A SMALL NOTE TO
CHRISTIANS ABOUT DIALOGUE
WITH OTHER RELIGIONS
This may surprise you. It doesn’t matter initially whether we believe “Jesus is the only way” (exclusivist) or “Jesus is one way among many” (inclusivist) or “Jesus is great and I can’t comment about anyone else’s religion” (pluralist). When meeting together as two or more religious communities, we always must engage with gentleness of heart and respect for their position and humility in our choice of words (1 Peter 3.16). That’s REG – respect, engage, gently.
If we proceed instead with the ‘cup of tea and sympathy’ approach, we often enough discover that ‘a smile reveals the teeth’, or we can rightly be accused of falsity. Anyone who pretends to listen just so they can get to their own speech is being arrogant. Similarly, let’s give up the theological point-scoring that stops us from conversation with our neighbours. You can’t have an answer to your questions until you start talking.
You can’t know whether you are exclusivist , inclusivist or pluralist or variations on these, until you have entered the process. The great books you read are someone else’s great journey – what’s yours? You can’t do it from an offshore theoretical island!
If we proceed by ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’, that is, by undermining major Christian beliefs with an easy nod and acceptance of another view, we are actually trying to avoid the dialogue. You will frustrate your partners in dialogue. We must be who we are, followers of Jesus Christ. To be anything else is to be disrespectful of self, and that too is a manipulative stance. It is not about you, it is about communities.
With these three points above in place, Christians who join in inter-communal dialogue report that they learn more deeply and strongly about their own faith. A few persons are converted after a long time, by the Grace of God. Many more will take Jesus on board where they are at, and theologians are looking at that afresh.