“For those who do not want to believe, no argument is valid, and for those who want to believe, arguments are not necessary.”
I shared that phrase (from an unknown author) with a friend in Ontario a few days ago. We talked about how difficult it is to see someone change their position on any topic due to a conversation that contains logical and rational arguments. In matters of faith, it is even more complicated, because commonly each party in a discussion on doctrinal or ethical issues believes that they are right.
Have you seen someone change their thinking as a result of listening to a logical debate?
The phrase: “Oh yes, I was sure of what I believed, but after listening to you, I changed my position,” is not expected in my experience. Instead, I have seen emotions get involved in the discussion, voices raised, and conversation partners fail to listen and understand in their rush to respond and contradict.
In my talk with my friend, we concluded that changes in our thinking are more of a long-term process. Often, it requires at least a constant and cordial relationship rather than well-structured and logical arguments.
However, dialogue between disciples of Jesus is essential to strengthen identity and foster unity in the body of Christ.
We find an example of this in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24. In verses 13-35, we hear the story of two disciples who argued, with a certain level of disagreement, about the person of Jesus and the events around his death. That conversation was indispensable for the growth of the disciples’ identity as followers of the risen one. It was also vital for their unity, found in the communion or breaking of bread with Christ at the table.
What if the disciples had rejected the possibility of conversation given the security of their convictions? Speaking with the sincere desire to listen and understand the other requires an immense degree of humility and openness. Without this attitude, both components of following Jesus – identity and unity – are impossible, according to Luke’s text.
The doctrinal and ethical dialogues that we develop within and outside of our fellowship at Mennonite World Conference (in official inter-church conversations, for example) have the intention to build our identity and maintain the gift of unity that only the Spirit of God makes possible. Dialogue between churches requires clarity and firmness in our convictions and humility and openness in our encounters.
That is why in this issue of Courier, we highlight the conversations that we have recently had within our communion regarding baptism and the inter-church dialogue that we have developed on this subject in recent years with the Catholic church and with the Lutheran World Federation.
It is my prayer that, as a global church, we maintain clear and firm positions in a framework of humility and openness that allows us to grow in identity and unity as disciples of Christ. May our understanding continue to be enlightened by the presence of Jesus, and our hearts keep burning as the Spirit works in our lives and relationships!
|César García, MWC general secretary, originally from Colombia, lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.|