Center for Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue

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Vision Statement

The continuing inability of Christians to come to full confessional agreement is not simply an intellectual problem. The Apostle Paul prays that “together with all the saints” we may “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18-19).  Such an intimate relationship between knowledge and love implies that longstanding disagreement on significant doctrinal issues is a spiritual and moral issue. St. Paul’s beautiful encomium on the unity of the Church, with its sevenfold refrain of unity in Ephesians 4:4-6, connects the unity of the body of Christ to our mutual love. When our interpretation of Scripture differs to such an extent that we cannot arrive at ecclesial unity, it should be clear that we have a problem that requires conversion and prayer for its resolution.

Truthful interpretation of Holy Scripture is a matter of love of God and neighbor. According to St. Augustine in his discussion of biblical interpretation in On Christian Teaching (De doctrina Christiana), we can only claim to have come to an understanding of the Scriptures if it builds up the twofold love of God and neighbor. Augustine links the observation that love is the starting-point and aim of biblical interpretation with a discussion of ultimate ends. He distinguishes between “use” and “enjoyment” and expresses the conviction that only God himself is our ultimate end and worthy of our true enjoyment. St. Augustine insists that only God ought to be loved and enjoyed strictly for his own sake. Any temporal blessings we receive are to be used and loved only with an eye to the eternal purpose of the enjoyment of God himself.

On Augustine’s understanding, erroneous interpretation of Scripture is not just the result of a misapplication of technical exegetical tools; more seriously, it is at heart a misdirection of love and the result of a preference of temporal goods over the eternal good—eternal life in the presence of God. Since Scripture is the divinely appointed means to lead us to the love and enjoyment of God, this understanding directs us always to search for the reality to which the biblical text points and which it makes present. 

More than anything, therefore, the Center’s goal is that together we may see, love, and enjoy the reality of the Triune God. This goal involves a threefold understanding of our task as Catholic and evangelical scholars in dialogue:

  1. Hearing God’s doctrina. Christians are called upon to transmit faithfully the gospel from generation to generation through the power of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the tradition, the divine Scriptures normatively make present to us the spiritual realities of the gospel. The CCED will sponsor common endeavors at reading the Scriptures, with a sustained effort to appreciate how the Scriptures draw us into the eternal wisdom and love of the Trinity.
  2. Teaching God’s doctrina. Near the beginning of the second millennium of Christian history, monastic education, with its associated spiritual practices, gave way to education in the universities. While this change implied a positive view of reason, it also opened up the possibility of a growing rationalism. The CCED will promote the cultivation of Christian doctrine in light of the “sacramental” worldview according to which creation points to God, against an instrumentalization that removes created objects from their ultimate end in God—an approach that too often pervades modern university and seminary education.
  3. Living God’s doctrina. In our sensate culture, the evangelization of culture requires a renewed appreciation that the created order, redeemed in Christ, is a mysterium that participates in the truth, goodness, and beauty of the eternal Word of God. The CCED will support the promotion of new life in Christ and on the Spirit-led life of Christian virtue, which challenges us to live up to the higher purpose to which we are called in the midst of culture that tempts us to put second things first.

 

In short, Scriptural interpretation, educational formation, and the evangelization of individuals and cultures cannot be separated.  As Catholics and evangelicals, we believe that there is a close interconnection between how we interpret Scripture and how we understand education (teaching God’s doctrina) and evangelization (living God’s doctrina). Our work together thus aims at exegetical, doctrinal, and cultural revitalization so that we may be formed, as a people, in “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8).