Thursday, April 20, 2006
Standing Together, Craig Blomberg, and Interfaith Dialogue
In the April 2006 edition of Standing Together's eNewsletter, we are directed to a new article by Craig Blomberg: "A Biblical Basis for Interfaith Dialogue." Blomberg's main point?

There are many forms of announcing the good news of salvation in Christ that remain culturally acceptable in every culture of the world. One of the most deeply rooted and endearing of these forms is dialogue—respectful listening to another’s point of view, questioning them to make sure one has clearly understood them, and then equally clearly explaining one’s own point of view and fielding clarifying questions--what Richard Mouw and John Stackhouse have dubbed “convicted civility.” Remarkably, such conversations usually succeed in having all parties converse forthrightly and with understanding about their most meaningful religious convictions in ways that more confrontational (or even just proclamational) forms do not.

While Blomberg's article may be somewhat instructive, I must ask a question: what is the purpose or goal of this kind of dialogue? Is it just understanding? Or should it be conversion? For some reason, I don't think that Paul was "conversing" in Acts 17 to simply walk away with understanding about other's most meaningful religious convictions. Maybe Blomberg didn't mean this, but I walk away from reading this wondering if he has really captured all of Acts 17 in his article.
posted at 8:00 PM  
Comments (4)

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Dan Paden said...

There are days that I think if I hear "conversation" or "conversing" just one more time in regards to matters of faith, I am going to toss my cookies. Toss them a considerable distance, too!

It's a pity. It was a perfectly good word, once upon a time.

At 12:08 AM, Blogger Aaron Shafovaloff said...

"Oh, so you believe God is a big pumpkin in the sky? That is quite interesting. Can I ask you more about that? I'd like to understand your position about it."

Repent, ye crusty countercultists, and believe in the gospel of dialogue!

At 3:38 AM, Blogger Timmy said...

I certainly do not know Blomberg's intentions, but I do know that the idea that evangelical Christianity has a lot to learn from other religions and traditions is a growing trend that is symbiotic with the disdain of upholding exclusivistic truth claims coupled with absolutism and true uniqueness. It is argued that is presumably arrogant to believe your religion (loosely termed) is absolutely true and connotes fullness.

Proof of this can be seen in Gerald McDermott's book "Can Evangelicals Learn from Other Religions?" (I think that's the title of it).

I am all for dialogue and getting a first hand understanding of other religions. However, "dialogue" is as much a loaded term in religious pluralism as "conversation" is among the EC movement and ecumenism. There's more than meets the eye I am afraid, and what evangelical leaders are doing is follow the false notion of modern-day tolerance that to be dialogical, one must check your truth claims at the door and uniquivocally consider other religions as legit and/or acceptable. Howard Netland has adequately addressed this as have others.

Anyway, I have a particular passion for this and have almost turned this comment in a Gene Bridges thesis, so I will stop now. The point is this: we must be careful what we call dialogue and not disguise our intentions and inevitable outcomes with glossy overtones and ambiguous doubletalk.

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Who knows what he meant... we can only know our own intentions. I'm guessing Acts 17 is the passage where Paul refers to the statue of a God with no name and proclaims that Christ is the one who fills that hole in their religion. I could look it up :) but the point I wanted to make is that Paul had to know a few things about Greek religion before he could relate Christianity to them in a way that would find acceptance among some of his audience. So if he didn't already have that knowledge, he must've had conversations with Greeks who told him about their gods.

If a Christian intends to reach out to a Muslim (especially a devout, knowledgeable Muslim), they had better know how to intelligently explain the Trinity because that's a huge tripping point for Muslims who think Christians worship three gods. They also better know the history of the Crusades, and even know both the Bible and the Qu'ran pretty thoroughly. A good Muslim can reel off Bible verses like the best of Southern Seminary students (not that such memorization makes you a better person, but you know what I mean :) .

So, I agree that "conversation" and "dialogue" can be loaded words, but there comes a point when we have to check ourselves and know that God isn't going to judge us based on someone else's faith, but on our own.


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