form of struggle in the cause of God (29:69). We can talk of the spiritual jihad (to attain spiritual purity), the ethical-moral jihad (to attain moral excellence), a social jihad (to win the hearts and minds of others) and the rational jihad (exertion of mental faculties).
James Gaffney, Hatam al Haj, and Liyakat Takim
Christian understanding of law, as of many other social institutions, derives from both biblical and classical sources. In its broadest sense, the term law is applied to all regularities of behavior, including predictable sequences of events in the natural world, as in modern reference to more or less "scientific" laws such as "universal gravitation" or "supply and demand."
Peter Feldmeier, Hatem al-Haj, and Liyakat Takim
Christian marriage is a complex interface between a natural reality that every culture knows and a supernatural reality that mediates God’s loving presence (grace) and facilitates sanctification (holiness). It is a prime example of the Thomas Aquinas’s dictum that grace builds on nature (S.T. Ia2ae.62.1). Christian reflection begins with Genesis and the creation of Adam and Eve.
Terence Nichols and Sheikh Odeh Muhawesh
In the New Testament, Mary is the mother of Jesus and the betrothed wife of Joseph. Each of the gospels, however, gives a different picture of her. In Mark (the earliest gospel, c. 70 c.e.) there is no account of Jesus' childhood. Mary is only mentioned as a part of Jesus’ family (Mk. 3:31), which is presented negatively, as not understanding Jesus’ mission (Mk. 3:21).
Liyakat Takim and James Gaffney
The Qur’an asks human beings to establish a just social order and to create morally upright individuals. The obligation to act morally arises from human obligation to repay it’s debt to the Creator. Verse 7:172 in the Qur’an indicates that human beings had not only accepted to obey God’s dictates in a primordial covenant but also suggests that they agreed to behave in a morally responsible manner. Because they are moral agents, human beings are free to choose between virtue or vice.
Hamid Mavani and Steven J. McMichael
Muslims consider Prophet Muhammad as a model of piety and an icon of their faith whose exemplary conduct and teachings or sunnah constitute the blue print of human conduct that they try to emulate. He is the last in the chain of prophets totaling 124,000, according to Muslim tradition, all of whom preached the same universal message of obedience to God and compassion to His creation.