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10/04/2016 2:07 pm  #1

David B Burrell and Interfaith

I have always been fascinated by the possible interfaith among Abrahamic religions that adhered to classical theism but I have never really been either satisfied or persuaded by works of pluralists such as John Hick or pereniallists such Seyyed Nasr and Schuon. They never really struck me as philosophers that took the irreconcilable issues between the three religions seriously enough.

I have recently gotten acquainted by works of Burrell and I was impressed with his knowledge of the three religions. He is a Catholic Priest who spent decades learning languages such as Arabic to get a full grasp of Islamic theology while profoundly writing on Aquinas[1] (regarding creation, action, divine freedom and etc..) translating and discussing Al Ghazali's causality and his elucidation of the divine names,[2] as well as works by Jewish philosophers such as Maimonides and his successors[3]. He also won the "Aquinas medal" from American Catholic Philosophical Association and judging from his elucidation of Aquinas' thoughts, I consider him to be one of the fascinating 20th century interpreters of the Dominican theologian.[4] Have any of you guys read about his interfaith works and attempted dialogues? [5] Do you guys find his inclusivistic and semi-pluralistic approach to the three religions plausible or ultimately unsatisfying? Here is a PDF of one of his short essays.

[1] Aquinas: God and Action (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul/Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979)
[2]Al-Ghazali on the Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God (translation from Arabic with Nazih Daher) (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1992; Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1998)
[3] Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986)
[4] If I am not flat out mistaken, he tends to lean on De Lubac's side when it comes to the reception of Cajetan's interpretation of Aquinas which some of you might not like.
[5] An example would be "Towards a Jewish -Christian-Muslim Theology"(Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

Last edited by 884heid (10/04/2016 2:12 pm)


10/04/2016 5:58 pm  #2

Re: David B Burrell and Interfaith

Dr. Nasr is undoubtedly a philosopher, with deep understanding of Western (Christian and modern, though perhaps not contemporary) philosophy, as well as Jewish philosophy.

​Anyway, I found that a very interesting essay. Anyone whose favourite Western Christian thinkers include Meister Eckhart and Eriugena is a man after my own heart.


10/04/2016 7:36 pm  #3

Re: David B Burrell and Interfaith

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Dr. Nasr is undoubtedly a philosopher, with deep understanding of Western (Christian and modern, though perhaps not contemporary) philosophy, as well as Jewish philosophy.

I worded it incorrectly. I didn't mean to deny that he is a philosopher but rather that I wasn't convinced by his philosophical arguments for Pereniallism. I certainly enjoy his work, specifically his elucidation of Sufism with William Chittick.

As for Burrell, I was surprised to see that he had an essay in "The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas" which i read not too long ago, while I was completely unaware of him prior to this summer. He also occasionally reviews Thomistic works and cites (and gets cited by) Davies and Stump which made my ignorance of him more perplexing. But yea, he has pretty thorough knowledge of Islam and Judaism which allows him to steer away from the caricatures of the aforementioned religions (Islam being a pure religion of submission, Judaism predicated on fear rather than love for God).

     Thread Starter

10/04/2016 9:29 pm  #4

Re: David B Burrell and Interfaith

I'm a religious Jew and I lean towards a interfaith view of the Abrahamic religions, as I view the philosophically educated Christians and Muslims as "righteous gentiles". That said, I don't appreciate when pluralists attempt to use the universality of the monotheistic faiths to undermine the necessity of the Mosaic Law for Jews. But yeah, as a matter of fact I am actually working on translating John Selden's De jure naturali et gentium juxta disciplinam ebraeorum into English, with the intent of demonstrating the universality of the Talmudic Noahide Laws - and by extension a respect for those religions which uphold them. It is unfortunately all too common to see Judaism portrayed as hostile to the love of God, immortality of the soul, and as a narrow, parochial, and overly pedantic faith.

I might add though, that unlike Islam, Christianity has a not insignificant problem with regards the doctrine of the Incarnation, which sails perilously close to the wind of idolatry.

Last edited by Etzelnik (10/04/2016 9:40 pm)

Noli turbare circulos meos.

10/06/2016 12:21 am  #5

Re: David B Burrell and Interfaith

On Chittick, he wrote an interesting work on Ibn Arabi and the problem of religious diversity, which offers another take on this issue


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