East of Athens: The Spirit of Christ and the Way of Buddhism
Integrator: Matthew Krabill & Cory Willson
Since 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.