In the light of the economy of salvation, the Church sees no conflict between proclaiming Christ and engaging in interreligious dialogue. Instead, she feels the need to link the two in the context of her mission ad gentes. These two elements must maintain both their intimate connection and their distinctiveness; therefore they should not be confused, manipulated or regarded as identical, as though they were interchangeable.
This is an important respectful piece. Pope John Paul II acknowledges dialogue happens on different levels. One on one, the Christian shares aspects of her or his life, and listens in turn to the witness of a person of a non-Christian faith, or of no faith at all. The Christian proclaims Christ in her or his life. We present things simple and honestly as a fact of grace.
One important thing to remember: despite what apologists might suggest, one cannot “argue” or “reason” a person into Christ. Faith is awakened by the agency of God. Not by human powers of persuasion.
The Holy Father acknowledged Church teaching on those who practice faith outside of Christianity:
I recently wrote to the bishops of Asia: “Although the Church gladly acknowledges whatever is true and holy in the religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as a reflection of that truth which enlightens all people, this does not lessen her duty and resolve to proclaim without fail Jesus Christ who is ‘the way, and the truth and the life.’…The fact that the followers of other religions can receive God’s grace and be saved by Christ apart from the ordinary means which he has established does not thereby cancel the call to faith and baptism which God wills for all people.”(Letter to the Fifth Plenary Assembly of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (1990), 4)
He cites Vatican II:
Indeed Christ himself “while expressly insisting on the need for faith and baptism, at the same time confirmed the need for the Church, into which people enter through Baptism as through a door.” (Lumen Gentium 14; cf. Ad Gentes 7) Dialogue should be conducted and implemented with the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation.(Cf. Unitatis Redintegratio 3; Ad Gentes 7)
So what’s the difference? A Christian, presumably, has been touched by grace and already acknowledges Jesus Christ. Our setting this aside on the belief that “anyone” can be saved means one of two things. Neither of which reflect well on the peripatetic soul.
One, that being a Christian was only and all about a membership card. Faith was not deep, nor was it an intentional response to grace offered to us.
Two, that we have made a conscious decision to separate ourselves from Jesus Christ. That strikes me as a rejection of relationship, and I’d have to wonder if the initial cooperation with grace was, at root, conditional and something in it all held back.
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