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Interfaith Activities and Interreligious Dialogue

interfaith, interreligious

Interfaith Activities and Interreligious Dialogue

Interfaith Activities and Interreligious Dialogue


Interfaith refers to dialogue or activities involving persons of different religious faiths.

There are various views and approaches:
  1. Convergence on social issues
    Some believe that adherents of various religions can converge (come together and unite) on common social issues (e.g. fighting poverty or drug addiction), without necessarily coming to a consensus on doctrinal issues.

    Interfaith activities can cause people to erroneously assume that participating religions are (or consider each other to be) equally valid.

  2. Convergence on social issues and affirmation of legitimacy/equality
    Others believe that adherents of various religions can converge on such social issues and (eventually) accept each others doctrines as valid (regardless of conflicting claims to truth).

    This is the promotion and acceptance of pluralism, which is unacceptable to Christians.

  3. Dialogue and debate
    Yet others see interfaith dialogue as a way for adherents of various religions to learn about and understand each other beliefs - without accepting conflicting claims to truth. Often, this is seen as a step toward (more effective) debate and/or evangelism.

Many interfaith organizations discourage or prohibit proselytism and apologetics discussions. When Christians are thus prevented from certain evangelistic activities, or see criticism of so-called alternative religious movements stiffled, the message of the Gospel is compromised.

Apologetics Index promotes the approach to interreligious dialogue described by Jason Barker in his series of articles on the subject, as published in Watchman Fellowship's Watchman Expositor magazine (Vol. 15, No. 4, 1998).

The magazine includes the following definitions:

Interreligious Dialogue – Is held separately from debate and evangelism. It involves a meeting (or series of meetings) between scholars from two or more religious communities. The meetings consist of discourse on key components of the religions that may need clarification for the members of the communities. Discussion of the religions is included, but conflicting claims to truth are not debated. Dialogue should ideally precede debate and evangelism, although the latter two encounters are frequently what inspires dialogue.

Religious Debate – Is held separately from formal dialogical encounters. It is, in effect, a form of evangelism: the purpose is to convince the audience of the superiority of one’s religious position. Unlike typical evangelism, the debates are highly structured, with opportunities for both participants to present their positions and formally rebut the positions of the other participant. Audience participation is frequently allowed following the official debate.

Evangelism – Is held separately from formal dialogical encounters. The purpose of evangelism is to convert others to one’s religious position. For Christians, this involves sharing the gospel with non-Christians. The modes in which evangelism can occur are endless, although many participants differentiate between formal evangelism and "lifestyle" evangelism. Evangelism usually occurs, unlike formal dialogue and debate, in informal circumstances.
Source: The Difference between dialogue, debate, and evangelism Watchman Expositor, (Vol. 15, No. 4, 1998)



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(May 1, 1999) An interfaith group prays for mutual respect and tolerance
(Apr. 10, 1999) Uniting different religions for a common good

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About this page:
Interfaith Activities and Interreligious Dialogue
First posted: Apr. 11, 1999
Last Updated: May 8, 2003
Editor: Anton Hein
Copyright: Apologetics Index
Link to: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/i06.html
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