Gregory Baum Says Interfaith dialogue must face up to modernity

Interreligious dialogue — perhaps especially Catholic-Muslim dialogue — must deal with how world religions confront secular modernity, Canadian theologian Gregory Baum said in a major lecture in Washington Nov. 17.
Catholic dialogue with Jews and Muslims does not contradict the Catholic proclamation of the Gospel, although tensions between dialogue and evangelization are not always easily resolved, he said. “Interreligious dialogue transforms the traditions involved in it: It purifies them and enriches them,” he said.

But if such dialogues are to be authentic, he said, they must also work together to face up to the challenges that classic world religions face in today’s globalized world of technology, finance, trade, and other cultural and secular forces.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Globalization, Inter-Faith Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology

3 comments on “Gregory Baum Says Interfaith dialogue must face up to modernity

  1. AnglicanCasuist says:

    Reading this article it is difficult to know how much has been colored by the reporter. Still, I take exception to the following sentence:

    [blockquote]Baum noted that after more than a century of rejecting Enlightenment ideas of human rights and democratic pluralism, the Catholic church “was able, at the Second Vatican Council, to say a critical yes to modernity, while continuing to oppose scientific reductionism and utilitarian individualism.”[/blockquote]

    It seems we (that is, religionists with a history that predates modernity) are portrayed in news accounts as atavists who need to be taught how to think properly. Which is to say, that we are not taken seriously unless we portray ourselves as moderns who just happen to have some private religious sentiments. Speaking as a Christian, my understanding (hat tip to John Milbank in Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, Blackwell, 1990) is that the saeculum is a period of time we live in while we wait for Jesus. It took people with an anti-Christian theology to conceive of the “secular” as a “point of view” (a place, not an era) which has been evacuated of sacred meaning. In addition, this “enlightened” perspective believes itself to be objective, unbiased, and true.

    So, it is hard for me to accept that the way forward for interfaith dialogue is for all of us to bow down to “Enlightenment ideas” first, and then we would be in a better position to resolve our silly disputes over ancient texts and various historical grievances.

    I’d much rather hold to the faith once given, and work together with other convictional groups to combat agreed upon evils. We can simply agree to be co-combatants against evil, without all of us first having to capitulate to the modern perspective, which as I have said, is by its nature, anti-religious.

  2. Dan Crawford says:

    I think the important phrase in Baum’s observation is “critical yes”.

  3. J. Champlin says:

    #1, thank you, with one more comment. The sentence quoted bespeaks the typical bias that the church only engaged the liberal, modern world with Vatican II. That is simply not true. The encyclicals on social teaching beginning with Leo XIII are very much a critical dialog with modernity, at the time far ahead of anything coming out of Episcopal and Anglican circles (including F. D. Maurice). More, it’s a slanted reading of Vatican II (again typical) as, in effect, an update (or even a reboot) rather than a reaffirmation.