Current Issue Article Abstracts

Fall 2021 Vol. 56.4

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Christian Faith Affirmation and Action in a Pandemic World: Pondering while on Pause
Deenabandhu Manchala

The pandemic, while hurrying the world onto a frightening path toward an unknown future, has also exposed its devious traits, including the sharp systemic inequalities that exposed the poor to both the virus and hunger, the neglect of life priorities over economic growth, and the hideous pursuits of authoritarian regimes amid the pandemic. Simultaneously, there is a worldwide surge of people’s resistance as well as increasing collaboration among people to dream of a new world that is just and safe for all. It is time for churches to reimagine their presence and actions in the world. By drawing on the restlessness and yearnings of the moment, this essay explores and offers some signposts for the ongoing reflection on churches’ affirmations and actions. When truncated understandings of life instigate narrow pursuits that cause breaches in the interconnected web of life, the affirmation of faith needs to be intentionally a theology of life that asserts God’s intentions for life. When its current virtual mode seems to run the risk of further alienation from people, the church needs to search for credible expressions to be an instrument of God’s saving grace, regardless of its forms and modes. COVID-19 compels the need to reimagine the “sentness” of mission as a vocation on behalf of the vulnerable earth and its people. Diakonia, as the church’s expression of participation in mission, would then imply both reaching out in compassion and actively engaging in nurturing and accompanying people in search of a new world with justice and dignity for all.

Bonhoeffer in India: An Embodied Theology of Public Engagement
Rakesh Peter-Dass

Indian politics rejects the separation of religion and state, while India’s Constitution enshrines the freedom of religion in the public space. Rajeev Bhargava at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies has explained that India’s secularism represents a “principled distance” of the state from religions. The state is supposed to be dharmnirpeksh or religion-neutral. Recognizing the place of religion in India’s public life, this essay uses resources from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology to devise an ethical form of dharm-state relations in India, applying the religious thought of Bonhoeffer to the challenge of secularism in contemporary India. Bonhoeffer’s writings ask religions and states to guarantee certain inalienable human rights that derive from God. This strategy seeks to ensure a mutually enriching relationship between religion and state in society. The essay shows how those who ground human relations in a rights-rich anthropology, as Bonhoeffer did, possess particular resources to affect the ethical coexistence of religion and society in contemporary India.

A Christian and Muslim Plea for Education about “the Other” in Areas of Conflict
David G. Kibble, Qari Asim

Societies in conflict usually portray negative images of “the other,” such images often being transmitted through the education system. Using school curricula in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Israel and Palestine as examples of such a negative transmission, it is argued that real peace between societies in conflict will be developed only where especially the younger generation is enabled to see things through the eyes of those who are traditionally seen as their enemies. It is shown how such a more empathetic education is not just politically useful but is also demanded by both Christianity and Islam—the faith traditions present in both of the conflicts studied.

The Qur’ānic View of History, Revelation, and Prophethood: An Exercise in Comparative Theology*
Betül Avcı

This essay examines the qur’ānic view of revelation and prophethood in relation to the biblical and early Christian theologies of revelation. It argues that Christian theology of revelation, inspired by the Bible and early church Fathers, has a progressivist nature. Accordingly, while Christian revelation culminates in the Incarnation, the preceding period stands as a preparation. However, the qur’ānic account of revelation and prophethood suggests neither a gradual development awaiting the Prophet Muhammad nor a preceding preparation for him. This is because Allah is Merciful and Just and has always been equally accessible to all humanity. In the end, while the Prophet Muhammad is the final select individual as a prophet who conveyed the communication between God and the creation, Islam is the final account of this communication and the system of right conduct. Such finality suggests neither fulfillment nor culmination as believed in Christianity.

Bahá’í Prayers for Good Governance
Christopher Buck

Bahá’u’lláh, in his last will and testament, encouraged, if not obliged, Bahá’ís to pray for their respective rulers and governments, which is effectively the same as praying for good governance, peace, and prosperity. This essay presents a newly authorized translation of a Bahá’í prayer, “A Prayer for the confirmation of the American Government”—along with a provisional translation of a prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for the Ottoman State and Caliphate. Bahá’í prayers for good governance are analyzed and discussed in comparative perspective with Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic prayers for good governance in the American context, introduced as phenomenological parallels. Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction to pray for one’s rulers is a precept that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá put into practice—to good practical effect. Moreover, he revealed several prayers for good governance for use by the Bahá’ís themselves, to offer, wherever they may reside, on behalf of their governments. Several such prayers are presented, with comments as to their respective historical contexts and purpose.

Hindu Sampradayas that Integrate Advaita and Dvaita and Catholicism: Creating a Framework for Interreligious Dialogue
Tiju Thomas

In the Second Vatican Council’s Nostra aetate, the Church teaches that, in Hinduism, “men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry.” In Hinduism, the internal experience of God (anubhava) is of central importance, and it is this that removes ignorance. In the traditions (Sampradayas) of Vishishtadvaita (in Vaishnavism and Shaivism), Dvaitadvaita, and Achintya bheda-abheda (in Vaishnavism), which integrate the Dvaita (dual) and the Advaita (nondual) schools of thought, we see an emphasis in simultaneous difference and nondifference between the human person and the divine, as and when the eternal union occurs. A theological point of contact is noted between the identified Hindu Sampradayas and Catholic teachings on the ultimate relationship between God and the human person. Through the commonalities in the understanding of our eternal destiny and their implications for human life, there are other plausible contacts identified between the theological universes of these Sampradayas and Catholicism. The various Sampradayas chosen here are examined, and their commonalities are identified; then, the points of intersection with Catholicism are studied. Schemas are developed to aid in appreciation of the holy truths that Hindus and Catholics share, and distinctions are drawn out. To communicate the sense and reference in these cases and to promote dialogue, translations render the relevant concepts accessible and relatable to the faithful of both traditions. For core Catholic concepts, Sanskrit equivalents are constructed and explained, using Indian philosophy to communicate the sense and reference necessary for mutual understanding. The schemas and the framework laid out here should aid dialogue regarding the mystery of God, recognized uniformly in both these Sampradayas and Catholicism.