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Cole Lectures

Vanderbilt University Divinity School announces the 2016 Cole Lectures

to be delivered by

Ingrid Mattson
London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies
Huron University College at Western University

Dr. Ingrid Mattson 

Thursday, October 6, 2016
The Landed Muslim, At Home, On the Earth
7:00 p.m., Benton Chapel

Muslims, like many other modern people, have internalized the essentializing concept of “identity” that has more to do with the myth-making and racializing processes of modern nationalism, than with a Qur’anic vision of what it means to be a believer. “Identity” is a concept that, more often than not, is nostalgic, conformist, divisive and ultimately, superficial. The believer who is at peace in the world is one who embraces the Qur’anic view that humanity is always in a state of change and movement, that migration is a persistent feature of the human condition and that cultural diversity is a necessary adaptation to this reality. What, then, does it mean to be a Muslim in the world? It is, to paraphrase the Qur’anic Jesus, to be a blessing wherever we might be. 


Friday, October 7, 2016
Solomon and the Ant: A Qur’anic Story of Perspective

10:00 a.m., Benton Chapel

The root of much sin is our refusal to acknowledge our limitations and assert our perspective to be superior to all others, or perhaps, more insidiously, to act as if we are neutral actors, that we have no perspective at all; in other words, when we identify reality with our own perspective.  It is this attitude that is at the root of much oppression and violence in the world, and it is here that an authentic religious perspective is critical to peace building.  For it is only God whose perspective can be identified with reality; the narrative and outlook of each human being and each human community is limited by time and space – by the fact that we are of the created world.  To recognize this essential distinction between the Creator and the creation is to assert the inescapable truth of the human condition as limited, constrained, and in need of others. To take into account the perspective of others is not political correctness, it is a rejection of self-idolotry.  This is the lesson at the heart of the Qur’anic story of Solomon and the ant.


Dr. MattsonDr. Ingrid Mattson is a scholar of Islamic Studies, an expert in interfaith relations and a Muslim religious leader. Since 2012 she has held the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College in London, Canada. Previously she was Professor of Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary (CT) where she developed and directed the first accredited graduate program for Muslim chaplains in America. From 2001-2010 Dr. Mattson was elected and served as vice-president, then as president, of the Islamic Society of North America (USA). Her writings focus on Qur’anic Studies, theological ethics and interfaith engagement.  Dr. Mattson is a Senior Fellow of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan and has served on many boards, including the Interfaith Taskforce of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the Council of Global Leaders of the C-100 of the World Economic Forum and the Leadership Group of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project. Some of her work can be found on her website.

 Philanthropist Edmund W. Cole, president of Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and treasurer of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, endowed the annual Cole Lecture Series in 1892 "for the defense and advocacy of the Christian religion." Cole's gift provided for the first sustained lectureship in the history of Vanderbilt University.

The lectures have been delivered by such distinguished scholars as Harry Emerson Fosdick, George Buttrick, Rudolph Bultmann, H. Richard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Walter Brueggemann, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, James Barr, Gustavo Gutierrez, James Cone, Edward Farley, Don Beisswenger, Gene TeSelle, David Buttrick, Jim Wallis, Lamin Sanneh, Mark Noll, Randall Balmer, James Lawson, John O'Malley, R. Scott Appleby and many others.

The Cole Lectures are free and open to the public.

Click here for a complete list of Cole Lectures from 1894-2015.