more ‘dialogue’ sightings

Running the risk of additional misunderstanding, I note today another emergence of the “d” word. It is used in a CT LiveBlog article, “The Politics of Proselytization“. The article comes to no conclusion, but is hopeful, apparently, that somehow everyone can get along. The issue is illustrated by the offense some have taken over a Good Friday prayer by the Pope:

Let us pray for the Jews. May the Lord our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men…Almighty and everlasting God, you who want all men to be saved and to reach the awareness of the truth, graciously grant that, with the fullness of peoples entering into your church, all Israel may be saved.

We don’t agree with the Pope, or dialogue with him either, but we do agree with this prayer. Apparently the Pope hasn’t figured out dialog either, since he regularly gets himself into un-PC imbroglios like this.

But CT is all about dialog. It is, after all, their word. So we learn from the article that Richard Mouw is all for dialogue (no surprise) but

Stan Guthrie apparently is less so.

Mouw’s article is entitled “An Open-Handed Gospel” with this subtitle: ‘We have to decide whether we have a stingy or a generous God.’ In it, he tells a story of being at a meeting where a Rabbi prays for King Hussein of Jordan. Mouw’s assessment:

As an evangelical Christian, I said, I believe with all my heart that the God I worship, the God of Abraham, looked down on that scene, where a descendent of Isaac gave a blessing to a descendent of Ishmael, and smiled and said, “That’s good! That’s the way I want things to be!” I’m not entirely clear about how to work this into my theology, I confessed, but I’m willing to live with some mystery in thinking about that encounter.

That’s a dialoguer for you. Never certain. Always open to seeing something, some common ground in the other side.

Guthrie, on the other hand, writes on this subject “Why Evangelize the Jews?: God’s chosen people need Jesus as much as we do.” In it he says:

I love and respect the Jewish people and their faith. After all, Jesus was a Jew, and Christianity is firmly rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Certainly the Holocaust and the church’s horrific anti-Semitism have changed the context for evangelism. We have much for which to apologize. But we cannot apologize for the gospel, which is Good News for Jewish people precisely because they—like all human beings—need Jesus. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, said plainly, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. for … all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin.”

This sounds a good deal less ‘dialogue-ish’, eh? But it isn’t, really. See Guthrie’s concluding paragraph (and he is writing for CT…)

As we continue the good works of dialogue and practical ministries among our Jewish neighbors, let’s renew our commitment to also sensitively but forthrightly persuade them to receive the Good News.

And in the LiveBlog article where I started, I see this:

With regard to the issue of evangelizing the Jews, I’m also pleased that in response to the World Evangelical Alliance’s recent statement that ran in The New York Times, “The Gospel and the Jewish People: An Evangelical Statement,” we’ve decided to host an exchange between Stan Guthrie and Rabbi Yehiel E. Poupko, Judaic Scholar at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, on the very topic of Christian Evangelism and Judaism.

Dialogue, it seems, is alive and well at CT.

Now I say all that to say this: Dialogue is more than just talking to someone else. It is certainly not discussing (or arguing) alternate points of view and the one in the right persuading the one in the wrong of the truth. It is not a discussion that reaches an impasse where people ‘agree to disagree’.

When fundamentalist types are in a discussion with evangelicals over some issue or other, that isn’t dialogue, even if an evangelical uses the word. But when they do – shouldn’t fundamentalists be aware of the connotations and repudiate it, at least.

I have used this expression in the past: “I don’t dialogue, I debate.” It is not that I think my views are infallible (as if!), but that I am unwilling to concede that Biblically informed views are wrong unless I can be convinced from the Scriptures. If I have a Biblically informed point of view and enter into a debate with someone holding a different point of view, my objective is to correct his thinking, not come to a mutual understanding.

In such a debate, I may at some point withdraw from the argument, having said all that can be said. Some might calling this ‘agreeing to disagree’. It usually isn’t that. It is a tactical retreat, a pause for reflection in hopes of winning the battle another day.

There is a great cause in which we are engaged. I was just reading the account of the crucifixion in the Synoptics. What a Lord we serve! When men deviate from a faithful witness for Him, how can we ‘dialogue’ with them?



  1. If I have a Biblically informed point of view and enter into a debate with someone holding a different point of view, my objective is to correct his thinking, not come to a mutual understanding.

    It seems so many have cast off this purpose (of debating instead of dialoguing) and have gotten to the point where they seem to think of any view as valid – and even approve of completely opposing viewpoints. I used to do a lot of debating online – but it gets so discouraging when once-sound Forums or Discussion boards have gone by the way side – and truth is up for grabs. The man who stands up for the Scriptures is the one causing the division in the eyes of many.

    I have seen some sites go more liberal and accept any doctrine – and others have gone so far to the opposite extreme that they become Baptist Briders and think there are no true Christians except those Baptists who can trace their church back throughout history. I am a die-hard Baptist, through and through – but God used me before I became a Baptist – and He has used many others (especially in past centuries when apostasy was not so prevalent) who were not Baptists.

    I believe you can’t be saved without believing in the Fundamentals of the faith – but can be used of God without necessarily believing all the Baptist Distinctives (of course, how much more would God have used certain preachers/believers in the past if they clung to the Scriptures in all particulars!).

    Another example is the Bible version issue. (I know we don’t see eye to eye here, though I respect your willingness to discuss the issues.) There are some that only believe the Word of God is inspired in the original and that God did not preserve the actual words of Scripture. Some go to one extreme and don’t believe in any Bible they can hold in their hands today (literally do not believe we can have God’s Word, except in the originals); whereas others go to some opposite Ruckmanesque extreme and believe that God reinspired the KJV translators and gave new revelation in 1611. Some KJVonly discussion boards basically accept ANYONE who holds to the KJV, regardless of doctrine or association (ie. some Church of Christ people are on there) – and the only thing taboo on there seems to be when doctrine comes up. What good is holding to the “right” Bible and still going to Hell?

    It is disheartening to see so many professing Christians go to one or the other extreme (ie. liberal on doctrine and standards, or some radical exclusive position). Extremes don’t help anyone.

    Sorry for my little rant of the day. ;)

  2. Hey, Jerry, rant on, brother!

    I think you are right on this one. You should expand this and make it a post on your own blog!

    God bless and thanks for the good word.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3