International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

God, Life and the Cosmos: Christian and Islamic Perspectives

edited by Ted Peters , Muzaffar Iqbal , Syed Nomanul Haq

Introductory Essay by Munawar A. Anees

This is a collection of 14 essays written under three sub-themes: Philosophical, Historical, and Methodological Issues; Cosmological Issues; and Life, Consciousness, and Genetics. It is derived largely from the papers presented at a joint conference held in November 2000 at Islamabad, Pakistan, under the auspices of the Institute of Islamic Research, International Institute of Islamic Thought, and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley.

Comparative Muslim-Christian works have a long history. For example, The Apology of Al-Kindy written at the Court of Al-Mamun (A.H. 215; A.D. 830) in Defense of Christianity against Islam by Abd al-Masih ibn Ishaq al-Kindy is a classic of the age-old polemics. Nonetheless, this volume breaks new ground between the two contenders on the subject of science-religion discourse.

In an attempt to resolve some of the complex methodological issues, Mustansir Mir argues in this volume that "even contemporary Christian theological methods can appropriately serve today's Muslim thought" whereas Ted Peters finds a "hypothetical consonance" mutually beneficial to both science and religion [xviii]. The Muslim acquiescence to the use of Christian methods, if pursued further, carries the promise of actually discovering the "hypothetical" consonance.

Both Roshdi Rashed and S.N. Haq, through a narrative on mathematics and metaphysics and the Greek legacy, respectively, attempt to show that there were indeed rudiments of science-religion linkages and there was little or no clinical isolation of science and religion.

Incorporating certain ideas from the Muslim cosmology of the oscillating universe, Mark Worthing argues that "Islamic thought can aid Christian theism" [297]. He moves on to bring examples from the Quran and the Tradition of the Prophet (Hadith) to demonstrate that the "Islamic tradition is clearly not as bound to linear conceptions of history as western thought in general. There appears no natural aversion to such a view of history" [298].

Lately, startling advances in the life sciences have put theology on the defensive. The biggest challenge is posed by a lack of ethical and moral precedents. Nancey Murphy, in a seminal essay, addresses some major issues arising from an ever-elusive definition of human personhood from the Christian perspective. She offers the compromise formula of a “nonreductive physicalist” account of the person. She concludes that the concept of human nature in Muslim and Christian thought has several commonalties.

This book ties in with the first collection of essays from the International Society for Science and Religion on the relationship of world faith traditions to the science-religion dialog (Why the Science and Religion Dialogue Matters, edited by Fraser Watts and Kevin Dutton). It takes the debate to greater depth as it tackles some of the major issues in both faith traditions. It brings out certain commonalities and introduces a methodological denominator that can be mutually beneficial. Inclusion of more Christian authors would have redressed the imbalance of contents.