The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
Speaker emphasizes need for golden rule
By ALLISON NORTHROP, Assistant News Editor
Published: October 17, 2012
For 10 years, Christian theologian Miroslav Volf has kept a Friedrich Nietzsche book on his nightstand.
“I would read Nietzsche for devotions,” Volf said at Seattle Pacific University’s 11th annual Day of Common Learning last Wednesday.
In his speech, Volf emphasized the importance of Christians to not only allow differing beliefs, but also to honor and respect them.
“You find that [Nietzsche is] an amazing thinker. All wrong, but still deserving honor and deserving respect,” Volf said. “Deserving to be read. Deserving to see what truth can come from his writing.”
The theologian discussed three ideas essential to Christian engagement. He outlined the rights Christians must support, the respect Christians must have for people of other beliefs and how the means Christians employ are as important as the ends they pursue in public life.
Volf, the founding director of Yale University’s Center for Faith and Culture, delivered a 45-minute speech, “Christian Engagement in a Pluralistic World,” at Seattle Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion. On the Day of Common Learning, classes before 3 p.m. were cancelled so the entire campus could attend.
“Never claim rights for yourself that you’re not willing to grant to others,” Volf said in his native Croatian accent.
“Is it possible to honor views of which we disagree?” Volf said, arguing that Christians have an obligation to not only honor the rights of religious freedom, but also have an obligation to respect the people with whom they disagree.
“There are things people do that do not deserve to be honored,” Vofl said. “But, honor the person…affirm the person and condemn the deed.”
With nearly every seat and bleacher filled, latecomers had to gather along the side of the gym, some leaning against the wall and others sitting on the floor.
Nearing the end of his speech, Volf’s last rule of Christian engagement focused on the way Christians engage.
“Concentrate on means, and the ends will take care of themselves,” Volf said.
Volf closed his speech in one statement. “Take up your cross,” Volf said. “That’s how you engage in a pluralistic faith.”
“He just made the Christian faith more united in his speech,” sophomore Josh Palmer said.
American Cultural Exchange student Hamad Alshahwan said Volf’s speech was not what he had imagined. Alshahwan said he expected Volf to only talk about Christianity, as opposed to respecting other beliefs.
Senior Allison Brennan said Wednesday’s Day of Common Learning was the first she attended.
“I didn’t know what to expect. [It was] really insightful and simplistic…It was relatable, and none of his ideas were too over your head,” Brennan said.
After Volf’s speech, Day of Common Learning attendees could take part in two of the 18 afternoon seminars. All seminars related to the theme “Modeling Civic Engagement.”
Professor of Business Ethics Bruce Baker and Professor of Political Science Caleb Henry looked at what social networking can do and not do for faith.
Henry argued that a quick glance at someone’s Facebook profile makes it easy for a person judge someone based off of their profile. He said society has replaced judging by skin color with judging by online profiles.
“The danger you have is you can be exclusionary in a much more efficient way,” said Henry in reference to viewing others’ Facebook profiles.
Baker said there was no substitute for what he called “incarnational ministry.” Facebook, he said, sometimes prevents people to minister to one another face-to-face.
Blake Wood, lead pastor at First Free Methodist Church, co-led the session “Talking ‘Grace and Truth’ with Muslims” with community guest, John Coghlan. Wood lived in the Middle East for 10 years and shared some of his experiences with talking about faith with Muslims.
Coghlan, who is involved in a ministry called “Peace Catalyst,” said the book Allah: A Christian Response, written by Volf, affected him. Coghlan said that in the book, Volf wrote that Christians should witness to people how they would want to be witnessed to.
“We’re not being Christ-like when we compare the best of our religion to the worst of theirs,” Wood said.