What is Scriptural Reasoning?

Scriptural Reasoning (SR) is a fresh approach to modern-day inter-faith dialogue that puts scripture at the heart of the conversation. Reading, listening to, and reflecting on scripture is something many do naturally within their own worshipping communities. Participants in SR are not asked to leave that behind; rather, people of different faiths come together to read and reflect on their scriptures side-by-side. SR is a fresh approach to the modern world as it unites people interested in exploring and deepening their understanding of others and their own scriptures.

Communities worldwide move beyond the interfaith dialogue and foster religious literacy via SR. Unlike some forms of inter-faith engagement, SR is not about seeking agreement but exploring the texts and their possible interpretations across faith boundaries and learning to ‘disagree better.’ The result is often a deeper understanding of others and one’s own scriptures and the development of strong bonds across faith communities. SR is now practiced globally, including in places affected by religion-related tensions and conflict.


How does it work?

1. Participants identify a narrative or theme, perhaps a concern or issue from their community or context.

2. Each faith community selects a short passage from their scripture relating to that theme.

3. Participants meet in small groups, and each passage of scripture is read out loud to the rest of the group one at a time. Others may never have encountered it before, so they give an ‘introduction’ that explains a little of its context in the scripture and its importance in the faith tradition.

4. Convened by a facilitator, participants then discuss the passages one at a time. They may begin by asking questions to help them understand the passage better or sharing a reflection or something that particularly strikes them as they hear it. In this way, an open and interactive discussion begins, and the participants can reflect on the possible meanings of the text.


What`s the outcome?

Learning and understanding: Participants learn more about other faith communities through what is often at their heart—scripture. In addition to a deep interfaith encounter, SR deepens peoples’ understanding of their own scripture and wider tradition. This is because you read your text in the company of someone outside your tradition who may not have read your scripture before and who sees it through very different lenses to your own. As a result of their questions and reflections, participants’ relationships with their own scripture are enriched.

Exploring differences: SR allows us to appreciate the many things we share and have in common, but it also draws on differences and teaches participants to appreciate them. There is no pressure to reach an agreement or consensus; differences and questions are as welcome as similarities and answers. SR may, of course, find common ground, but it can also be content to ‘improve the quality of our disagreements.’

Friendships: With time, as relationships between group members grow, traditional stereotypes of the ‘other’ are broken down, barriers are dismantled, and at best, participants develop lasting friendships underpinned by an appreciation of difference and an understanding of common values. Deep and sometimes risky friendships develop across divides. Participants may, together, draw on the wisdom of their different traditions to deal with the practical issues their communities face and strengthen their ability to respond together.