As I mentioned in my last post on the National Student Dialogue Conference, I really enjoyed the plenary session that involved Dr. Douglas McConnell who heads up the intercultural studies program at Fuller Seminary. Doug presented a talk, now being revised as a paper that may be part of a collection for publication, titled "Missional Principles and Guidelines for Interfaith Dialogue: An Evangelical's View of the Do's and Don'ts of Theological Dialogue." In his talk McConnell addressed four missiological perspectives and then used them to suggest guidelines for consideration in a missional approach to dialogue. His guidelines are reproduced below for our consideration:
1. Interfaith dialogue provides a forum in which the claims of various religious traditions, texts and structures may be interactively studied. To achieve this, all participants must be committed to understanding both the context and content of the various viewpoints.
2. Recognizing the indigenous nature of faith traditions requires an increased sensitivity to the symbols, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. The goal of dialogue is to identify that which is culturally determined in order to deal with the truth claims of the participants. In so doing prejudice may be identified and at least factored into the discussion.
3. To ensure the integrity of both the dialogue and the rationale for involvement, participants should be encouraged to view the process as an important aspect in the cordial, faithful witness of their faith. Dealing with one another respectfully, while being honest about our faith based desires to see others come to accept our respective faiths.
4. Because relationships carry more than cognitive categories, each participant should be affirmed for who they are and what they believe, while avoiding the desire for universal affirmation of the truth of what they believe. Disagreement must be accepted as a valid response to preserve the integrity of our witness.
5. Interfaith dialogue is a process of discovery, not a competition of truth claims. As such it allows for truth encounters without requiring conversion. As the texts and traditions are studied respectfully, the conflicting claims must be examined as part of the growing understanding. The result will likely be a feeling of ambiguity rather than certainty with regard to the faith of others.
6. Interfaith dialogue must also be seen as a public engagement. The attitudes and behavior will inevitably be interpreted differently by insiders and outsiders, antagonists and protagonists. The manner in which the participants conduct themselves and communicate the content of the dialogue should be carefully considered to attempt to avoid the extremes of triumphalism and accusations of heresy.
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