Bio: Daniel C. Peterson holds a Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles, is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University, and is the founder of the University’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative, for which he served as editor-in-chief until mid-August 2013. He has published and spoken extensively on both Islamic and Mormon subjects. He is the author, among other things, of a biography entitled Muhammad: Prophet of God.
Formerly chairman of the board of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) and an officer, editor, and author for its successor organization, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, his professional work as an Arabist focuses on the Qur’an and on Islamic philosophical theology. Peterson is most recently, although it may not seem so recent anymore, Chairman and President of the Interpreter found at Mormon Interpreter dot com. He is here to today to talk about an article that he recently released for The Interpreter Journal entitled Reason, Experience, and the Existence of God.
Questions and topics addressed in the interview:
Dan Peterson, loved by some, agitating to others, and probably a variety of opinions in between. But how does Dan Peterson view Dan Peterson?
You have a blog on Patheos entitled Sic et Non. What does it really mean and how does that frame your writing on that blog?
When you are not blogging, you have other irons in many fires it seems. One of those efforts is the Interpreter. I don’t know that enough people are aware of what The Interpreter is or what it’s goals are as a foundation. Perhaps you could take a minute to offer a brief introduction.
Both your professional work at BYU and the subject of the articles we are going to be addressing today centers around Islam, which uses the Qur’an as its central scripture. When did you first say, “This Islam stuff, I think I ought to check this out. Qur’an, yeah that sounds like a light read.” What was the genesis of your interest in Islamic studies?
What value is there in the average Latter-day Saint in picking up the Qur’an and at least giving it a read let alone dedicate and study time to it? Is there tempering caution with such a thing?
Referring somewhat back to the title of your blog Sic et Non, your article in the interpreter essentially asks the main question Must human faith be completed by reason, or not? Is reason the genesis of faith or the other way around? Please set the stage for how this article came into being.
This article takes the reader on quite a journey so I want to try and help navigate that read. What I mean by that is the article starts out with what you’ve said, then it refers somewhat back to your work and studies with Islamic literature, and commentaries on it, then hits on alien radio transmissions, then back to Faith and Reason. So, let’s take the next step in the article
In Robert Reilly’s book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind, the case is brought up that Reason is the pre-requisite for revelation which you feel is a problematic foundation for the development of faith. Why is that?
A quote was repeated by Riley in his book, but the original quote was from Qadi ‘Abd al-Jabbar, an Islamic theologian that lived about 1000 years ago who said, “Reason first needs to establish the existence of God before undertaking the question as to whether God has spoken to man. Natural theology must be antecedent to theology.” On the surface that sounds fairly convincing, but you find this also problematic, in what way? Can reason alone establish the existence of God?
Is the assumption here that if one can reason that there is a God, then from there the idea of revelation becomes more approachable, less of a deceptive thing where the individual is just fooling themselves into believing in God is talking with them?
What then is the role of reason in authenticating revelation? Is faith, as was taught in Alma 32, the seed, and reason is the fertilizer or perhaps the soil for what grows up into revelation and, symbolically, the Tree of Life? It seems to me that works because reason has produced a variety of symbolic plants, but the seed that reason must foster is one that leads to eternal life.
As your article is a journey that seems to end where it began, only coupled now with reason and experience, this interview is brought back around to the Interpreter and its core value. You end your article with the following:
“The Interpreter Foundation was established on the premise that both reason and revelation have their place in determining religious truth. We believe reasoned investigation to be essential, but we will not discount revelation.”
Moving forward, how will we see this evident in the works of The Interpreter? I believe you have some new titles coming out in joint effort with Eborn Books. What are those?
Daniel C. Peterson is the Chairman and President of The Interpreter found at Mormon Interpreter dot com. A link to this article Reason, Experience, and the Existence of God will be found at the posting for this episode at blog.fairmormon.org.