Wednesday, we posted a podcast discussing the nature of salvation and justification, specifically with a focus on the points of unity between Catholics and some major Protestant denominations, namely the Lutheran and Evangelical communities. Honestly, it was a lot of fun to talk about, and a cool example of how Christian unity can overcome our differences. The particulars of salvation, however, aren’t really where my mind stuck after we finished recording. Instead, I’ve been thinking since we recorded on Monday night about a difference in mindset between Brandon and I in terms of how Christians can come together.
Brandon described himself, fairly I would say, as being very pragmatic and focused on overlooking differences in the interest of bringing people together into the fold. This is, in many ways, an admirable approach, and one that certainly makes a good deal of sense. It’s also, however, a phrasing that can make me brake out in hives. In the overwhelming majority of situations, yes, compromise is a fantastic thing. For dinner, you want meat and your significant other wants rabbit food? Taco salad for the win! Great! At the same time, there are some things that are simply far too important to compromise on, and other things where you can’t compromise without losing the good entirely.
This is the delicate balancing act of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. Where does the line get drawn? I think the key, really, is distinguishing truth from preference. If something is a matter of truth, in the objective sense of the word, then it isn’t a compromise, but a lie if you come off it. Let’s use the flat earthers for an example, because they are absurd and deserve it. If I’m speaking to a flat earth, true believer, and, for the sake of a peaceful conversation, I say they may have a point about the shape of the earth, what I have compromised is NOT the shape of the earth, because that is a truth beyond my subjective experience and understanding, but instead a compromise of my integrity, honesty, and credibility.
This, to me, is why those gatherings of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Evangelical Christians were so impressive. Each of them left their dialogue, not claiming we were all saying the same thing, not lying about the significance of the differences, but instead acknowledging the massive common ground they actually hold. This, then, is the key to all discussions of truth in interfaith or ecumenical discussions. We can’t lie about the differences, but we can still talk about the common ground and acknowledge the wisdom and, yes, truth found in these differing perspectives. Our union and unification, then, is built on the diversity and difference rather than an attempt to sweep differences under the rug.