How can we make the best of the fact that there are so many religions in our country? For the discussion about interreligious dialogue, one must involve the theology of religions. Interreligious dialogue is the praxis, which cannot be viewed without its theoria, which is the theology of religions. To have one without the other would have less value Hedges Does the problem outweigh the solution? With all these difficulties, controversies and the conflict between different countries and religious groups, one might ask whether it would be at all possible for people who adhere to different religions to converse meaningfully.
However, there have been a few occurrences which have been glimpses of hope for interreligious dialogue to take place in South Africa and for religions gathering and working together. The WCC Central Committee made the following statement more than 10 years ago, a statement I regard as one of these glimpses of hope, as it proclaims that the task of interreligious dialogue and interreligious relations for that matter is not a futile endeavour:.
There is greater awareness of the interdependence of human life, and of the need to collaborate across religious barriers in dealing with the pressing problems of the world. All religious traditions, therefore, are challenged to contribute to the emergence of a global community that would live in mutual respect and peace. At stake is the credibility of religious traditions as forces that can bring justice, peace and healing to a broken world. The WCC also notes that there is a pastoral need to equip religious people within Christian communities to live and coexist in a religiously plural context.
This reveals a level of openness and willingness to communicate with the religious Other. It seems that not only has the situation shown the need for dialogue, but also that people have become more eager to participate. We can celebrate certain events in history, which have provided that religious people do have the ability to work together and agree on certain issues. One of the most important efforts to promote dialogue between different religions was The Parliament for World's Religions which took place in Chicago in Swidler and Cornille describe this gathering as the 'birth of interreligious dialogue worldwide.
The third gathering of the World Parliament of Religions returned to Chicago in Kenney refers to a document, Towards a Global Ethic: An initial declaration, which provided the essential focus of this gathering, 'Towards a Global Ethic articulated several of the moral and ethical directives held in common by the great religious and spiritual tradition. South Africa was the next destination for the gathering of the World Parliament of Religions where 'The Call' was the guiding document.
This gathering, which was held in Cape Town from the 1st until the 8th of December , brought the directives to bear on the roles and responsibilities of the guiding institutions in the 21st century Kenney The South African setting also provided thousands of people with the opportunity to witness at first-hand the role that religion and spirituality played in creating a democratic South Africa.
This meeting was an important forum for people from different faiths to learn from one another's experiences Martin Kenney explains the intentions of the gathering in Cape Town just before the start of the new millennium as follows:. It was not the intention of those who gathered in Cape Town to create a new religion, or to diminish in any way the precious uniqueness of any path. Instead, they came together to demonstrate that the religious and spiritual traditions and communities of Cape Town, of South Africa, and of the larger world can and should encounter one another in a spirit of respect, and with an openness to new understanding.
They joined with one another in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation, seeking to discover new ways to rise to the challenges and the opportunities of life at the threshold of a new century. Vatican II can also be seen as a major event and turning point in history, concerning interreligious dialogue. At this event, a declaration on the relation of the Catholic Church towards non-Christian religions was passed by all Catholic bishops of the world as well as the Pope.
In this declaration, which is known as Nostra aetate, it was made clear that the Catholic Church rejected nothing in these religions and urged all members of the Church to enter into dialogue and collaboration with the religious Other cf. Swidler and Cornille state that the Catholic Church immediately acted upon this declaration by setting up councils for relations between the Catholic Church, other Christian churches and non-Christians.
It seemed as though dialogue had become important in the Catholic sphere. Every church either expanded or created new approaches to foster dialogue.
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Swidler and Cornille also refer to the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, which holds a special place in Swidler's life as it was established by himself and his wife, Arlene Anderson Swidler, as an 'excellent bellwether marking the progress of the Interreligious Dialogue Movement. In , six years after the attack of Al Qaeda on America, Islam entered the movement of dialogue. Brian McLaren writes about some of his own experience of interreligious friendship and how people are able to support the religious Other in trying times. He shares the story of his own congregation reaching out to local mosques during the tragic events which occurred in the United States of America on 11 September As South Africans we can learn from these instances of successful interreligious dialogue in the hope that more of these events will take place in our own country , not just in a formal or institutionalised manner, but in our daily lives.
In my own experience, members of the younger generation are becoming more open to dialogue. In my own family, more than one religion is represented and there is mutual respect for every family member's religious views, denomination and traditions. During my studies, I have become acquainted with members of different religious groupings. On campus, there is an array of many cultures, religions and races. This openness towards others is probably due to the fact that segregation was not part of their or my own context whilst growing up. Members of the younger generation today are more comfortable with people who differ from them cf.
Knitter , as they have grown accustomed to living in an ever-changing world in which people are constantly changing and evolving. Another aspect which must be factored in are the similarities shared by different religions. Knitter , in his book Introducing Theologies of Religions, highlights the mutual aspects in the different world religions by using a sports analogy:. You might say that they all have to be playing soccer. If one religion, as it were, plays 'basketball' and the other 'baseball', they're not going to be able to play with each other. This means that on some level all religions have to have something in common for dialogue to take place.
However, this does not mean all religions are essentially the same - this then would again fall back on relativism - but in every religion there has to be some similarity. Take humankind for instance, all humans are different, they differ in age, race and nationality, however, every human being in some sense has something in common with all other humans.
Knitter refers to three bridges that connect all religions to each other. The first of these so-called bridges is the philosophical-historical bridge. When we refer to the historical part, we can say that all religions are historically limited. When Knitter refers to the philosophical part of this bridge which all religions have in common, he means that there is the philosophical probability that there is one Divine reality within all religions.
A second bridge, the religious-mystical bridge, rests on the fact that the divinity or 'the Divine', according to Knitter , is experienced by any one religion and yet it is also present in the mystical experience of all of them. The last of these bridges refers to the ethical concern of all religions and is called the ethical-practical bridge. The suffering of the Earth and its inhabitants is a central concern for all religions. Knitter says that this suffering is important to all religious people and calls all religious groups to action, 'which if taken seriously will enable them to realize an even more effective dialogue with each other.
It is therefore clear that although there are many difficulties involved in dialogue amongst religions, dialogue can and has already been a successful endeavour amongst the various religions. This is due to the fact that there are similarities between the various religions as mentioned above. My hypothesis is that the difficulties do not outweigh the solution, but rather point to the fact that a solution is of the utmost importance.
In a country where so many cultures, traditions, languages and religions are involved, there seems to be no better time than the present for us to start communicating with one another. The methodology of this study can be referred to as being a mixed-method approach, as quantitative as well as qualitative research will be used.
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In a certain sense this study is also a literature study, therefore a broad overview of recent research in the field ofinterreligious dialogue and theology of religions will be given. The praxis of interreligious dialogue can be helpful, especially for a country like South Africa, because this country is the home of many different religions, including African traditional religions and ancestor veneration. Therefore, the different models and theories involving the theologies of religions theoria will be researched and brought to light.
Recent theologians, such as Paul Hedges, David Cheetham and Paul Knitter, have devoted their attention to the theology of religions. The aim is to study recent literature and to bring the work of the various writers into conversation with one another. The work of these theologians, as well as others, will also be brought into conversation with the South African context. This is where the quantitative as well as the qualitative data are relevant. Census results will be used to paint a broad picture of the South African context and the role of predominant religions.
The data retrieved by Statistics South Africa census are the quantitative facet of the study. The study will, however, also have a qualitative facet: The aim is to converse with adherents of the different major religions in South Africa and to gain some information about their experiences with other religions, as well as to gain some perspective on the significance which the respondents attach to their religious views in relation to people who differ from them.
Therefore, a set of questions will be put to respondents drawn from the different major religions in South Africa Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and African traditional religions. These respondents are more than just anonymous dialogue partners, they are fellow researchers. Buddhism will be discussed as well, although as Buddhists constitute less than 0. Therefore, the census data will be used when referring to Buddhism in South Africa.
A number of relevant questions have been compiled, however, the dialogue partner will determine the direction that the conversation takes.
Why the South African context? Kritzinger et al. The results showed that there was quite a small percentage of Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and other non-Christian South Africans living in South Africa during the s. This, however, does not mean that the interreligious dialogue will not be an important feature of South Africa in the years to come. It is questionable if we are quite ready for this exercise. South Africa has been a democratic country for 20 years, during which the Constitution has protected the citizens of this nation and allowed them the freedom to choose their own religious views and to voice these views.
Maybe now is as good a time as ever for interreligious dialogue. The argument of this study is just this: As a country, South Africa is currently at a time in its history where its citizens are more ready than ever to take part in interreligious dialogue cf. Knitter This dialogue might be long overdue.
Being a South African myself, studying in an environment where many of my peers are from various religions, and due to the fact that I was born into a multifaith family, I have experienced interreligious dialogue. I have also experienced how rewarding interreligious dialogue can be, but have witnessed how if not treated with sensitivity, dialogue could damage relationships. Diversity is a predominant characteristic of South Africa and it is a part of the everyday life of South Africans, therefore it is an ideal context in which to initiate such dialogue.
Due to the fact that the information used by Kritzinger et al. However, one is faced with a predicament when trying to gain knowledge about South Africa's current religious statistics. In the latest South African census no inquiries were made involving religious views.
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When further investigation is done about the reason why the question of religion was no longer inquired about in the census done in , Statistics South Africa provides the answer by saying that:. In , Stats SA embarked on a series of user consultations, to get advice as to what questions should be asked in the questionnaire.
The question on religion was low on the list of priorities as informed by the users of census data, and it therefore did not make it onto the final list of data items. We can assume that because the Constitution of South Africa permits all people living in South Africa the freedom to choose their own religious views, the users of the census data viewed questions concerning religion as irrelevant. As there are no new statistics on the religious make-up of South Africa, one is forced to use the statistics gathered by the census done in This chapter consists of four sections.
Firstly, the problem on which this study will focus is described as well as the parameters of the study: This being the South African context. Secondly, a focus on the theoria, which is the theology of religions, will follow. The different models for the variety of approaches found in the theology of religions pertaining to the existence of many different religions will be discussed.
Paul Knitter's book on the theology of religions Introducing Theologies of Religions, will be the main source used, as he gives a detailed account of the different approaches towards the existence of various religions. The third section will focus on the South African context. The situation of the context will be sketched by using census data as well as information that has been gathered by conducting interviews and discussions with respondents.
In the last section the focus will be on the benefits of dialogue, and Knitter's approach to dialogue will be discussed as a possible approach for interreligious dialogue in South Africa and Tutu's views on ubuntu will be examined to determine how dialogue may serve the interests of South Africans. The theology of religions. In this section the focus will be on defining the concept of theology of religions and the models that have been formulated by this theology, so as to explain the different ways Christianity has reacted towards other religions.
Various definitions of the theology of religions will be provided and compared with one another. Knitter's use of four main models concerning the theology of religions will be examined and brought into conversation with other views on how Christianity has reacted when faced with the reality of a multireligious world.
Practical examples of these models will be provided and the dialogues will be categorised according to these models. What is the theology of religions? This field of study is occupied with questions pertaining to the existence of multiple religions. These questions lead to many other questions that must be considered. Barnes refers to these questions as:. Open-ended questions of the possibility of God in the world of many faiths Are all these religions valid?
How does one decide upon only one religion? Do all the different religions relate to one another or is the content of these religions conflicting? Gorski adds to these questions: Does God act within other religions? Can these religions lead to salvation, and are non-Christian religions true religions? The attempt of Christian theologians to answer these questions and others that arise subsequently constitutes this discipline, the theology of religions Knitter ; cf. Gorski This area of theology requires theologians to study Christian Scripture and traditions as well as the work of historians and 'comparative religionists' Knitter They will then have to view this knowledge in relation to the fundamental texts of other religions as well as conversing with the followers of other religions in order to understand them more adequately see Hedges Hedges says that in its basic form theology of religions:.
He refers to the theology of religions as being a subbranch of the larger discipline of Christian systematic theology, 'which deals with the superstructure of Christian faith in terms of doctrine and belief' Hedges The existence of other religions in relation to Christianity forms a part of systematic theology. There are various theological positions on the relation of Christianity to other religions.
Knitter refers to these major theological positions as 'models' and identifies four of the predominant models as: The replacement model, the fulfilment model, the mutuality model and the acceptance model. Every model is in some way based on or in accordance with the views of a theologian who influenced the conception of the specific model. Each of these models, as well as the views of the theologians who are influential on these theologies, will be discussed subsequently. Relevant contributions will also be discussed. The major theological views on the relation of Christianity to other religions These theological views are expressed as models, which makes the theoria of the theology of religions more substantial.
The replacement model. In the problem statement an exclusivist view or exclusivism was referred to. This model is just that. Hedges puts it plainly that, 'exclusivisms are the range of beliefs that say only Christianity leads to salvation and that, generally, anyone who adheres to a different religion must therefore be going to damnation. Knitter further explains what this concept of exclusivism or replacement means, by saying 'Christianity is meant to replace all other religions.
This is the first of the Christian attitudes toward other faiths. This model is based on the conviction that there is but one God and that it is the will of this one God that all people belong to only one religion, this religion being Christianity. It is not necessarily true that this model supposes that all other religions are of no value. However, if these religions are in some way of value it is merely of transitional or conditional value.
This means that other religions are only truly useful if they lead the religious person to Christianity Knitter What does this the mean for the salvation of humankind? Knitter explains the model's stance on salvation as follows, 'God's love is universal, extending to all; but that love is realized through the particular and singular community ofJesus Christ. Knitter says that the replacement model suggests that:.
This model might seem outdated, but Knitter stated in the mids that it was alive and well, and repeats this statement in a later publication in In both publications he places this model first on his list of Christian theologies of religion, as he believes that this model should not be underestimated because it is the predominant attitude amongst Christians when assessing the value of other religions. This model can be separated into two different positions: The concepts of total replacement and of partial replacement.
The approach of the total replacement model is based on the conviction that all other religions are completely lacking, aberrant and unwonted and that Christianity will inevitably have to take the place of all other religions Knitter This model has historically been the predominant view of mainstream Christian churches Knitter The theologian who has been most influential with regard to this model is the Protestant Karl Barth According to Knitter Barth laid the theological foundations for the replacement model's understanding of other religions.
Karl Barth's theology was not necessarily aimed at being a theology of religions, however, his view on religion in general is the main focus of this model. Barth formulated his theology in a changing context where Christianity had to adapt to the humanism which came with the Enlightenment of the s and s. In reaction to the liberalism brought forth by the Enlightenment, Karl Barth set out to find a way to relate the message of Christ with the changing times. In his writings he came to the conclusion, which he believed to be the message of the Gospel, that 'human beings cannot get their act together by themselves.
But with God, they can. Yet, for this to happen, humans have to step back and let God be God' Knitter For Barth the four solas 27 embodied the good news of the New Testament. The first sola, sola gratia, states that humankind cannot save itself; human beings are burdened by sin and their fallen nature and cannot be freed of these things by themselves ourselves.
It is therefore grace alone which ensures that sinners can be freed. The second sola states that humankind is saved by faith alone, sola fide. Humans can be saved, but this salvation is not due to the good deeds or any work that has been done. This means that trust is extremely important Knitter :. Thus, the need for the third 'alone'. The third sola, sola Christo, states that it is in Christ alone, that God has granted salvation. It is through Christ that humankind is reconciled with God. This sola has serious implications for religions that do not acknowledge the existence of Christ as the Son of God.
The last sola, sola scriptura, states that it is through the Bible that the reality ofJesus and this salvation he grants becomes clear to humankind Knitter Barth , makes the following statement about religion, based on the Bible and his belief in the solas:. Religion is disbelief. It is a concern, indeed, we must say that it is the one great concern, of godless man.
From the standpoint of revelation religion is clearly seen to be a human attempt to anticipate what God in His revelation wills to do and does do. It is the attempted replacement of the divine work by a human manufacture. The divine reality offered and manifested to us in revelation is replaced by a concept of God arbitrarily and wilfully evolved by man.
Barth portrays humankind to be, because of religion, exactly what it should not be. Humanity does not stand back and allow God to be God, but creates rituals, laws and beliefs of their own, instead of merely trusting God Knitter This is Barth's way of saying that religion is man-made and not the product of divine work. Religious people are not saved by their religions, beliefs or works of faith, but by the grace of God. Therefore, all religions are inadequate, not only non-Christian faiths, but Christianity too.
Knitter states that not only other religions are harshly judged by Barth, 'he levelled [his criticism] not only at "other" religions but also, and especially, at Christianity. One then wonders if there is any true religion. According to Barth there is. Even though Barth placed all religions in the same category of active idolatry, he states that Christianity is the true religion Knitter :. Christianity is the true religion because it's the only religion that knows it is a false religion; and it knows, further, that despite its being a false and idolatrous religion, it is saved through Jesus Christ.
Barth's view of Christianity being the only true religion places Christ at the centre of the argument. Christianity then has no need to partake in dialogue with any other religion; these religions have no saving grace, they have no Jesus and therefore there is no need for dialogue. There can be no relationship between Christianity and other religions. Barth states this clearly by saying 'we have here an exclusive contradiction. It is important to note that Karl Barth's theology is not the only foundation for the total replacement model.
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Something that must be factored in is that the New Testament plays an essential role in this model. Knitter states that it is because Barth's theology of religions is 'normed by the biblical witness', that it has such an impact on this specific view of religions.
The Bible and specifically the New Testament is of fundamental importance to the Christian religion; it is what Christians base their lives on and therefore it plays a significant role in the lives of all Christians, no matter what church they belong to. Knitter highlights the imperative role of the New Testament in Christian thought about other religions, by saying:. One does not necessarily have to take the Bible literally to recognize that one of the most evident and central messages of the New Testament is that Jesus is the means, the only means, that God has given to humans by which they can figure out what life is all about and get out of the mess they're in.
There are a number of New Testament texts which plainly state that Jesus is the only way to salvation. These are not the only texts that could be listed as essential to this model. There are texts that highlight the hopelessness of humankind without Christ 28 and texts which focus on the necessity of hearing and believing the gospel in order to be saved 29 Knitter One cannot avoid these texts when dealing with the Christian theology about other religions. These texts are central to the way Christians view their faith and therefore have a significant impact on the way Christians view other religions.
For Christians, who base their lives on the New Testament as followers of Christ, it is not difficult to believe that there is only one way to salvation and that this is exactly what God has provided through Christ. Therefore, based upon their belief in the Bible they make it clear that if Jesus is the only way to salvation, all other religions and paths to salvation must be false and must therefore be replaced by Christianity. Knitter states that due to living in a world with so many uncertainties and difficulties, humankind in some way seeks one solution, one path to a unified, cooperative truth that they can be sure of.
The replacement model provides just that: A singular God-given way which makes complete sense. However, there is a less exclusivistic version of the replacement model, which focuses on the presence of God within the sphere of other religions. In what follows the concept of partial replacement will be discussed, which is the second branch developed in the model of replacement.
What differentiates the partial replacement model from the total replacement model is that this branch of the replacement model states that God is revealed to all people Knitter Whereas in the total replacement branch it is stated that other religions have no value, because God is not present in any religions besides Christianity, this model rejoices in the genuine revelation of God in other religions Knitter The partial replacement model 'represent [s] ways in which God gives answers and reaches out to the human search' Knitter Knitter states that the reason why Christians should be open to recognising God's presence in other religions is that there are various texts in the Bible stating this.
Examples are Romans and , which speak of God communicating to people through nature creation and the human conscience. Acts states that God is not far from 'each one of us' and Paul announces to the Athenians that it is through God that they we live and exist or as the text puts it 'have being'. Knitter lists the beginning of the Gospel of John Ch.
The Gospel according to John states that the Word gave life and that 'this light was the life of all people. One can also refer to the Reformers, specifically Martin Luther and John Calvin, who spoke of a sense of God inherently instilled into human nature Knitter This sense of the divinity sensus divinitatis or a seed of religion semen relegionis , as it is also referred to, has been planted into all humankind by God McGrath :.
God has endowed human beings with some inbuilt sense or presentiment of the divine existence. It is as if something about God has been engraved in the heart of every human being. What is referred to here is 'not so much a case of God speaking to people, from above and beyond; rather, God's voice is heard within' Knitter Calvin also spoke of the universality of religion as a consequence of this built-in sense of God. Other theologians such as Paul Tillich and Wolfhart Pannenberg speak of the presence of God in all human beings in their own way.
Tillich speaks of the fact that the presence of God is revealed when one is grasped by what he refers to as an 'Ultimate Concern'. Pannenberg, on the other hand, refers to the process of history as being the vessel for God's presence in the lives of humans Knitter Therefore, it is clear that the partial replacement model declares that God speaks not only to Christians, but that he is present in other religions as well.
These religions can make believers aware of the existence of God and of his loving, caring nature. All religions have redemption as a theme and create the awareness that God is needed for salvation. Therefore, all religions reveal some truth about God Knitter When this model maintains that God is present in all humankind and that all religions in some way have value, it does not mean that salvation can take place through other religions.
Although these religions may be of some value and there may even be revelation in them, there can be no salvation without Christ. This model Knitter :. While these theologians say clearly that God reveals in other religions, they just as clearly declare that God does not save in other religions. The partial replacement model bases the declaration that salvation cannot be found through other religions on the New Testament.
Although the New Testament makes references to God revealing himself to all humankind, it makes no statements of general revelation as vehicle for salvation. We are yet again back to the sola which declares that it is through Christ alone that one is saved Knitter ; cf. The rift between God and humanity, caused by sin, has been mended by Christ and it is solely through Christ that humanity is reunited with God. Braaten ; see Knitter speaks about the way salvation is understood in terms of this model:. In the texts of the New Testament and early Christian traditions Jesus is depicted not as a saviour but as the Saviour, not as a Son of God, one among many in a pantheon of gods and half-gods, but as the one-and-only Saviour of the World, God's only begotten Son.
This exclusivity claim is part of the kernel of the gospel, not so much husk that can be demythologized away Jesus is the one-and-only Saviour, or he is not Saviour at all.
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Pannenberg ; see Knitter had his own reason for stating that Christians must insist that Christ is the only Saviour: Christ himself made this statement about himself. He bases this claim on what Knitter calls 'the surest thing we can know about the historicalJesus', which is that Jesus thought himself to be the eschatological prophet.
Pannenberg puts it this way:. We need to discern the numerous implications of the obvious fact that the world in the twenty-first century is very different from what it was in previous times. Therefore, in clearing pathways for dialogue we need to be mindful of this. Accordingly, such pathways need to be developed in innovative ways. Hence, the gathering was, above all else, aimed at encouraging ecumenical, interfaith, and faith-world "thinking outside the box. An unknown error has occurred.
Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. Read preview. Esler Fortress Press, Read preview Overview. Cass, Saputra, K. Almost everyone condemns suttee as murder, but Benedict interestingly traces the crime to a degeneration of misunderstood symbols. Catholics too do well to remember how abominations occur when we misuse symbols, taking them literally and without a sense of history. Whether Benedict means also to criticize Sakti, the divine feminine, is unclear; we might expect him to do so, but in fact he does not.
Especially here, actual dialogue is needed if we are to say more. Mystical monism, the belief that material and spiritual reality form one substance or being, is of course central to Hinduism. For the monist, life is transitory, persons come and go in different bodies, there is no absolute or enduring value to any particular human person. At the same time, the assumption that Hinduism is incompatible with a successful modern life was a truism often used to justify empire, and it must be treated with suspicion today.
At the same time-and more powerfully-Hindu believers may find infinite value in every being, alive or inanimate. In short, we must pay much closer attention to what Hindu mystics and theologians have actually said. His reflections on the Christian-Jewish relation alone merit separate study. Of course, we also need to do more than read books; the written word is only part of how a cardinal or a pope affects the life of the church and its performance in the wider world.
Unsurprisingly, he reminds us of who we are as Christians; unexpectedly, he helps free us from some of the habitual illusions by which the modern West, church included, has colonized the globe for its own purposes. In these essays Benedict does not set out a program for how India or any other civilization is to be reconsidered in a search for truth that commences after a thorough critique of the West.
But he opens a door, provoking us to learn in a fresh way. No and yes. My visitors were wrong if they were imagining that the pope and I were plotting to subvert Hinduism and convert the unsuspecting. There is no evidence in these writings that Benedict has any such plan; I would in any case never accept a mission to subvert and convert. It has to do with an honest search shared by believers who already, by grace, know the truth but who also, by grace, are unafraid to look deeper and learn still more.
In this dialogue, we need to say who we are, honestly and in light of our faith, but we need also to have real questions. We are not telling the other person something that is entirely unknown to him The reverse is also the case: the one who proclaims is not only the giver; he is also the receiver; rather, we are opening up the hidden depth of something with which, in his own religion, he is already in touch. Francis X. Please email comments to letters commonwealmagazine. Dialogue Not Monologue. By Francis X.
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