During our recent Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation at Mundelein Seminary we had a presentation designed for the public that took place on the opening night. I intend to post this entire event in video format as soon as possible. I think we should have this video by the end of November, or sooner. It will be a well-made film and include questions and answers. (If you missed the same event in 2013 the video of that dialogue is also on our website.)
One of the respondents in this particular dialogue was my co-chair, and very good friend, Fr. Thomas A Baima. Baima is the Dean of the Graduate School of Theology. A professor in the Department of Systematic Theology, Father Baima is Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is nationally recognized as an specialist in these fields. Fr. Baima is one of the best missional thinkers that I know personally. In his response to the evening presentations he made several noteworthy statements, several of which I now share with you.
As Christians, we are standing at a moment in history, at the juncture between the modern and the post-modern, between the rational and romantic, where positivism restricts truth to the observable and measurable and romanticism restricts truth to the intuitive and emotional. This fracture gives way to the deconstruction of truth into mere “truth claims” with support solely from “culturally specific narratives.” Any attempt at a meta-narrative is greeted with hostility. The new evangelization must first overcome this hostility before proclamation can be heard.
The great [Catholic] minds of the 20th century, Balthasar, Congar, Danielou, de Lubac, Ratzinger and Wojtyla have shown us that Truth is first of all a person, Jesus Christ. Propositions are important, but they come later. Before all else, as Cardinal Dulles has noted, is a personal adult encounter with Jesus Christ in the Church.
I cannot imagine any two quotations that better reflect my missional-ecumenism paradigm than these. Note clearly, if you remain suspicious of a genuine Catholic call to “personal adult encounter with Jesus Christ” what Fr. Baima says by quoting the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, himself an adult convert. Dulles was converted from unbelief to Christ as a Protestant and then, a few years afterward, entered the Catholic Church. He was one of the truly great theological minds of the twentieth century. I first read Dulles at Wheaton when I was assigned to read his classic book, Models of the Church. I still recommend this book highly. It is an imperative read for missional-ecumenists who wish to engage with the reality of the visible church seriously.