Discussion of the Aims of Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue

In light of our commitment to the authority of Scripture and the gospel of Jesus Christ, this journal seeks to fulfill its vision statement by:

Fostering discussion on interfaith issues between faculty, practitioners, and students from Evangelical traditions across the globe.

We strongly believe that scholarship and the academy have an important role to play in helping society develop healthy and sustainable forms of interreligious interactions. However, we are mindful that while interfaith dialogue has become a more dominant feature in Western societies, in many parts of the world religious pluralism and interfaith cooperation are not new phenomena. Moreover, exchanges between people of diverse faiths have not been confined to the academy, but rather have found their most common intersections in the marketplace and public square. With this in mind, we believe that praxis and theory must inform and feed one another. The flow of knowledge and learning moves in both directions: from professors to practitioners and from practitioners to professors. Ideas are important and they do influence our actions, but our actions also play a vital role in forming how we think. Any person who has engaged in ongoing interfaith dialogue knows from experience that the line between culture and religion is not easily definable. Consequently, what a person reads about Judaism from a book (or on the Internet), with regard to both its theology and practices, should be considered secondary or background information when dialoguing with a Jew. That is to say, my Jewish friend and dialogue partner teaches me about his or her Judaism. In short, as Kosuke Koyama has said, we dialogue with and learn from a particular Buddhist, not simply with doctrines of Buddhism; with a particular Hindu, not solely with Hinduism. This kind of experiential learning and exchange cannot simply be codified in books nor acquired in the academy alone. We need to hold together both of these aspects—of learning about other religions through books and research and from encounters with specific religious “others”—if our approaches to interfaith dialogue are to take into account the complexities of the religious experience of others.1

This journal seeks out Christian voices from around the world, both present and past, who can help foster this lively interaction and reciprocity between scholars and practitioners.

Creating space for new Evangelical approaches to interfaith dialogue to be pioneered, drawing on a robust biblical, theological, missiological, and psychological foundation.

Each domain of Christian scholarship has a role to play in these discussions, and none will be excluded. The missiologist’s insights into culture and contextualization of the gospel, the psychologist’s study of moral exemplars and attention to the holistic formation of persons, and the theologian’s and philosopher’s focus on worldview, epistemology, and metaphysics all are important voices that need to be interacted with. Breaking down silos that separate various academic disciplines is as important as bridging the praxis-theory divide discussed above.

This journal seeks out Christian voices that can help us actively seek integration and collaboration across disciplines.

Wrestling together publicly and as a community on the challenges, opportunities, and dangers of engaging in interfaith dialogue.

While an important editorial assumption is that interfaith dialogue is not optional for faithful Evangelical witness, we seek to include Evangelical voices that come from inclusivist and exclusivist perspectives. While the space we seek to create is for an in-house Evangelical dialogue, we will not be closed off to listening to any member of society or the Christian community. Knowing that the prophet Jonah received a rebuke from pagan sailors and Balaam a rebuke from a donkey, we Evangelicals would do well to listen to critiques not only from within our community, but those outside as well.

This journal seeks to listen closely to the voices and trends in our societies that are having a significant role in shaping the ways in which society thinks about religion and life.

Grounding interfaith dialogue in the missio dei.

If interfaith dialogue is to move beyond a peripheral activity within mainstream Evangelicalism, and if all Evangelicals are to be trained in faithful, effective, and informed interreligious interactions, we must emphasize the ways dialogue is firmly grounded in the larger mission of God. The mission of God, missio dei, is the basis of Christian life and mission. Jesus is a key hermeneutical lens through which we understand God’s mission and his call to proclaim the good news of the gospel. This emphasis on Christ in understanding the missio dei is essential for holding together evangelism and dialogue. In the ministry of Jesus, faithfulness to God’s mission was embodied in such a way that each person was treated with love and dignity, not simply as objects in need of conversion. Thus, to insist on dialogue to the neglect of evangelism, or to opt for evangelism over against dialogue, is to miss an essential part of faithfulness to Jesus and God’s mission.

This journal will seek Christian voices that express arguments for the ways in which Evangelicals should conceive of this essential relationship between dialogue, evangelism, and mission.

Beginning to heal the divisions within Evangelicalism between mission and dialogue by articulating the missiological guidelines for dialogue.

Grounding dialogue in the mission of God is an important place to begin. However, we must also be pastoral in our approach to how this growth and change takes place within the larger Evangelical community. We must not proceed too quickly and alienate those within the community who have sincere and honest questions and objections to our work. This requires us to listen and speak to the underlying fears and questions posed to us by sincere and honest inquirers. It also requires us to provide models and examples of how various approaches to dialogue are taking place and can take place today.

This journal seeks Christian voices that speak honestly about the real challenges and dangers of engaging in interfaith work, and will bring together stories of faithful and creative interreligious experiences from around the globe and throughout Church history.

Endnotes

1Kosuke Koyama, Water Buffalo Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1999), 93-95.