Law and the Rule of God: A Christian-Muslim Exchange Open Access

Ralston, Joshua B. (2015)

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This dissertation develops a comparative political theology to engage longstanding debates over the place and function of law in Muslim-Christian relations. By adopting a comparative approach, I avoid two routes that dominate most discussions of political theology in Christian-Muslim exchange. One leans on the legal apparatuses of secularism, and thus silences religious commitments and their critiques of modernity; and the other attempts to reassert the ultimacy of religious community over and against the secular state largely through reinscribing old battle lines between Christendom and the dar al-Islam. Instead, I argue that debates regarding Shari'a, secularism, and law can be productively reframed by attending to the history of debate over the law in Christian-Muslim encounter and also the nuanced perspectives regarding public law within the theo-legal discourse of both Islam and Christianity. To advance this argument, I first offer a critical evaluation of two Christian perspectives on Shari'a, arguing that both misconstrue Shari'a as inherently legalistic and politically theocratic. By dismissing Shari'a, Christian thinkers fail to engage Islamic political ethics and Muslim critiques of secularism and Christianity. The third chapter addresses this lacuna by tracing shifts in Muslim judgments of Christian views of law from their initial focus on tahrif to modern arguments that connect the lack of a Christian Shari'a to the rise of secularism. Ibn Taymiyya proves to be pivotal, combining early rhetoric with a legal-political criticism of Christian power. Chapters four and five offer a constructive response to these challenges through a reading of the relationship between divine and public law in Justin Martyr, Aquinas, Luther, and Barth. Building on Barth's theology, I contend that public law can be understood as a provisional and indirect witness to the divine rule. I conclude by arguing that this Christian position resonates with Islamic concerns regarding the distinction between Shari'a and fiqh, and the demand to examine legal rulings in light of the higher purposes of the law. My comparative analysis of debates in post-colonial Islamic Thought and Western Christian political theology presents mutually enriching possibilities for understanding the limits of the secular and the relationship between divine and public law.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1:

Christian Political Theology as Comparative Theology 1

Christian Political Theology's Methodological Lacuna 9

Comparative Theology 20

A Comparative Political Theology of Law 29

Chapter 2:

Neither Conciliation Nor Confrontation: A Comparative Approach to Shari'a 38

Models of Political Conciliation: Kueng and Knitter 43

Models of Political Confrontation: Milbank 62

Conclusion 76

Chapter 3:

"That Hideous Schizophrenia:'

A Genealogy of Muslim Critiques of Christian Theologies of Law 78

Christian Accounts of Law in Qur'anic Perspective 80

The Beginnings of an Islamic Theo-Legal Critique of Christianity 88

Modern Muslim Critiques of Christianity, Law, and Secularism 96

Conclusion: From Interfaith Listening to Constructive Christian Engagement 114

Chapter 4:

The Difficulty with Distinctions: Justin Martyr, Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther on Law 120

The Place of the Law in the New Testament 120

An Early Christian Case Study-- Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho 128

Medieval Case Study-- Thomas Aquinas 140

Reformation Case Study-- Martin Luther 163

Conclusion 176

Chapter 5:

Building a Christological Legal Foundation: A Conversation with Karl Barth 180

A Qur'anic Prelude 180

Engaging Karl Barth's Political Theology 184

Gospel and Law 186

A Jewish-Christian Interlude 195

Rechtfertigung und Recht 200

The Christian Community and the Civil Community 208

The Problem of Barth on Islam and Politics 218

With and Beyond Barth 224

Chapter 6:

The Witness of Law in Comparative Perspective 234

Public Law as Provisional Witness to the Divine Rule 235

The Colonial Transformation of Shari'a 244

Imagining the Postcolonial Future of Shari'a 258

Toward Mutual Exchange 278


Toward a Comparative Theo-Legal Discourse 285

Selected Bibliography 292

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