Friday, January 28, 2005

A Level-Headed, Sensible, Realistic, Respectful Ecumenism (Tom Hunt)

I received this from a friend of mine, Tom Hunt (huntt@waldorf.edu). I thought it was so well-written, that I wanted to share it with my blog readers:
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Letter to a Friend About Ecumenism

Jon,

Jon, you would be surprised with what conviction I defend evangelicals here in liberal Lutheran land. For many people I have met, a caricature is all they can see when they think of bible-believers, a picture of a person comes to mind who is mean, judgmental, and says "it's easy to get saved and be part of the party if you'll only be a narrow thoughtless anti-intellectual bigot." I find it amazing that this is the image they call up every time when you say evangelical. They can't see anything else. When you live inside the camp it's a hard fact to swallow, but it's true.

When I think of the evangelicals I immediately see some of the most thoughtful and noble people I have ever met.

You have to keep that in mind. I have a great deal of respect for the folks at TIU who had to ask me to leave. They have some convictions beyond "i'm ok - your'e ok". We have a LOT in common.

Ecumenism is at its best when people adhere strongly to their tradition. CS Lewis said he had much more in common with anyone who took his own religion seriously than with some one who lives on the periphery of all traditions, embracing none with any gusto.

C. S. Lewis of course had the courage and audacity to say that his position was correct, that other religions, outside of Christianity, though they contained much truth (especially in the moral sphere) were, at the end of day the woefully inadequate in addressing the real predicament in which man finds himself. Only Christianity attacks the problem of sin and redemption directly. Only Christianity shows God coming to man, where all other religions show man attempting to make his way to God.

So your complaint, "Although it is hard at times when those who think that their tradition is the only possible way begin to dialogue" is, in the grand scheme of things also a common complaint against the likes of Lewis, "how is any one supposed to dialog with a narrow minded person who thinks he is right and others are wrong?"

So our dialog, yours and mine, will always suffer the tension of the fact that 1) you really think the intercession of the saints is at best a sort of cultural-peripheral thing which can be regarded as non-essential and I really cannot live without their prayers. For you, devotion to the Theotokos is at best a quaint practice of misled, primitive people (and at worst outright idol worship) and for me is it absolutely central to the maintenance of a faith with historical and yes Christological teeth. For you the Pope is a good guy (well this one is, anyway) whom you are glad to call brother, but who attempts to play a role you think is at best unnecessary, and at worst a big hindrance. For me his unifying voice, and the authority vested in his office are two very good reasons why Christianity is still an indentifiable body of people to this day, in spite of all the troubles. And finally for you communion can be taken or left, done once a month, once a year, or whenever, by whomever, and for me it is in fact the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ, who is the Bread of Heaven, who comes to me under the appearance of bread and wine in invisible but none-the-less very real glory and might.

We have real disagreements. When we dialog we can leave them aside. But we cannot pretend that either of us hold them to be non-essential.

With great love and the deepest respect,

your friend

Tom


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