Scriptural Reasoning


Scriptural Reasoning

Scriptural Reasoning is an emerging practice among and between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, of reading their sacred Scriptures together, and reasoning together on particular contemporary issues. The practice grounds debate in the respective religious texts, encouraging participants to be both self-critical and deeply rooted in their commitments to their own particular faith.

Participants in the process meet together, and read and discuss passages from the Tanakh, the Bible, and the Qur'an on a given topic -- say, the figure of Abraham, or consideration of legal and moral issues of property-holding. The conversations that grow out of this practice lead to the growth of friendships, even while they also preserve differences between the practitioners of the various faiths. Unlike some inter-religious dialogues, far from being an encounter in which the participants agree that they are all basically saying the same thing, Scriptural Reasoning sessions display passionate commitment in the context of careful listening to the other, and so occasionally even feature argument.

The key to Scriptural Reasoning is the element of relationship among the participants. This enables honesty and openness; it also inculcates in the practitioners a 'feel' for the other's Scriptures, while remaining committed to one's own. [http://www.scripturalreasoning.org.uk] In order to encourage these relationships, the practice of Scriptural Reasoning is intentionally not undertaken in settings which are entirely owned by only one of the three faiths -- but rather the group moves peripatetically between churches, synagogues or mosques in rotation, or alteratively meets in a neutral environment. Rather, they think of the places they do meet as a Biblical 'tent of meeting', drawing on imagery from Genesis 28. [http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/jsrforum/writings/KepHand.html] As a result, the context for the meetings should be one of mutual hospitality and strict parity of leadership and control between the three faiths, as each participant is both host and guest.

In the light of the history of forced interfaith disputation in medieval Europe, Islamic religious authorities have expressed a concern that disparities in political power and control of a Scriptural Reasoning group between the Christian, Jewish and Muslim participants can adversely affect the sensitive process of shared interpretation of sacred texts. For this reason, senior Islamic authorities have issued a fatwa according to sharia law ruling that Muslims are not permitted to participate in any Scriptural Reasoning group unless such groups are led and administered on a basis of the strictest equality and parity between the three participating faiths. [http://www.scripturalreasoning.org.uk/texts/fatwa_english.pdf] [http://www.scripturalreasoning.co.uk]

The founding participants of the "Society for Scriptural Reasoning" include David F. Ford, Daniel W. Hardy, and Peter Ochs. "The Scriptural Reasoning Society" or "Oxford School" of Scriptural Reasoning places greater emphasis in its "Community Ethic" on SR as an egalitarian practice, with parity between the participants and the principle that the religious laws and teachings of the participating faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam alone are the sole sources of authority in Scriptural Reasoning. [http://www.scripturalreasoning.org.uk/texts/oxford_ethic.pdf]

In these conversations, and in this deep engagement with the sacred texts of these three faiths, it is hoped that new light might be shed on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Historical precursors to the modern practice of Scriptural Reasoning may be found in the Late Medieval period in parts of Western Europe, notably in Muslim Spain and in medieval France and Italy. [http://www61.homepage.villanova.edu/kevin.hughes/what_is_scriptural_reasoning.htm]

External links

* [http://etext.virginia.edu/journals/ssr/ The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning]
* [http://www.childrenofabrahaminstitute.org/sr.htm Description of Scriptural Reasoning]
* [http://www.scripturalreasoning.org.uk/texts.html Resource of Scriptural Reasoning Study Texts provided by "The Scriptural Reasoning Society"]
* [http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=2332 An article of Scriptural Reasoning in The Christian Century]
* [http://www.scripturalreasoning.co.uk Islamic "fatwa" on Scriptural Reasoning]
* [http://www.scripturalreasoning.net Scriptural Reasoning Online Discussion Forum]


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