Whether we are talking about 'other faiths', 'interfaith', 'a multi-faith society' or 'a pluralist society', what we are dealing with is the perplexity, the uncertainty and the loss of nerve that many of us and many of our churches feel in the face of the changed religious face of Britain today. We are talking about what is probably the most profound challenge to the Christian faith that we have had to face for centuries.
How then does one tackle such a huge subject in a single lecture? If I were to go about it in the way that I (and probably many of you) were trained, I would have to begin with revelation and study biblical passages relating to the uniqueness of Christ. I would then try to fit this teaching into some kind of systematic theology; and the final stage would be to discuss the practical application of these biblical and theological truths. Dare I suggest, however that the complexity of the question of pluralism has been exposing some of the weaknesses and limitation of this very traditional way of studying or 'doing' theology? What I propose to do, therefore, is to reverse the order.
I want to start with our context and with five of the issues that we face in our multi-faith society in Britain today: the questions of multi-faith worship, the establishment of the Church of England, assemblies and religious education in schools, racism, and the Decade of Evangelism. I then want to go on to set out some of the major theological questions which arise out of these issues, and only after that turn to the Scriptures. There can never be a simple liniear progression either from context to theology to Bible, or the other way round. what happens in practice is a hermeneutical spiral. But in one sense it does not really matter where we begin, provided we recognise the constant interplay that there needs to be between context, theology and Bible
Colin Chapman has worked in places as far afield as Edinburgh and Egypt, Birmingham, Bristol and Beirut. From 1999 he has been at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut. This Study is an expansion of the first Latimer Lecture, delivered at Oxford on 6th June 1992, and repeated at Christ Church, Fulwood, Sheffield, later in the year.
ISBN: 978 0 946307 39 5