Christians and Dialogue: An Opinion Piece
AbstractChristianity’s traditional claim to universal, revealed truth is not conducive to dialogue, only to proselytism and comparative studies. Once understood as a human construct, along with other religious and secular belief systems, with all the relativities and openness that implies, dialogue becomes possible; hence the profound changes in Christianity’s position on such matters as Creation, slavery, and sexuality even before it’s human rather than divine nature was fully recognised. The paper argues however that the best approach to interfaith dialogue is not to focus on the various faiths and belief systems which we do not share but on human issues and endeavours which we do share. Extended examples are given including an interfaith centre whose strap line became: ‘Learning to live well together’ in multi-faith communities, to faith-based development agencies, to the shift in emphasis within the ecumenical movement from unity in ‘Faith and Order’ to unity in ‘Life and Work’. Four further considerations are discussed: the need to be aware of the social and political contexts within which dialogue takes place; that Christian contributions to dialogue must be on equal terms and cannot claim privileges in the marketplace of ideas; that often, and fortunately since it enables co-operation, there is a disjunction between theology and social policy where secular disciplines can claim a measure of autonomy; and finally dialogue and imbalances of power.