Dialogue / Truth

It is interesting that the working document from the Amazon synod uses the word “dialogue” 68 times — while the Name of Jesus is used only about 1/5 times of that.

Dialogue among cultures, religions, traditions, and peoples is a valuable thing. We can learn much from the diversity of thought that exists on this planet. But in our emphasis on dialogue, I notice a couple of trends.

First, particularly with the Church: most of the Church’s “dialogue” is only listening — instead of both listening and sharing. For example, the Church spent the last several weeks listening to the Amazonian people to learn about their cultures and the problems they face. This is good — but when is it the Church’s turn to speak? Some may say, “Oh, well the Church speaks every day through documents, through the Mass, through its leadership.” Perhaps — but how many people listen attentively? How many people believe the Church actually has something worthwhile to contribute to the conversation? I would hazard that most dialogue, when used in the Church’s context, means that the Church is going to examine an issue, not that anyone new will give the Church a listening ear.

Second, there must be a point of dialogue — and that is to discover truth. Particularly in the case of religious dialogue — when we dialogue with other religions such as indigenous Amazonian religions, we do so with an attitude of respect, but also the firm conviction that Jesus Christ is the Truth. We dialogue out of a desire to share that Truth with one we love. There is a great danger of religious relativism in dialogue: the belief that all religions are equal or that our truth is somehow “incomplete” and can be “enriched” by ideas from other religions. Yes, those from different cultures can express their faith in Christ in a culturally-appropriate way. But there is no addition to the Gospel — it is the complete and saving truth of God.

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Image: Guercino, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, 1641 (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid)

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