I came across this article in an e-mail from John Morehead, Director of the Evangelical Christian chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. And although it was published two years ago, I think it continues to be a valid statement to call this a “new” paradigm of Christian and non-Christian dialogue.
So after an assessment of what the old paradigm of dialogue was, you get to the author’s description of the new paradigm and some things really resonate.
First, in setting a place at the table, so to speak, for evangelicals to participate:
No longer do partners seek the lowest common denominator between traditions, but rather embrace and encourage differences. This move against the relativistic tendencies of the old paradigm encourages a more robust dialogue in which each party brings to the discussion what they believe to be binding truth, whether or not those truths are universal among traditions. In this kind of model, exclusivist views are valued, not discouraged.
And then, in the outcomes of taking a dialogue-based approach to sharing the faith:
Having more respect for other religions opens up venues for interfaith dialogue to occur and for relationships to be formed based upon trust, love, and compassion.
There are plenty of compelling reasons, in a world marked too frequently by conflict, violence, and bigotry, to be committed to interfaith relationships based on trust, love, and compassion. But the author also reminds us that these relationships are an approach to a “missionary activity” that is central to the Christian tradition.
Then again, relationships based on genuine trust, love, and compassion communicate aspects of the gospel insomuch that they emulate and demonstrate the character of Christ that perhaps no effective effort at evangelism can afford to be without…