Today, at 3:00 p.m. (CST), I will speak before a student-sponsored gathering at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I was asked, several months ago, if I could arrange an ecumenical dialogue and discussion that would feature me alongside of a prominent Catholic theologian and author. My first thought was to invite my friend, Fr. Robert Barron, to join me for this event. When he agreed to the invitation, and we found a suitable time for us both to be on campus with these students, we accepted their gracious invitation.
Our dialogue tomorrow will begin with a welcome by a Moody student leader which will be followed by an introduction given by our moderator, Dr. Bryan Litfin (Ph.D. in the field of ancient church history at the University of Virginia). Dr. Litfin is a professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute. Bryan is also a first-rate patristics scholar and has often encouraged Christian dialogue as a part of his teaching. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers–An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007). Fr. Barron and I will each speak for about ten minutes and then we will field questions from the students.
This event will not be taped or streamed on the internet so the only way to actually hear it is to be present. Guests are invited to campus to hear us in Alumni Auditorium, which is just behind the bookstore. We will end at 4:30 p.m. I would be more than happy to greet any of you who can come as guests. I also encourage you to pray for this event. Our goal is to show how the gospel and Christian unity are both vital to our witness to the world, perhaps now more than ever. Fr. Barron will talk about evangelical faith as a Catholic and I will talk, as a Protestant, about the need to pursue unity in mission in the twenty-first century. My deepest desire is that Christ will be exalted and that love will be demonstrated. Beyond this I hope that we have a stimulating and solid dialogue, on both what we agree about, as well as what we disagree about.
I’ll say more tomorrow but I believe, with the late German Reformed theologian Philip Schaff (1819–1893), that before Christ returns “we should expect providential events, new Pentecosts, new reformations–as great as any that have gone before.” I pray for these outpourings of the Spirit constantly. I also believe that such movements of the Spirit will radically alter what we now accept as normal, namely our divided state. And such outpourings will powerfully grant us new opportunities for experienced unity in Christ’s mission.