Toward Reconciliation in the Middle East: A Framework for Christian-Muslim Dialogue Using Natural Law Tradition

30 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2007

See all articles by Russell Powell

Russell Powell

Seattle University School of Law


In this paper, I argue that the thinking of Bernard Lonergan in light of the natural law insights of St. Thomas Aquinas, Ali Ezzati and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im provides a framework for Christian-Muslim dialogue. Lonergan's transcendental method moves from the individual subject to universal insights rather than presuming to deduce universals a priori, without regard for history, culture and individual experience. I assert that the most fruitful starting place for meaningful dialogue is to address questions of human rights and social justice using natural law theory, rather than focusing on theological concerns. If Muslims and Christians mutually acknowledge and defend basic human dignity as a consequence of commonly held natural law conclusions, reconciliation and the formation of solidarity become more likely.

My proposal to use natural law as a framework for Christian-Muslim dialogue is made within the Thomistic tradition; however, I accept some postmodern intuitions. Thus, my theoretical approach tends to be more like that of Bernard Lonergan or Steven D. Smith than that of John Finnis. My concern for rights and procedure make me sympathetic to the work of Ronald Dworkin and Lon Fuller, respectively, particularly with regard to praxis.

Keywords: Natural Law, Law & Religion, Islamic Law, Jurisprudence, Legal Theory, Comparative Law, Catholic Social Thought

JEL Classification: N40

Suggested Citation

Powell, Russell, Toward Reconciliation in the Middle East: A Framework for Christian-Muslim Dialogue Using Natural Law Tradition. Loyola University Chicago International Law Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2004, Available at SSRN:

Russell Powell (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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