Student, PhD in Theology and Culture
A Commitment to Dialogue
Before he came to Fuller, Cory Willson had little interest in interfaith dialogue. He thought it always had to go one of two ways: “either philosophical debate among elite scholars,” he believed, “or a lax form of pluralism with a superficial acceptance of the other’s faith.” At Fuller, he saw a third path—one that “embraces people of other religions in a way that is Christlike in love, but also maintains a grasp on the truth of the gospel.”
By watching and working with faculty members involved in interfaith dialogue, Cory learned the nuts and bolts of this work. “From President Richard Mouw I learned how to engage others with convicted civility,” he says. “From Professor Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen I came to see the non-salvific yet significant role of other religions. And from Dean Douglas McConnell, I learned that as we translate the gospel into others’ worlds, we learn and grow in our own understanding of the gospel.” When we get to that deeper level, Cory found, we are able to respect others and yet speak honestly and in an informed manner about the different beliefs that separate us.
In today’s pluralistic society, Cory believes that an approach that combines truth with love for those with whom we disagree—whether across faiths or across different evangelical traditions—is not optional. “This is part of our mission as God’s people,” he says: “to reach out to others with different beliefs, and to not bear false witness against them.” At Fuller, Cory recounts, he has learned what it means to do this with both grace and conviction, as a necessary expression of his own Reformed evangelical faith.
“You get much deeper access to the theological and existential world of another with cool conversation,” says Cory, “beginning with an embrace of the preciousness of the other person as a unique bearer of God’s image.”
There are many ways to become involved in interfaith dialogue at Fuller. Drs. Mouw and McConnell will offer a course on interfaith dialogue Spring Quarter. Each Winter Quarter Professor Jim Butler takes a team of students to InterSem, an interfaith retreat for seminarians from Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant traditions. In addition, the first edition of Evangelical Interfaith journal will be out shortly. More information about the journal can be found here.