The Difference and Dialogue in Christianity

Christians must relate to non-Christians with love and respect, engage in a humbler dialogue, and recognize the truth and holiness imparted by the Holy Spirit to all religions. This was one of the viewpoints mentioned by Mega Hidayati during the Wednesday Forum held on June 3, 2009. The title of her presentation was “A Muslim View of Inter-Christian Dialogue.”

Based on her experience doing sandwich program at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, Mega saw that in Christianity there are many different views. For instance, in the evangelical debate, there are two dominant and different views which are exclusivism and inclusivism. She said that the exclusivists position Jesus Christ more as above all beliefs, while the inclusivists, including pluralists, deny the unique divinity or authority above everything.

Besides exclusive and inclusive views, for Mega there are also progressive perspective, radical particularism and Pentecostal. She mentioned that each of them has perspectives and/or claims which are different with each other, especially when it is related to Christian life and other communities or adherents.

Because of their different perspectives and/or claims, Mega questioned each of them in relation to dialogue which is needed to be built within them. For example, for the evangelical, who can tell us exactly which one is true and which one is false? What is the measurement for this? For the progressive, as progressive Christians, if Christians believe in Jesus as God incarnate, and if in fact your belief is just actually a metaphor, where will Christians turn to? What will this do to Christianity? Does this presume that Christianity is ultimately a metaphor for a moral life and nothing more?

Based on the above-mentioned argument, Mega saw that we tend to be more intolerant of the other within than the other outside. Therefore, intra-Christian dialogue is needed to bring peace and reconciliation among Christians, and all people from different faiths. Related to this statement, in reference to Mahmoud Ayoub, one of problems or obstacles in Christian-Muslim dialogue is the “inability to accept other faith on their own terms.”?

After her presentation, one participant responded. The responder said that there is a mistake in seeing Christian life and give categories as mentioned above. He continued saying that there are no such things as evangelist, pluralist, exclusivist, progressivist etc. which are applied in any Christians. He said that someone can be an exclusivist, inclusivist, or a progressivist etc all at the same time because of the teachings and experiences she/he understands.

The contexts or existences of Christians have also to be considered because they create different atmospheres for dialogue or relation, especially when there are classes or other fundamental differences among them. Relations or dialogue within Christian academe, for example, influence discourses and attitudes which are built within them. This will be different from other people who build dialogue in their daily or ordinary life with other Christians or other adherents.

[MEGA HIDAYATI is an ICRS student who earned her master’s degree from CRCS UGM. Her research (thesis) was on Human Finitude and Interreligious Dialogue: A Discussion on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Thoughts. Mega just finished her Sandwich Program, a semester studied at Union Theological Seminary, New York City, New York. She was involved with the conference on Gender, Post-Colonialism and Interfaith Movements, New York, October, 24-25, 2009. She also spoke on several workshop and group discussion on interfaith dialogue.]

Abstract of the presentation can be seen on this link:

http://crcs.ugm.ac.id/news.php?news_id=180

(JMI)

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