our inaugural issue of Evangelical
Interfaith Dialogue in Winter 2010, scholars and
practitioners around the world have expressed
a consistent interest in the topic of how to understand the relationship between
interfaith dialogue and Christian mission. Indeed many contributors over the
years have advocated different ways of engaging these two issues.
As editors of a journal on interfaith dialogue, we are often asked about the purpose of the
journal. A primary concern is the fear of compromising the evangelistic mandate,
as expressed by the following encounter with a local pastor who said, “We are
called to preach the gospel, so why should we engage in dialogue with people of
other faiths?” While this question is a legitimate one, it begs for deeper
theological reflection with regard to what we mean when we use terms such as
“mission,” “interfaith,” and “dialogue.”
Yet another legitimate concern raised is that dialogue is an unrealistic and
idealistic notion promoted particularly by Christians in the West where
religious relations are quite different than in the Balkans, Egypt, or central
Nigeria. Furthermore, religious plurality is part and parcel of the historic
foundation and lived experience of many non-Western societies. In keeping with
the contextual and global emphasis of this journal, we have invited scholars
from six continents to address the following question: what is the relationship
between interfaith engagement and Christian mission? The diversity of
experiences, cultural contexts, and ecclesial traditions of the contributors
provides wisdom from important voices of the global Christian community.
It is our hope that evangelicals will soon come to see these two
obligations—mission and interfaith engagement—not as mutually exclusive but
rather as an opportunity to embody a holistic witness that bridges religious
divides for the sake of “loving our religious neighbor as ourselves,” through
conversation, cooperation, and proclamation.
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Matthew is a PhD student in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Seminary and is a co-founder of Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue.