Learned Ignorance: Intellectual Humility among Jews, Christians and Muslims
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Constructive interreligious dialogue is only a recent phenomenon. Until the nineteenth century, most dialogue among believers was carried on as a debate aimed either to disprove the claims of the other, or to convert the other to one's own tradition. At the end of the nineteenth century, Protestant Christian missionaries of different denominations had created such a cacophony amongst themselves in the mission fields that they decided that it would be best if they could begin to overcome their own differences instead of confusing and even scandalizing the people whom they were trying to convert. By the middle of the twentieth century, the horrors of the Holocaust compelled Christians, especially mainline Protestants and Catholics, to enter into a serious dialogue with Jews, one of the consequences of which was the removal of claims by Christians to have replaced Judaism, and revising text books that communicated that message to Christian believers.
Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many branches of Christianity, not least the Catholic Church, are engaged in a world-wide constructive dialogue with Muslims, made all the more necessary by the terrorist attacks of September 11. In these new conversations, Muslim religious leaders took an important initiative when they sent their document,''A Common Word Between Us,'' to all Christians in the West. It is an extraordinary document, for it makes a theological argument (various Christians in the West, including officials at the Vatican, have claimed that a ''theological conversation'' with Muslims is not possible) based on texts drawn from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Qur'an, that Jewish, Christian, and Muslim believers share the God-given obligation to love God and each other in peace and justice.
The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies brought together an international group of sixteen Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim scholars to carry on an important theological exploration of the theme of ''learned ignorance.''
gentiles have there [in the Messianic era]? [They are] those about whom it is written, ‘Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks, aliens shall be your plowmen and your vine-trimmers’ (Isa. 61:5) . . . . And according to Samuel, who maintained: ‘This world differs from the Messianic era only with respect to their serving foreign powers.’ 60 In the Messianic age, gentiles will be Israel’s servants. Kimhi states it more baldly: All the idolaters will be under Israel’s rule (tachat yedei
is by God’s design: it is for the ultimate purpose of revealing God’s oneness. Like Altschuler, Wyschogrod asserts the transcendental oneness of Israel while eschewing the Kabbalistic tendency to conflate the divine and the human: “[There] exists the metaphysical, mystical unity of the Jewish people. It always has and it always will [be].”75 Despite the factionalism that threatens to divide contemporary Supernatural Israel ■ 161 Israel, or world Jewry, Wyschogrod argues, maintaining unity is
intellect emanation that need not be free, this required substantial philosophical elaboration. Evidently, those who came later were able to interact with their predecessors, which is precisely what we find in Moses Maimonides’s use of Ibn Sina, as well as his presumed inspiration by al-Ghazali, while Aquinas’s employ of Maimonides (and of his assimilation of Ibn Sina) is clear from citations in his work.5 Therefore, despite and indirectly because of the ongoing crusades, the Mediterranean milieu
was not contingent on their doctrinal beliefs could logically be reached on the basis of these verses. Umma muqtasida just as conceivably, if not with better cause, could thus be understood as a reference to practicing Jews and Christians who were upright and righteous in their conduct. Thus the ecumenical exegetes recognized moderation in all righteous practitioners of the Abrahamic faith communities, before and after the advent of Islam, who furthermore recognized their common spiritual kinship
possession of truth it includes, the call is first of all a vivid reminder of the presence of God, and it may be more fitted with the Eucharistic celebration than I thought: Yes, God is great, even greater than what human mind would have ever imagined. He is able to give Himself through such modest species. . . . This is maybe not the result the muezzin would expect from his calls, but this is surely an experience of overcoming the clash of civilization on a daily-life scale! At a more