- to advance the case for international religious freedom, including drawing on resources and relationships of the three Abrahamic faiths and the teachings and person of Jesus.
Much of multifaith dialogue can seem to lack focus or sidestep difficulties. In this proposal we plan to address specific issues such as prejudice, Islamophobia, religious violence, respect and relationship building, terrorism, conflict resolution, all centered upon religious liberty. Freedom of religion, to freely choose and practice your faith, to have freedom of conscience, is central to the understanding of the gospel and the Evangelical faith. We call this value, “intentional issue oriented engagement.”
- to produce a body of work by a network of scholars that will contribute to a better understanding of each faith in the public square.
Research and scholarship is an essential aspect of the center where we seek to engage theologians, philosophers, and scholars across the academy in conversations which will improve understanding between the faiths and advance the cause of religious freedom.
[Note: As mentioned on the home page for the center, we are broadening our mission of religious freedom to include all faiths. We will update this site in late spring to reflect the shift]
To make a significant and measurable contribution to the advancement of religious freedom in the United States and in Muslim majority countries through better personal relationships and an increased public understanding of one another’s faith.
In recent years a number of important projects have been established around the globe which focus on various aspects of Muslim – Christian cooperation. Each of us who are partnering in the development of this project has convened or taken part in similar events which uphold some of the values embraced in this proposal. What is lacking is an institutional framework within which understanding can occur in an ongoing way.
This proposal is about creating a new structure, which does not exist in the world today – one grounded in Evangelical theology and practice – which many leaders believe is clearly needed to address the issues which confront the two faiths locally and globally.
In the midst of Muslim – Christian engagement no one speaks better for Evangelicals than Evangelicals themselves.
The divergent truth claims of Christianity and Islam concerning the nature of God, the person of Jesus, the prophet Muhammad, and textual authority are often seen as stumbling blocks to normative diversity and religious pluralism. If understanding and mutual respect are grounded in a religious pluralism which calls these two faiths to relativize or to merge core beliefs, then neither of these two faith traditions likely will be strong participants in dialogue; nor if they are, will they likely achieve any meaningful concord.
Particularist or exclusive belief claims are essential to the Evangelical faith. Exclusive social relationships, understanding and reconciliation are not, meaning for most, that even though traditional Christians hold different belief claims from Muslims this does not forestall us from meaningful discussion, friendships, working relationships, being neighbors, and even healthy, respectful disagreement and debate.
Religious pluralists may seek to relativize the former (exclusivist belief claims) to attain the latter (social inclusiveness). As particularists or exclusivists we seek the latter, namely being good neighbors, which is grounded in the claims of the former without asking to alter one another’s core belief claims. Commitment to build personal relationships does not mean we dissolve our distinctive, historic beliefs into an imaginary ‘one world religion.’
We believe that traditional Muslims also hold to privileged epistemic truth claims or beliefs, such that they exclude core Christian truth claims, particularly with respect to salvation; in other words, for Muslims as well as Evangelical Christians, there is a ‘fact of the matter’ about their faith. Our different religious beliefs and truth commitments do not negate our Scriptural teachings about respect and love for each other. Yet our different views of salvation and our serious theological differences do not preclude peaceful coexistence or constructive cooperation.
We believe that holding a faith with particularist truth claims need not bar it from active intellectual engagement and social acceptance, understanding and interaction. Indeed, we believe as Evangelicals that Christianity demands it of us. We are commanded to love our neighbor and to freely pursue the truth.
We do not believe that the “Clash of Civilizations” is an inevitable consequence of the conditions we face in our world today. If this situation is to be avoided, however, the faith traditions which find themselves often in the greatest disagreement, namely Evangelicals and traditional Muslims, need to find a way to dialogue with measurable results. Positions may appear intractable, but only through dialogue and work will these be attainable. There are no guarantees, but if we fail to try then the arc of that potential clash of civilizations is left to others who often do not have our beliefs or interests in their interest.
The Center is distinctively Evangelical in identity and commitments, meaning that its theological commitments and practice reflect that tradition. It is broadly Christian in that it seeks to work with Christians from all backgrounds, including Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions.
More to come…