Scriptural reasoning.

The power of “scriptural reasoning” to transform the way in which different faiths understand one another is to be the subject of a major lecture in Rome, by Cambridge’s Regius Professor of Divinity.

Scriptural Reasoning has transformed my understanding of both Judaism and Christianity.

Professor David Ford

Professor David Ford, who is also Director of the University’s Inter-Faith Programme, will give the Pope John Paul II Honorary Lecture today (Tuesday, 5 April). The highly prestigious annual lecture, which takes place at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), examines interreligious understanding.

Scriptural reasoning brings together members of different religious traditions in small groups to read and discuss extracts from their sacred texts. Professor Ford will argue that the process can function as a bridge between Abrahamic faiths which, without necessarily leading to consensus, can result in mutual understanding and respect.

His lecture will begin by describing the 21st century as a “kairos” – a particularly propitious moment – for engagement between faiths. Professor Ford himself was brought up as an Anglican in the Church of Ireland in Dublin (placing him in a 3% religious minority) and spent parts of his early academic career working in an inner city Anglican parish in Birmingham, which was both multi-ethnic and multi-faith.

“Scriptural Reasoning has transformed my understanding of both Judaism and Christianity,” he said.

“This is not about becoming clearer regarding any of the faiths – I was much clearer about Judaism and Islam before getting to know so many Jews and Muslims. To plunge into a sea of Talmud and Hadith while trying to interpret a scriptural text is often more bewildering than clarifying. To hear Jews or Muslims arguing among themselves subverts many textbook generalisations.”

The presentation will advocate Scriptural Reasoning as one way in which it is possible to achieve “wise faith”; an understanding of faith as something which doesn’t necessarily always involve clear assertions or imperatives, but is instead about asking questions and exploring and seeking a relationship with God. This, Professor Ford suggests, has the potential to lead not just a deeper understanding of one’s own faith, but to a broader commitment between Christians, Muslims and Jews to the wider, common good.

“The global inter-faith challenge we face requires institutional creativity, conversation, collaboration and thorough theological work and education – locally, nationally and internationally,” he concludes. “The thinking required for this has, I think, hardly got going. As a catalyst for this I have not found anything as helpful as Scriptural Reasoning.”

The lecture is a central event of the John Paul II Centre for Interreligious Dialogue, created through a partnership between the Russell Berrie Foundation and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum). The Centre aims to build bridges between Catholic, Jewish and other religious traditions by providing the next generation of religious leaders with a comprehensive understanding of and dedication to inter-faith issues.

Details of the event can be found at http://www.jp2center.org/, where a full copy of Professor Ford’s lecture will also be published.


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