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John Amos Comenius and Interreligious Dialogue by Livingstone Thompson, PhD

With responses by: The Rt. Rev. Sam Gray Helen Kurczynski The Rev. Dr. Walter Wagner Peter Herman The Rev. Gordon Sommers The Rt. Rev. Volker Schulz

Vol. 20, No. 2: Winter 2015


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HINGE INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL DIALOG

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Volume 20, Number 2: Winter 2015 The Hinge is a forum for theological discussion in the Moravian Church. Views and opinions expressed in the articles published in The Hinge are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or the official positions of the Moravian Church and its agencies. You are welcome to submit letters and articles for consideration and publication. One of the early offices of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was that of the Hinge: The office of the Hinge requires that the brother who holds it look after everything and bring troublesome factors within the congregation into mutual accord without their first having to be taken up publicly in the congregational council. —September 1742, The Bethlehem Diary, vol. 1, tr. by Kenneth Hamilton, p. 80. The Hinge journal is intended also to be a mainspring in the life of the contemporary Moravian Church, causing us to move, think and grow. Above all, it is to open doors in our church.


Notes from the Editor This is the first issue of The Hinge to be published in cooperation with the Interprovincial Board of Communication of the Moravian Church, and I first want to express gratitude to Mike Riess and Renee Schoeller of the IBOC for all of their hard work. The first issue always takes the most time to set up and produce. I also want to thank Colleen Marsh for the work she did on The Hinge for the past four years. Janel Rice has agreed to continue to serve as co-editor with me— yes, I am editing The Hinge again, a task I first took up in 2001. The Hinge has gone through a lot of changes since its birth in the early 1990s, but its mission of discussing important and controversial issues in the Moravian Church has remained constant. Remember you can view all of the past issues of The Hinge online at www.moravianstudies.org. We live in perilous times. As I write these words many parts of the world are gripped by ethnic and sectarian violence that hearkens back to the brutal wars of religion centuries ago. There are reports that Islamists are attempting to exterminate religious minorities in Iraq; Hindu extremists have murdered Christian missionaries in India; a Chinese Christian sect leader has encouraged his followers to kill their family members who do not convert; even some Tibetans are accusing the Dalai Lama of human rights abuses because of his opposition to dissident forms of meditation. The list could be continued ad nausea. Until the 1980s, politicians, generals, and scholars believed that religious and sectarian violence was a thing of the past, like the black death and slavery. But globalization, immigration, the ending of European colonialism, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of new media unleashed an unprecedented variety of uncompromising and extreme religious-political-social movements. These are perilous times indeed. Livingstone Thompson, in his 2013 Moses Lectures at Moravian Theological Seminary, reminds us that Moravians have lived through perilous and violent times before. He draws our attention to the writings of Bishop John Amos Comenius who witnessed the destruction of his church by the forces of state-sponsored religious violence. Comenius knew firsthand that theological disputes can lead to violence when people try to impose their doctrine on others. Comenius would probably watch the news on TV today and conclude that Labyrinth of the World may have been too optimistic. Humans continue to devise fiendish ways to harm each other in the name of the God. As Thompson points out, one of the most difficult issues in Christian thelogy is how to deal with other religions, especially other monotheistic religions. Traditionally, the church has confronted non-Christian faiths either by ignoring them or by being hostile toward them. The church has a long and heroic history of cross-cultural missions that we celebrate, but

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Notes from the Editor [Continued from previous page] these were often based on the notion that people had to be saved from their own religions. Sometimes those missions resorted to coercion to convert people, and in the twentieth century many Christians found it uncomfortable when others tried to convert them from Christianity! In the twentieth century, some thinkers proposed that the best way to deal with religious conflict was simply to imagine a world without religion. Some hoped that Western science, philosophy, economics, and political structures would render public religion unnecessary; other scholars saw more value in religion and sought out the common elements in the world’s religions in the hope of finding a universal core we can all affirm, such as the need for compassion. All faiths were valid so long as their adherents did not believe in them too strongly: we could all get along if Christians just stopped believing in Jesus, Muslims gave up the Quran, Jews dropped the Torah, Hindus gave up Yoga, and Buddhists stopped meditating on emptiness. In recent years, there have been theologians, like Thompson, who argue for a more sophisticated and complicated approach to interfaith dialogue. They encourage a type of religious pluralism that does not diminish real religious differences. As a Moravian, Thompson is seeking a way for Moravians to be true to their tradition and faith while also engaging their neighbors who are not Christian in loving and respectful ways. This is intellectually challenging, but morally stimulating. He believes that Comenius offers the Moravians a unique perspective on a pluralism rooted in a spirituality of humility and grace. What if we occasionally entertain the notion that we might, in fact, be wrong about some things? What if in our zeal to proclaim Christ as Savior we created fences and barriers that Christ himself would prefer we dismantle? What if we begin to explicitly teach that the command to “love your neighbor as yourself � includes those neighbors who do not sing praises to Christ or worship the God of Abraham? What if we imagine a world in which good-hearted people of all faiths unite in condemning violence in the name of any deity, doctrine, or dogma? Imagine. -- Craig Atwood, Moravian Theological Seminary

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John Amos Comenius and Interreligious Dialogue Livingstone Thompson, PhD

Abstract In October 2013 Livingstone Thompson delivered the annual Moses Lectures in Moravian Theology at Moravian Theological Seminary. This article is based on those lectures. In it the author revisits some of the original works of Comenius to identify his views on interreligious dialogue and, in particular, the relationship between Christianity and Islam and thereby points to the relevance of Comenius for interfaith dialogue today. The lectures can be viewed on the website of the Center for Moravian Studies at www.moravianstudies.org.

Introduction Comenius is well-referenced in modern scholarship especially in the field of education and culture. According to Simon S. Laurie, who was professor of education at Cambridge University, it is in the area of educational methodology that we recognize the chief contribution of Comenius. He pioneered a method that works from the simple to the complex, from the particular to the general, from the concrete to the abstract, and all step-bystep. Laurie’s conclusion is well known: “even after giving his precursors their due, he [Comenius] is to be regarded as the true founder of the modern method, and … he anticipates Pestalozzi and all of the same school [of education philosophy].”1 A 1957 edition of the Courier, a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) quarterly, acclaims Comenius as the spiritual ancestor of UNESCO.2 In 1992 UNESCO established an award in his honor for outstanding achievement in the field of education. UNESCO regards the Comenius Medal Award as one of its most prestigious awards. It is designed to reward outstanding achievements in the fields of educational research; innovation and exceptional examples of personal devotion to education; and the demonstration of UNESCO ideals throughout an important part of one’s life. At the 1998 award ceremony the Director General, Federico Mayor, said: Among all the eminent educators of the past, Comenius was one of those whose philosophy most eloquently foreshadowed the idea of UNESCO. Based on political unity, religious reconciliation and international cooperation in education, it [Comenius’ philosophy] sought to respond to the difficulties of a tormented seventeenth-century Europe. And his philosophy has not lost any of its relevance since; for the unhappy truth is that such troubles have persisted down the centuries in some European countries and in many other regions of the world.3

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Reading Comenius from a Post-Modern Perspective

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In reading an early modern writer from the perspective of the postmodern period one must of necessity tread cautiously for a number of reasons. First, Comenius’ work is extensive and covers a number of years in which he developed as he experienced many crises. It would, therefore, neither be fair to him nor academically honest not to situate what we say of him within the relevant developmental period. The second reason to be cautious about a task as this is the warning from a Comenius scholar, Jean Piaget, who said, “Nothing is easier, or more dangerous, than to treat an author of 300 years [or more] ago as modern and claim to find in him the origins of contemporary or recent trends of thought.”4 A third reason is that caution about speaking is given by Comenius himself: Two things pre-eminently distinguish [human beings] from brutes—reason and speech. Man [an individual that is] needs the former on his own account; the latter for the sake of the neighbour. Both, therefore, equally demand our care, so that [the individual] man may have his mind and tongue equally trained, and exercised as well as possible. When they have acquired the use of speech, it is of the highest importance for them to learnt to keep silence; … because to keep silence prudently is the beginning of sound wisdom; for assuredly keeping silence hurts no one, whereas talking has injured many; … since both these qualities constitute the foundation and ornament of all our conversation throughout life, they ought to be so closely united that we may at the same time acquire the habit of both.5 Notwithstanding the words of caution and Comenius’s own modesty, one can confidently consider Comenius not only an outstanding figure of his generation but also one who speaks to ours. His standing as an early modern writer is part of what makes him one of two personalities that form the pilot project for Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO), a project of the humanities department at Oxford University in the UK. Noting Comenius’ trans-Europe trekking, the project directors say that through his travels Comenius: established contacts and dispersed correspondence everywhere: letters to or from Comenius have been located in some thirty-six libraries and archives across thirty-two European cities. He was also one of Hartlib’s most important voluminous correspondents: almost one third of his individual (as opposed to collective) correspondents are also shared with Hartlib. The Comenius Catalogue is one of the richest in EMLO.6 It is not without significance that Oxford University begins with Comenius in this project because his ideas stimulated interest in advancement of encyclopaedic knowledge. He sent Hartlib a manuscript, which, after it was published at Oxford under the title Essays Introductory to Pansophia, led to an invitation being issued to him for a visit, which he made in 1641.


At that time he was still writing Via Lucis which, when it was published in 1668 was dedicated to the Royal Society of London, founded in 1660, nearly twenty years after his visit. In Via Lucis he set forth his aim: to weave together a single and comprehensive scheme of Human Omni-Science (i.e. of all the things under Heaven which is granted us to know, to say, or to do). And this we call Pansophia, a scheme which can state all things of this or any future age, hidden or revealed, in order inviolable and in fact never broken, with such clearness that no man who surveys them with attentive mind can fail to understand all things or to give them his genuine interest. 7 The manuscript of De Pansophia that was sent to Hartlib is in the Public Record Office in London. It seems quite evident that in regard to his encyclopaedic ideas Comenius was influenced by Johan Heinrich Alsted, under whom he studied at Herborn in Germany.8 Alsted’s encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Omnium Scientarium, which was published in 1630, was the most considerable and probably the best known of its kind up to then. Comenius’s vision was for a publication much more elaborate than his teacher’s.

Comenius and the Ecumenical Movement In the annals of the ecumenical movement, Comenius has pride of place as one of the earliest proponents of dialogue as a way to overcome religious dissension in Europe. The authors of A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1517–1968 quote from Unum Necessarium in which Comenius bemoans the fact that irenic labor to reconcile Christians had to his seventy-fifth year accomplished almost nothing. Nevertheless, his efforts didn’t go unnoticed and they said he, “dreamed great dreams and saw glorious visions of Christian unity in the future.”9 Along similar lines the German mathematician and philosopher Leibniz eulogizes him: “The day will come, Comenius, when the good shall praise thee, thy hopes accomplished and thy prayers fulfilled.”10 Leibniz was evidently quite sympathetic to Comenius and took over some of his ideas regarding encyclopaedic compilations and scientific societies.11 Comenius’s judgment of having not seen any fruit to these labors is indicative not only of his modesty but also of idealism. Comenius was ill at ease in gatherings where the demands of the practical situation interdicted fundamental thinking. His vision of the Church Universal was inspired from a source other than pragmatic possibility.12 Recently, however, his relevance for interfaith dialogue has been spotted. My book, A Formula for Conversation: Christians and Muslims in Dialogue (2007) was an attempt to come to address issues in ChristianMuslim dialogue with the help of a formula that is traditionally ascribed to Comenius. I argue there that the formula “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” can serve as a framework for developing a conversation with Islam. This conclusion was developed from a unity perspective. THE

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Religious Pluralism Religious pluralism refers to the situation in which there are different ideas about the Divine Being and conflicting claims to ultimate truth that are made by religions. Let’s consider an example of conflicting truth claims: for Christians, God has made himself known in Jesus in an unsurpassable way; “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). This is analogous to the claim in Islam that in the Qur’an Allah has revealed his will in an unsurpassable way: “Allah! There is no god but He— the Living, the Self-Sustaining, Eternal. It is he who sent down to thee (step-by-step) in truth, the Book. Confirming what went before; … he it was who sent down to thee the Book; in it are verses basic and fundamental… they are the foundation of the Book: others are not of well-established meaning” (Surah 3:2–3,7). The challenge, then, which pluralism puts to Christian theology, is to show that it can substantiate the claim that the Christian

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It brings no shame then for Christians and Muslims to say that when it comes to knowledge of God we do not know everything. Muslims and Christians are at one in ignorance of the fullness of the divine life. In other words: in ignorance—unity!13 Furthermore, although the Qur’an does not proclaim the death of Jesus, the fact that Muslims, like Christians, expect that Jesus will return means that Christians and Muslims can say that their respective faith traditions are near to each other. In other words: in faith— proximity!14 Nevertheless, Christians cannot deny that the Qur’an speaks with much respect and favour about Jesus but from the point of view of the longest and most respected Christian tradition they must differ from the qur’anic presentation of Jesus. [However] if Muslims were to accept all Christian claims about Jesus, they would become Christians and thereby surrender the pre-eminence they ascribe to the Qur’an. Reconciliation of these differences about the person of Jesus should not be expected. Christians and Muslims have to affirm that when it comes to Jesus there are major differences. In other words: in Christology—difference!15 The formula, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity,” is not a confessional statement but is widely used throughout the Moravian Church.16 Despite the value of the “In essentials, unity” formula, it should be evident that a consideration of the relevance of Comenius must go beyond it. One objective then is to unearth other material at the heart of his philosophy and thought and to show his relevance for the whole discourse on religious pluralism and interreligious dialogue today.


faith has received a revelation that is unsurpassable and that all we humans can know about God is given uniquely in the Christian faith. The need to respond to this increasing difficulty of making a case for the superiority of the Christian faith has led to the development of the discourse we call theology of religious pluralism. It describes the way in which Christians account for the existence of other religious faith claims. However, long before that discourse was formally named and developed there were those, like Comenius, who attempted to formulate the terms for that discourse. The focus on Comenius is part of an attempt to retrieve material from within the Protestant theological heritage. My basic position on interfaith dialogue is that one cannot stand outside one’s own faith tradition in dialogue, but must make theological comment from the standpoint of that faith tradition. Some people might argue that admitting a bias towards one’s own tradition is out of step with the modern period, which aspires for freedom from tradition. That aspiration is, in fact, located in a tradition of its own, which is a by-product of Western liberal theology and the so-called Age of Reason. The pretensions to be tradition-free have been exposed and there is really no hiding place from tradition biases. It was the bias against religious traditions that led to the attempts to collapse them all into one for the purpose of dismissing them altogether in a single stroke. Therefore, those who argue to be tradition free and from that position claim equality between all religions, must consider whether they haven’t been co-opted by an anti-religion agenda disguised as interest in religious parity. The starting point of this modern, anti-religion agenda is the turn to the self, which is a feature of Cartesian philosophy. In A Protestant Theology of Religious Pluralism, a different approach to tradition underlays the theology of religious pluralism. This is the first book to give a clear outline of Comenius’s value in developing an approach to pluralism that is relevant to the Protestant tradition. The main argument is that the Moravian tradition and Comenius in particular, has a reasonable and relevant contribution to modern approaches that Christians take to engaging other religious traditions.

Taking Islam Seriously My interest in Islam was stimulated during my time at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago where classical church history was one of my major interests. I recalled being actually shocked to realize that Asia Minor, which is so well attested in New Testament references, was present day Turkey. So what happened between the apostolic times when Asia Minor was virtually Christian to 1453 when Asia Minor became Islamic? How are we to understand the transition from Constantinople (formerly Byzantium) to Istanbul? The transition and eclipsing of Christianity in Asia Minor was, to say the least, fascinating. I then considered what was happening in Europe. I hadn’t known then that Islam had been present in Andalusia Spain from at least the eighth century. I imagined that with Islam growing numerically in Europe, at least as fast as Christianity, it was not inconceivable that at some time in the future Europe could become predominantly THE

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Islamic. My conclusion, nevertheless, was that developing knowledge and understanding of Islam was not an option but a necessity for a theologian in the modern world. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture at the University of Regensburg. In an attempt to find a starting point for his discourse on faith and reason, the Pope journeyed back to a dialogue that seemed to have taken place between a Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and an educated Persian, on the subject of Christianity and Islam during the siege of Constantinople. Reading again the Pontiff ’s lecture, one can see how the media would come to focus on the negative portrayal of Islam that he was reporting. Although careful reading would show that the Pope had a further interest in relating the account, one might conclude that he was less than wise because of the circuitous effort through which he went to show that the word for reason that the Emperor used was the Greek word logos. Had the Pope read Comenius, he might have saved himself the crisis into which his reputation and the Christian-Muslim relationship was plummeted. Nevertheless, as we shall see, his conclusions about the relationship between faith and reason bear resemblance to Comenius, to which we will come shortly. The Pontiff said his: intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically falsifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.17 So, what are Christians today saying about Islam? I have chosen to look at the World Council of Churches (WCC) because it represents the widest array of Christian voices throughout the world.18 In 2012 the interreligious dialogue unit within the WCC published the results of an earlier consultation in which Christians from different parts of the world came together to share their views on Christian self-understanding in the context of Islam. The consultation would have been itself challenged by the historic document, A Common Word Between Us and You, in which 138 Muslim scholars invited Christians to engage with Muslims on the basis of their sacred commitment to love of God and love of neighbor. In the closing paragraph of the document the scholars said: So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just, and kind to one another and live in sincere peace, harmony, and mutual goodwill.19


The document came in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s lecture at the University of Regensburg in 2006. The letter from the Muslim scholars was a credible response to what was largely taken out of context by the media, keen to fuel controversy. When the WCC consultation met to discuss the subject of Christian self-understanding in the context of Islam, they were thinking more about A Common Word than about the lecture on faith and reason, to which to which A Common Word was a response. We can see this is the tenor of the report, in which the participants emphasized the need to: Encourage our communities to:

• know Islam better by listening carefully to how Muslims express themselves. • understand better God’s invitation to us to be good neighbours to one another, and to extend this neighbourliness to Muslims. • equip ourselves to bear appropriate witness to “the hope that is in us.20 One of the presenters at the WCC consultation was Daniel Manigan who is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University and who is succeeding Archbishop Rowan Williams this year as chair of the international Christian-Muslim Building Bridges Seminars. Manigan’s comments about relations with Islam were among the more important contributions to the consultations. He said:

It is important to understand that our theological dialogue with Muslims is not simply the polite study of the exotic beliefs and customs, some of them strangely familiar, of a foreign people— as it might be, for example, with Hindus, Buddhists, or Jains. Rather that dialogue is a sometimes quite lively disagreement about how to “read” and understand the history of God’s engagement with humanity from the creation of Adam and Eve, through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, David, Solomon, right up to Jesus and beyond—a history we both, along with the Jews, see as our own. This is the question of whether and to what extent it is correct to approach Islam as another religion. Islam did not, indeed does not, present itself as a new religion, but rather as the re-establishment of the original religion that has existed from the beginning, and of which Judaism and Christianity are examples—even if Islam holds that they have needed to be purified of certain extraneous elements.21 Although his comments about Hinduism and Buddhism are outdated, Manigan’s assertion that Islam presents itself as the re-establishment of the original religion is important. In short, Manigan was pleading for Christians to take Islam seriously on its terms. The claims of Islam relating to revelation cannot just be brushed aside as some fanciful, incredible idea. To my observation the difference between the Byzantine Emperor and

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Presumption of Unity The problem with the Pontiff ’s speech, despite his attempt to focus on reason, is that he didn’t credit Islam with the capacity for reason; that despite their differences, both religions have a capacity and will for reason and must be taken seriously. When faced with a similar situation Comenius, reflecting an awareness of the attitude of which Professor Manigan speaks, took a different approach. His aspiration was the reform of human society. His intention was to treat people of other religious faith with equal respect and he critiqued the attitude to truth among his contemporaries, a critique that still holds sway: All parties are convinced that truth is entirely on their side, and they have become so bigoted that anyone advocating a different opinion (or a balanced consideration of other points of view) promptly comes under the suspicion as a libertine [liberal], or a sceptic or a revolutionary.22 In Panegersia (Universal Awakening), the first of a planned seven-fold consultation on world reform, he said, “what is there to prevent us from trying to reform the various and absurd and disastrous features of human society and eventually to eliminate them?”23 Comenius located the starting point for his position in the confrontation between Saint Augustine and Faustus Manichaeus. Augustine’s position was that neither side should claim to monopolize truth but to investigate it as an open question and humbly give way when the truth is found and acknowledged. He said, “Why should we not treat Jews, Mohammedans [Muslims], pagans, and all kinds of heretics with the same clemency and wisdom? Why do we bitterly attack anyone who advocates this kind of tolerance?” 24 Unless both parties feel that their point of view is taken seriously and is respected, it is unlikely that an exchange or dialogue will get anywhere. Comenius’ approach was to take the other seriously and to “proceed slowly and gradually without giving offence to Jew or Turk [Muslims].”25 Taking others seriously and treating them with respect was based on a unity that Comenius saw in the human community. Considering the subsequent rise in human discourse about racial and ethnic differences, this proposition is more modern and much more sophisticated than some we find today. The first basis Comenius proposed for entering into interreligious dialogue was the unity he perceived in God’s creation. The union and communion in creation is indicated in the witness of scripture, in which it is shown that all humanity descended from one and the same stock, in the same manner in which branches and leaves share in the total nature of the tree. Comenius therefore felt that ideas that emanated from other lands

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the Pontiff, Benedict XVI, is that the Emperor, though reflecting a common Middle Ages Christian attitude to Islam, took Islam more seriously, not least because Asia Minor after those events in the fourteenth century would become irreversibly Islamic.


(other nations and other religions) should be owned as part of the resources and gifts of the one human community. In his view, it was incumbent on us to receive and assess the ideas of other traditions in the search for harmony because the same God, who is one, is in all things and has created all human beings in his image. 26

Conclusion Interreligious dialogue was, for Comenius, an imperative and a privilege that falls to us as people created in God’s image. His approach to pluralism can be described as seeking to engender harmony in creation. He treats the universe as the macrocosm and the soul as the microcosm of God’s creation. This correlation between the macrocosm and the microcosm of creation led him to perceive the reform of human affairs in philosophy, religion, and politics as a continuation of the act of creation. Participating in creation is different from the idea of Process theology that was advanced by Alfred Whitehead in his 1927–28 Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburg, but the relationship in my view is worthy of exploration, not least because Whitehead’s ideas about educational reform has a Comenian tenor to them.27 For Comenius the urge for reform was evidence that the one and only Creator and Lord is striving day by day to make the world more open to himself and more accessible to all people. He asks, “Why should we not cling to the hope that in the course of time we shall become one assembly of nations, well ordered and sharing the same bonds of science, laws, and true religion?”28 By making his perception of the human being as the basis of his call to harmony, Comenius gets involved in the contemporary debate about Christian anthropology. v

Endnotes 1 S. S. Laurie, John Amos Comenius, Bishop of the Moravians: His Life and Educational Work, 6th edition (London: Cambridge University Press, 1899), 256. 2 Jean Thomas, “Spiritual Ancestor of UNESCO,” The UNESCO Courier, November 1957, 3. 3 Federico Mayor, (address, UNESCO fourth Comenius Medal award ceremony, Paris, October 6, 1998). The list of awardees can be viewed at: http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/areas-of-action/ international-conference-on-education-ice/ comenius-medal/laureates.html (accessed Aug 15, 2013). 4 “Comenius Award,” Educational Innovation and Information (A Newsletter of UNESCO’s International Board of Education), August/December 2003, 1.

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5 John Amos Comenius, The School of Infancy: An Essay on the Education of Youth During their First Six Years, trans. J. Benham (London, Mallalieu 1858), 54 and 56.

6 Samuel Hartlib (c. 1600–62) was of mercantile stock: his father was a German merchant, and his maternal grandfather was the head of the English trading company in Elbing on the southern shores of the Baltic. After the Swedish invasion undermined Elbing’s commercial position in the late 1620s, Hartlib fled war-torn central Europe to England, where he became one of the most active reformers of the late 1630s and the ensuing civil war and republican period. See http://www.culturesofknowledge.org/?page_ id=172 (accessed Aug 15, 2013). 7 John Amos Comenius, Via Lucis (Amsterdam, 1668), 7.

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senger in 1930 noting that the formula belongs to the period of the Reformation and has been traced to the writing of one Rupertus Melderius. Blanford believes that the Moravians were mistaken in thinking that the formula was their own.

9 Ruth Rouse and Stephen C Neill, eds., A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1517–1968, 4th ed. (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1993), 91.

17 Pope Benedict XVI, “Faith, Reason, and the University Memories and Reflections” (lecture, Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany, September 12, 2006).

10 C. J. Wright, Comenius and the Church Universal, (London, Herbert Barber, 1941), 36. Leibniz came to share the views previously expressed by Comenius concerning the relationship between faith and reason. Echoing Comenius, Leibniz asserted that the truths of theology (religion) and philosophy cannot contradict each other, since reason and faith are both “gifts of God” so that their conflict would imply God contending against himself. 11 Robert F. Young, Comenius in England: the Visit of Jan Amos Komensky Comenius, Czech Philosopher and Educationalist, to London in 1641–1642, (Manchester, NH: Ayer Company Publishers, 1970), 6. 12 Robert F. Young, Comenius in England: the Visit of Jan Amos Komensky Comenius, Czech Philosopher and Educationalist, to London in 1641–1642, (Manchester, NH: Ayer Company Publishers, 1970), 18. 13 Livingstone Thompson, A Protestant Theology of Religious Pluralism (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009), 84. 14 Livingstone Thompson, A Formula for Conversation: Christians and Muslims in Dialogue, (University Press of America, 2007), 85. 15 Ibid., 85. 16 J. H. Blanford, “In Essentials, Unity; in Non-Essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Charity,” The Moravian Messenger, Vol. XL No. II (November 1930), 125. The formula has a curious history and is claimed across a wide Christian spectrum. The Moravian tradition in particular has claimed it as being unique to that communion for over two hundred years. However, the formula does not appear in the Church Order of the Unitas Fratrum, which is the official publication that outlines the main theological positions of the Moravian Unity. It appeared in the American editions of the Church Orders of 1907, 1911, and 1924. Vernon Nelson suggested that the attitude towards the formula changed after an article on the formula appeared in The Moravian Mes-

18 http://www.oikoumene.org/en/about-us [accessed 23.08.2013]The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians and including most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. At the end of 2012, there were 345 member churches. While the bulk of the WCC’s founding churches were European and North American, today most member churches are in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Pacific. 19 A Common Word Between Us and You, 5th Anniversary Edition, (Amman: The Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, 2012) MBDA, English Monograph Series, No. 20. 20 “A Report of the Intra-Christian Consultation on Christian Self-Understanding in Relation to Islam,” Current Dialogue Magazine, July 2012, 17. 21 Daniel A. Manigan, “Some Aspects of Christian Theologizing in Relation to Islam,” Current Dialogue Magazine, July 2012, 50. 22 Comenius, Panegersia or Universal Awakening, trans. A.M.O. Dobbie. (Warwickshire, England: Peter I. Drinkwater, 1990), 28. 23 Ibid., 4. 24 Ibid., 29. 25 Ibid., 35. 26 Ibid., 21. 27 https://whiteheadresearch.org/research/ lecture-notes/MarvinE-WhiteheadLecture-1927-1928.pdf[accessed 23.08.2013] 28 Comenius, Panegersia, VIII, 14.

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8 Robert Fitzgibbon Young, Comenius in England: the Visit of Jan Amos Komensky Comenius, Czech Philosopher and Educationalist to London in 1641–1642 (London: Oxford University Press, 1932), 15.


Responses Sam Gray The Rt. Rev. Sam Gray is Director of the Antioch Program of the Board of World Mission. Many modern-day efforts at interreligious dialogue fall short of the reconciliation that they seek because of their willingness to smooth over or even, at times, ignore the significant differences that are inherent in the various faith expressions and religions that exist throughout the world. Phrases such as, “it’s really the same God by a different name,” or “it’s the same religion but with different packaging” are not always helpful, especially in mission contexts. An equally unhelpful approach, though, is the line-inthe-sand model, where all parties are convinced that the truth is entirely on their side so there is nothing to be gained from listening to how others express themselves. So, I appreciate the way in which Brother Thompson has reminded us of a rich resource in our own heritage—words and principles that are so old that they are new! Bishop Comenius offers us not necessarily a way of reconciling our differences concerning the person of Jesus Christ and other essential matters, but rather a way of affirming those differences and, in the midst of them, respecting each other and living out the peace and harmony inherent in God’s creation without allowing the differences to cause hatred and strife between us. The question, of course, is: is this really possible? I will respond to my question in what I believe is a Comenian manner: that is, by showing how the answer to this question is lived out in concrete form and in a step-by-step process. And I will use an illustration—one that comes from a very important part of our Moravian world: Africa. Up until recently, the Moravian Church in Africa has been centered in the western, central, and southern parts of the continent, but in 2010, Sierra Leone (in West Africa), a country that is about 70 percent Muslim (but not an Islamic state), was recognized as a Moravian Mission Area. Rev. Mohamed and Sister Safiatu Braima have established a Moravian Secondary School in the village of Ngehun. Eighty percent of the students in this school are Muslim and one of the local Imams serves on the school’s board. Although he does not like such labeling, Brother Braima would be considered by many to be theologically “conservative.” He certainly holds fast to the declaration of Peter in Acts 4:12 that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (NRSV). Yet, at risk of being seen as “libertine” or “liberal,” he advocates a balanced consideration of other points of view and considers it a privilege and yes, an imperative, to take part in such dialogue. In Ngehun, this has taken the form of what Brother Braima has called “Chris-Mus”—a periodic open conversation or town meeting where topics or issues are discussed. Past themes have included: sin; sacrifice; love; death;

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and a comparison of the elements of the Islamic Al Fatihah prayer (from the first Surah, or chapter, in the Qur’an) with the elements of the Lord’s Prayer. Christians and Muslims attend the gatherings and open expression is encouraged. Brother Mohamed Braima’s approach to these encounters (which he leads) is to see them as opportunities for bearing witness to the hope that is within him; in his words, “showing them Christ, not attacking them with Christology or Christianity.” Brother Braima believes that the Moravian School plays an important role in “engendering harmony in creation.” This harmony is nurtured by simple and particular steps (inclusion of Islamic leadership on the school board; a school lunch program offered to Muslim students with consideration given to their dietary norms; acceptance of an offer by a North American Moravian congregation to provide prayer rugs for the local mosque in Ngehun, etc.) that he hopes will lead to more complex and general results. I believe that these small steps in this small Moravian community in West Africa show the importance and the interconnectedness of two of Comenius’ emphases as presented in Brother Thompson’s lecture: education and dialogue. Islamic professor Dr. Nazeer Ahmed has said that in Tanzania (East Africa) “disparity in education during the colonization period has introduced elements of tension that continue today.” Indeed, MuslimChristian relations in Tanzania are strained, to say the least. As Dr. Ahmed points out, Christian and Islamic educational institutions in Tanzania have tended to be set up in opposition to each other and are often seen by the other party as being centers of indoctrination and preparation for proselytizing. The Ngehun villagers in Sierra Leone, West Africa, do not seem to view the Moravian Secondary School in that way, and the social and religious climate in the village appears to be quite healthy and positive. Is the role of education and dialogue the reason for the difference in interreligious relations in that village? It is most certainly an important—and, evidently, quite Comenian—step! v


Helen Kurczynski Helen Kurczynski is an MDiv student at Moravian Theological Seminary studying to become a Buddhist hospital chaplain. Dr. Thompson’s easygoing nature and flowing confidence ensured an energized presentation, demonstrating that precise scholarship can be imbued without countless pages of poorly constructed PowerPoint slides! I found of curious interest Brother Thompson’s examination of “selfcritique;” a tool Comenius developed to enhance interreligious dialogue, so as to more sincerely uphold his aspirations “to take seriously those with other religious views” and “to meet others with equal respect.” Brother Thompson explained that for Comenius, “God’s creation is not an event that has occurred and ended.” Rather, it is more of an unfolding, so that “as we continue to engage [with] issues in the world, what we do with [our] engagement, [becomes] part of the ongoing process of creation.” I found this to be an exciting statement, as it expressed not only the ways in which Comenius sought to integrate daily life and spiritual life, but also the ways in which such integration could be used to look at and resolve contemporary ethical issues. This integrative approach was reflected in Brother Thompson’s overall tone, especially in his jovial reminder that “all parties are convinced that truth is on their side.” Yet, such interaction and engagement requires a high level of intentional and personal discernment; Comenius described this discernment as “self-critique.” Brother Thompson elaborated: “[take] something that is happening in science: how does it impact our own mental and ethical notions? ...How does it impact the word of God as we read it?” This intriguing view encourages a more empirical approach to our understandings of one another, and our shared experiences, by reflecting them in the light of our spiritual practice.” Brother Thompson continued: “the need to be continually critiquing, and the absence of critique of some of the developments that are happening, is one of the challenges that I think we... have.” A gentle disparity over the understanding and use of the term critique became quite apparent during the Q&A discussion, as many questions sought to discern a “correct” or “final understanding” rather than appreciation and clarity that the term itself implies. Given that Comenius fervently presented his work within the context of philosophy and science, an explanation of Comenius’ specific use and understanding of the term critique could have opened our Q&A up to a more subtle appreciation of the context within which Comenius was working. Fortunately, Brother Thompson’s elegant navigation of the audiences’ general wish for certainty was tamed, and I was left intrigued by the possibilities “self-critique” could offer, and excited to see how it could be harnessed within interreligious dialogue as a means to create shared solutions to current issues, rather than coups within which to examine each another. v

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Walter Wagner

a confession: I cheated. Following Dr. Thompson’s Moses Lecture on which this article is based, I read his book A Formula for Conversation: Christians and Muslims in Dialogue. Another confession: among my supposed academic specialties (New Testament and Church history) are Islamic studies and ecumenical-interreligious dialogue, even the LutheranMoravian Dialogue for Full Communion. A nearly final confession: I am a Lutheran-style Christian. Brother Thompson rightly shows Comenius’ significant contributions to the history and philosophy of education. The seventeenth century Moravian certainly has had a lasting influence on the ways and means of how we learn. The statue on Moravian College and Seminary’s campus depicts a hulking, dark figure, but Brother Thompson shows us a person of deep and joyful faith as well as someone with profound intellectual abilities. As Brother Thompson presents him, Comenius’ openness to Islam and his approach to inter-religious relationships are, in historical times as well as in our times, courageous and absolutely necessary. While Brother Thompson stressed Comenius’ philosophical theology, I add historical and spiritual perspectives. Three anti-Muslim paradigms were (and still are) in play among Christians: Islam was a Christian heresy ( John of Damascus, 676–749); Muhammad was a Christian who was corrupted by his own pride and Jewish lies about Christianity (Nicholas of Cusa, 1401–1464); and Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims were morally depraved and demonic (Martin Luther, 1483–1546). Comenius (1592–1670) lived in dangerous and divisive times. The violence generated during and after the Reformation and Thirty Years War (1618–48) included hostile confessionalism among Protestant Christians. In addition, from the late 1520s through 1677 the armies of the Ottoman and Holy Roman Empire battled for the supremacy of the Balkans and central Europe. Vienna was besieged several times. Imperial conflicts bred interreligious polemics. Comenius lived in the very lands that were directly military and religious battlegrounds (Romania, the Czech states, Austria, and Poland). I doubt, however, that he had any direct contact with Muslims, although he probably had access to a poor translation of the Qur’ān. In this context, Comenius developed his understandings of the world as a confusing labyrinth that led not to a minotaur but to the heart of God in Christ that is within the hearts of Christians. Understandably, Brother Thompson developed his thesis that Comenius was a source for Christian-Muslim engagement; yet Comenius was also a man of his time. He wrote of Muslims slaying one another over interpretations of the Qur’ān and that they searched “blindly for what they did not know” (Comenius, The Labyrinth of the World, Chapter 17, 3–6). To

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The Rev. Dr. Walter Wagner is a retired Lutheran pastor who has taught for several years at Moravian Theological Seminary as an adjunct professor.


be sure, he also was unsparing in in the same work with comments about Jews and various types of Christians. Brother Thompson is on the right track by basing his advocacy for Comenius and the Moravian principles of unity in essentials, liberty, and prudence in auxiliaries, and love in all things. Through stressing the need for the dialoguer to stand in and speak from the dialoguer’s religious tradition, Brother Thompson uses Comenius’ view of God as the Creator as the meeting ground for ecumenical as well as interreligious relationships. Brother Thompson is also correct in observing that given the scale of military and ideological clout to wreak damage today, interreligious dialogue and relationships are even more necessary today than they were in the seventeenth century. Over the past half century (since Vatican 2 especially), we now have Leonard Swidler’s Dialogue Decalogue: Ground Rules for Interreligious and Inter-cultural Dialogue; Muslims such as Omid Safi, Ingrid Mattson, Vincent Cornell, Fethullah Gülen, and Farid Esack; and Christians such as Peter Phan, Miroslav Volf, Yvonne Hadad, John Esposito, and Livingstone Thompson who can aid us in understanding one another. Pope Francis’ developing “engagement dialogue” style stresses what Comenius could not: building personal face-to-face relationships as basic to religious understandings so as to cooperate in God’s world for justice and peace. A really final confession: Moravian Theological Seminary and the Lehigh Dialogue Center (in Bethlehem) are doing our parts to acknowledge the integrity of our respective faiths through our ongoing “Christians and Muslims Talking Together” series. Together we continue to open doors of understanding, respect, and appropriate cooperation. v

Peter Herman Peter Herman is PhD Student at Georgetown University who grew up as a member of Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem, PA. Dr. Livingstone Thompson does an admirable job in bringing Comenius before us in light of contemporary issues of interreligious dialogue in his recent piece “John Amos Comenius and Interreligious Dialogue.” While the attention given to Comenius and his forward-looking discussion of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue is welcome, Brother Thompson’s work raises a few difficult questions with which we must grapple if we are to come to a peaceful and rewarding discussion of religious difference. The piece particularly raises the question of what we mean when we discuss “ecuminism” and “interreligious dialogue” in the first place. I suggest that there are several distinct areas of theological reflection that can be occasionally lumped together into these terms. The first of these is indeed ecumenism itself, which I find is best considered as a discussion among Christian confessions regarding theological and doctrinal matters. We are, in this case, discussing things of great importance within a community of common core belief. Ecumenism THE

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would describe a discussion between, for example, a Moravian pastor and a Catholic priest regarding the sacrament of the Eucharist: are the body and blood of Christ symbolically or literally present, and, if so, how? It would not, on the other hand, be appropriate to characterize a discussion between the Moravian pastor and a Muslim Imam as “ecumenical” as they are not both members of the same religious community. This latter conversation would most likely be described as a form of interreligious dialogue, as Brother Thompson points out and as Comenius also believed. In this case, we have representatives of different religious traditions trying to discuss matters, which relate to their traditions, but not necessarily to doctrinal matters. The question of whether Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah may be one for our two hypothetical people of the cloth to discuss, but their discussion does not start from a shared belief that he is. Interreligious dialogue may often center around a particular social problem which one or more religious communities wish to address together. This kind of cooperative good work is indeed laudable, and it often requires setting aside fine points of Theology in order to do the work of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or enacting justice for the suffering and aggrieved. The final category of confusion is one that Brother Thompson raises and that has been the subject of much misunderstanding and apprehension: religious pluralism. To illustrate one of the core issues of pluralism in theology, Brother Thompson juxtaposes Acts 4:12 with Surah 3:2–3,7 in which the scriptures of Christianity and Islam, respectively, make what appear to be mutually exclusive claims to the truth of their revelations from the same God. Acts 4:12 has so vexed proponents of pluralism in Christianity that it gave Paul F. Knitter the title for his 1985 book, No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions. The use of these two passages side-by-side highlights a problem, which pluralists have been trying to solve for some time: how do we make sense of these kinds of claims? Here, as in much religious study, context is incredibly important. Neither the passage from the Bible nor the passage from the Qu’ran exists outside of a particular literary or theological context. The use of either of these as a conversation-stopper in interreligious dialogue or theology is the worst kind of proof-texting. It ignores the contradicting statements, which may appear at other points in scriptural writing and attempts to claim that the entire religious truth of a tradition can be summed up in a few sentences. When Brother Thompson later remarks that pluralism challenges Christian theology “to show that it can substantiate the claim that the Christian faith has received a revelation that is unsurpassable and that all we humans can know about God is given uniquely in the Christian faith,” he creates what we might call a category error. Pluralistic theology can indeed be, and often is, Christian at its core. The distinction ought not be between “pluralism” and “Christianity” but between “pluralism” and


“traditionalism” within Christianity. The challenge, then, of pluralism to traditionalism is to appropriately contextualize what sounds like exclusive language in light of the existence of other traditions that can make similarly exclusive-sounding claims. It is a difficult thing indeed to attempt to hold the truth of one’s own religious faith closely while also allowing another to hold his or hers just as closely. Indeed, as Brother Thompson notes, “Unless both parties feel that their point of view is taken seriously and is respected, it is unlikely that an exchange or dialogue will get anywhere.” Brother Thompson reminds us that Comenius’s own thought on the religious other was characterized by an insistence on an underlying unity of creation. We would all do well to recall this unity in encountering others who are both near to us, as in ecumenical discussions, and not particularly near to us, as in interreligious dialogue. I believe that Brother Thompson has given us room to consider Comenius as an early advocate of a type of pluralism that is, at its core, deeply Christian, yet never ignorant of the truth contained in other religions’ revelations. v

Gordon Sommers The Rev. Gordon Sommers is a retired Moravian pastor serving as chaplain of Moravian Village in Bethlehem, PA. He also served in the Northern Province and Guyana. The 2013 Moses Lectures given by the Rev. Dr. Livingstone Thompson were a rich blessing to all who were privileged to hear him. More than a scholarly presentation of the educational philosophy and theological wisdom of Comenius we have come to know, Brother Thompson expanded the appeal of his thought to interreligious dialogue. Living as we do in a world where conflict, war, and destruction are frequently connected with religious affiliation, we welcome all insight and effort to cross these barriers in our search for common ground. This is especially so when we consider the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (I recall participating in just such a dialogue that had been entitled: “Can Abraham’s Children Speak with Each Other?” It is both historically and, sadly, poignantly accurate.) Moravians know well the “In Essentials….” theme. This dictum was of even greater importance in the days of Comenius, dominated by conflict between Christians. The Thirty Years’ War is behind us, and Roman Catholics and Protestants are far beyond such conflict. But even in Christendom there has been an effort to “name” the essentials, as in the wellreceived Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry published by the World Council of Churches in 1982 and subsequently embraced by Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. This agreement has enabled many Protestant Communions towards acceptance of one another in these three “essentials,”

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Volker Schulz The Rt. Rev. Volker Schulz served as a Moravian minister in Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Basel; was vice-president of the Council of Churches in Nordrhine-Westfalia for 12 years; was president of the Hymnal Committee of the ECP from 1998–2008; and has been editor of ITD, the sister publication of the Hinge, since 2005. Brother Schulz resides in Basel, Switzerland. I thank Dr. Livingstone Thompson for looking for ways to engage in interreligious dialogue, especially in these days of terror and tensions. There is a similarity between our time and the situation of Europe in the seventeenth century, but the overall conditions have changed. Europe and

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and to good purpose. Much work and prayer is needed for all Christians— Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants—to achieve the unity we seek and for which the Lord Jesus prayed ( John 17). This leads us to the application of Comenius’ vision to the three monotheistic religions. It should work as we seek for agreement that will lead to peace in the lands where they dominate. We can all agree that absence of conflict is an essential mark of the teaching of God and the practice of the Godly life. Political and social structures that guarantee the freedom and rights of all persons in a given society surely are a goal we can strive for. Regrettably, we seem to regress in these essentials on the present world scene. The “non-essentials” such as armaments, forms of government, and political representation seem to be dominating issues. In many ways, then, the claim to superiority of one religion over the others still prevails. We have not been able to achieve the religious pluralism Comenius’ philosophy espouses—no more than did Comenius experience the unity amongst Roman Catholics and Protestants of his time. Are there any glimmers of hope in these desperate times? I recently revisited Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and stopped at the Millwoods Moravian Community Church. My memory retraced my experiences in the evolution of this community and the Moravian congregation over the past 50+ years. It had been verdant agricultural land with a few scattered farms. The energetic, historic Bruderfeld congregation had been relocated (and renamed) a short distance into the center of expanded housing and commerce. The populations became diverse with immigrants, and religious places of worship to reflect their backgrounds were constructed. While the Moravian buildings (along with a Pentecostal Church) dominate the main street, close by are a Sikh temple, a Hindu temple, and a mosque. The dress and appearance of some of the recent immigrants reflect this diversity. I give this example as only a small indication that it is possible for the “In Essentials…” dictum that Comenius calls for to apply in a religiously pluralistic time. People of diverse religions who love God can live peacefully and in unity. For this unity we must constantly strive, and pray. v


North America are no longer societies with one dominant religion but are pluriform societies in a post-modern time. Here in Switzerland, we have to deal even more with this phenomenon than in America because there is a shocking decrease in numbers of Christians. The last decade of the twentieth century brought a wider discussion of how to deal with the increasing numbers of immigrants with different religious backgrounds. How can we preserve social peace in the midst of religious diversity? One response to the obstacle was to start a think-tank called the House of Religions—a dialogue of cultures in Berne, the Swiss capital. The House of Religions is both a building to provide a place for peaceful coexistence of different religions and also a concept of dialogue in mutual respect. The Moravians, by far the smallest denomination in this process, have been key players. My colleague, Hartmut Haas, has been the general secretary of this institution during the last 12 years. At the end of 2014 the building will be finished. One of the difficulties of interreligious dialogue is that different participants have different senses of necessity and interest in the dialogue itself. Minority religions lacking the possibilities to live their spiritual lives are highly interested in the dialogue; all others need motivation from their religious sources. One way to allow people of differing faiths to live their spiritual lives is to look to our heritage. Brother Haas tried to find some foundation in the theology of Count Zinzendorf. Another way was chosen by Brother Thompson in his lecture: Comenius’s concept of dialogue. It is an honest and serious attempt; we need genuine concepts of dialogue which are based in our theology. My problem is: I cannot follow Brother Thompson’s conclusion. Brother Thompson says we must take Islam seriously. I would answer: take Comenius seriously, too, as one of the greatest thinkers of his time. I remember well Jan Milic Lochman, one of the great Czech Protestant theologians in the twentieth century who, as a retired professor, came regularly to our services. He explained to me his understanding of Comenius with the short self-description from the year 1657: “Moravus sum natione, lingua Bohemus, professione theologus, ad Evangelii ministerium” (There is always a man from Moravia speaking in Czech—or Latin—as a professional theologian to serve the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Central to Comenius’ thought is the link to the early beginnings of the Czech Reformation in the fifteenth century. The relation to Christ is not only an individual, personal relationship, but it is also related to the reign of the Lord (regnum Christi) or, as often said by Comenius, the scepter of Christ. Comenius’ pansophic thinking motivated him to be engaged in the emendation of human affairs. His great ouvre Consultatio catholica de emendatione rerum humanarum (General consultation on the reform of human affairs) has to be seen under the perspective of God’s rising kingdom. Our task is to shape our world in this direction, firstly in the church, but also in society, sciences, and politics.

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Therefore, Comenius had to be ecumenical: a person who worked lifelong for the reconciliation between the confessions, and was irenic in a radical sense. Ecumenism and the idea of peace are two sides of a medal. Because every human being is created by God, there is no substantial difference between people. So, Comenius’ criticism of the aggressive policy of the Christian nations and the call for solidarity with other nations and against European colonialism and imperialism are consistent in his writings. Brother Thompson is right to state that Comenius took others seriously and treated them with respect as united in the human community, disillusioned of the daily life of the Christian denominations and their inabilities to live what is said through Christ in the Gospel; but Comenius’ actions don’t include an interreligious dialogue. The goal Comenius was looking toward is the second coming of the Lord. Comenius’ utopic perspective in its chiliastic dimension doesn’t allow us to explain his perspective as an interreligious dialogue, and we don’t have to. We don’t have to blame Comenius. To have overcome the borders of sciences, nations, and denominations makes him one of the greatest thinkers and theologians of his time. I would suggest that the best way to develop a concept of interreligious dialogue is directly from the source which was fundamental for both Comenius and Zinzendorf: the Scripture. There is a line through all books that crosses the borders and limitations of our religious concepts; it starts directly with Abra(ha)m, and we can find it when we look at Moses, David, or Solomon—despite all the opposite tendencies of the late concepts of separation and exclusiveness in the times after the exile to restore the former glory. We also find the line when we see how Jesus crossed borders in his understanding of his mission and the kingdom of God, and when we look at the dispute between Paul and Peter over how God is working beyond our borders and limitations. I would like us to intensify our attempts in developing a concept of interreligious dialogue, not by using our traditions, but by returning to Bible study. This could bring us beyond a Christian anthropology. v


Comments on the Responses I am heartened by Sam Gray’s account of the Sierra Leone mission, which is a practical application of the ideal of dialogue. There’s something indeed Comenian in the emphasis on education and dialogue. Dialogue as a way to bear witness was a key strategy of the World Council of Churches’ former sub-unit of interfaith dialogue. While the irenic work of Comenius is recognized, his call for a dialogical approach to address interfaith issues is not equally recognized. Helen Kurczynski picked up on the issue of “self-critique” as a feature of interfaith conversation. This approach of assessing one’s position in light of the claims of others is important. Contrary to what some people might believe, this does not mean letting go of treasured convictions, but rather it means holding convictions that have emerged from the rigor of critique. “Christians and Muslims Talking Together,” the dialogue series that Walter Wagner referenced in his response, rests on the willingness of Christians to answer the questions that other religious traditions put to the Christian faith. A willingness to allow people from other traditions to give their accounts of the hope in them is only fair because, as Christians, we too seek the opportunity to give accounts of the hope in us. Conversation is not only a reasonable thing to do, but also it is decent and intellectually honest. With this understanding, Peter Herman might have missed the thrust of my point relating to Christian claims being made in a religiously plural context. Religious pluralism, or a religiously plural context, is meant to refer to a context in which there are competing truth claims. For example, the Christian belief that God speaks to us uniquely through Jesus is a different kind of claim from the Muslim claim that Allah (besides whom Muslims also say there is no God) speaks to us uniquely in the Qur’an. I regard these claims as competing truth claims, which neither Christians nor Muslims should be allowed to make without reckoning with the claim that the other makes. Here, I am not making a distinction between pluralism and Christianity, as Herman suggests, but calling attention to the different claims to truth made by Christians and Muslims. If Gordon Sommers heard me advocating unity between the religious traditions, free from questioning, then he has heard me incorrectly. I advocate dialogical rigor and challenge Christians to hear and respond to the questions that Islam puts to Christianity. I also advocate that Muslims hear and respond to the questions that Christianity puts to Islam. Peace between the religious traditions is possible through love and mutual respect. It is not necessary that people of one religious tradition should hate and kill people of another. At the same time, no religious tradition should consider itself immune to questions and critique. [Continued]

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Comments/Responses [Continued from previous page] I thank Bishop Schulz for his response. It would seem that he has two major concerns with my paper: one is that he could not follow the conclusion and the other is his apparent doubt that Comenius might have provided the basis for an approach to interreligious dialogue. In response to the first concern I would say simply that a basic claim in the paper is that living in a plural world with conflicting truth claims, we cannot afford the luxury—if one might call it that—of not paying close attention to what others have to say. We do not have to surrender our Christian claims to listen to others. On the contrary, our own understanding of God and the oneness of creation oblige us to engage in respectful dialogue. This is Comenius’ point.  Secondly, I would find it hard to agree that a close reading of Comenius, especially his writings on the reform of human affairs, would not show his concern with how to end dissension in Europe. The genius of Comenius is that he saw the application to Islam at a time when much of Europe would have been concerned with the relationship between Christians alone. Comenius was obviously convinced of a higher truth in Christianity, but as he himself asserted, the primacy of that truth had to be demonstrated in dialogue with those who make other claims to truth. v -- Livingstone Thompson

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The Hinge is published with the assistance of the Center for Moravian Studies of Moravian Theological Seminary and the Interprovincial Board of Communication of the Moravian Church in America. All rights are reserved. Co-Editors: Craig Atwood and Janel Rice Send letters to the editor, articles, book reviews, and other contributions to Craig at atwoodc@moravian.edu The Hinge Editorial Board: Zachary Dease, Laura Gordon, Sam Gray, Sarah Groves, Hans-Beat Motel, Joe Nicholas, Janel Rice, Justin Rabbach, David Schattschneider, Neil Thomlinson, Livingstone Thompson, Volker Schulz, Peter Vogt, Jane Weber Copy Editor: Layout/Design: Renee Schoeller, IBOC Mike Riess, IBOC Hinge illustration by Todd Tyson of Kernersville, N.C. Wood cover design by Colleen Marsh, Bethlehem, Pa. The cost for subscribing to The Hinge is $30. Send checks payable to: The Hinge c/o Jane Weber Moravian Theological Seminary 1200 Main Street Bethlehem, PA 18018 Contact Jane (jweber@moravian.edu) to change your subscription information or to request additional copies of The Hinge. Single issue rate: $7 The Hinge is provided free of charge to Moravian clergy, thanks to the generosity of the Center for Moravian Studies at Moravian Theological Seminary. Recent issues of The Hinge are available online at www.moravianseminary.edu/center/ hinge.htm. Articles in The Hinge may not be republished or posted on the Internet without the express permission of the author and the editor of The Hinge. Articles may be duplicated according to “Fair Use� rules, which allow for discussion in church classes and similar forums.


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Hinge 20.2: John Amos Comenius & Interreligious Dialogue  

by Livingstone Thompson, PhD

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