Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Mission as dialogue

I recently read an article written by a friend, Piet Meiring. For all the non-Afrikaans readers of the blog, the sad news is that the article was written in Afrikaans. It concerns the issue of mission and dialogue but was actually written to discuss Max Warren’s “Seven Rules for Dialogue Between Christians and non-Christians.” The word “dialogue” has been a type of catch-word in the theology of missions for some years. I remember, when I attended the assembly of the Reformed Ecumenical Council in Indonesia in 2000, that the word was used often to indicate how Christians should relate to people of other religions. Now, it may be that I mis-understand many of those who speak about “dialoguing” with people of other religions, but the impression I often get is that one has to go into such a dialogue, totally open-minded and totally without any personal conviction. Believing that Jesus Christ is “the way and the truth and the life” and that no-one comes to the Father except through Him, this type of dialogue is, for me, very difficult.
I was pleasantly surprised when reading this article in the September/December issue of the “Nederduitse Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif” (Dutch Reformed Theological Journal) to see that the author says that true dialogue and true understanding can only take place if you are fully aware of your own convictions. In other words, the way that Warren described dialogue, in no way puts a Christian’s personal faith in Jesus Christ on the line. This, for me, gives a new face to the meaning of dialogue with other religions.
Those of you who read my blog on From atheism to faith may realise that in a certain sense this is what I was attempting to do when I started discussing religion with a Russian atheist. I could have opted to proclaim the message of salvation to him “in season and out of season” and if he rejected the message, I could say that he had heard and had made the decision to reject it. I opted for the other alternative: to leave the door open for further discussion with him – which is probably what meaningful dialogue is all about.
In the next few days I will try and discuss shortly each of these seven rules for dialogue. You are of course welcome to “dialogue” with me or other readers of this blog about this issue.


Thursday, May 10, 2007 - Posted by | Theology


  1. I think the method you cited about quoting “I am the way the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father, except through the Son” is only effective within the context of the dialogue. If the conversation involved questions like “aren’t Jesus and Allah and the gods of Hindu’s really talking about the same person?” or “aren’t there many roads that lead to God?” then quoting that scripture would be of great use. On the other hand, to say it out of context at an unrelated moment or when initially discussing the Bible with a curious observer may not be the best course of action. That scripture would be meaningless to someone who doesn’t believe in the authority of Christ. If we can help to establish the authority of Christ to the skeptic, then much ground has been gained. My grandfather is like the man you met in Russia, he sounds almost exact in his skepticism. He actually has quoted John 14:6 to me but it means nothing to him because he doesn’t trust the Bible. To make statements like I believe in the Bible because the Bible tells me it’s true is circular reasoning. Likewise to just tell someone Jesus is the only way to the father because Jesus says so, is not a strong argument. It’s not even an argument. I think it would first be better to discuss Jesus’ statements in light of who he says he was and how it has been confirmed.

    Comment by Bryan | Friday, May 11, 2007 | Reply

  2. As I mentioned, I am very uncomfortable to go into dialogue as if I believe nothing and as if nothing can be certain. There are some things of which I can be certain and about which I am certain. But unfortunately, for many people my assurance will have little or no meaning. To quote John 14:6 to my friend in Russia or to your grandfather will have no meaning to them. I think true dialogue will take place when I allow the person I am speaking to to express his/her conviction without fear that I am going to counter the words with Bible verses which for me has meaning but for that person it has no meaning.

    Conversations with regular “church attenders” may follow a more or less predictable pattern, but with people who have no Christian background, the conversation will be much more difficult and much more frustrating, unless if we realise that we are not trying to “sell” Christ to someone. Per definition I think a “salesman” attitude makes dialogue virtually impossible.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, May 11, 2007 | Reply

  3. […]      Introduction Blog:         Click Here […]

    Pingback by 7 Rules of Dialoguing – MMM — Munson Mission Musings | Thursday, July 21, 2016 | Reply

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