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April 1, 2011

Proselytizing in a Multi-Faith World

The April 2011 issue of Christianity Today has just come out, and I contributed the cover story focusing on multi-faith engagement. This is something I have been thinking about since I participated in the Global Faith Forum this past November. (You can read my posts about that experience here, here, and here.)

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Many of those involved in interfaith dialogue approach it as if there are no fundamental distinctions or differences between them. By way of contrast, in a multi-faith world, we recognize that we are not worshiping the same God or gods, nor are we pursuing the same goals. And we are not offended by our mutual desire to proselytize one another. (I use the term proselytize instead of evangelize, as evangelism is a distinctively Christian term having to do with the proclamation of the Good News.)

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Pretending that we all believe the same thing does not foster dialogue but in fact prohibits it. By assuming that all religions teach the same thing, how are we to explore, consider, and dialogue concerning differences? How can we discuss humanity's responsibility to each other, the eternal destiny of those with whom we share the globe, the nature of truth, or the meaning of life? For us to talk about these things, we must acknowledge that our answers are different. We must acknowledge that we are in fact multi-faith-- with radically different visions of the future, eternity, and the path to getting there.

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In the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance, Muslims should be free to build a masjid where they live, and Christians should defend their religious freedom to do so. At the same time, Christians should be free to plant churches in places like Bhutan, the Maldives, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. No matter where we live or what religion we follow, we should not demand for ourselves that which we are unwilling to grant others--freedom from compulsion, freedom from discrimination on the basis of creed, and freedom of conscience.
In faithfulness to our respective founders' teachings, let us avoid the kind of tolerance that keeps us silent when we believe we have a valuable message to share. At the same time, may we discover a new kind of tolerance--a tolerance that allows and even encourages others to explore and respond to the Truth.

Check out the rest of the article here and come back to this blog to comment. Feel free to weigh in and share your thoughts. In the next few days, I will be sharing more from the article.

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