Fresh Logic

Fresh Logic May 23, 2014

In his preface to Receptive Ecumenism, Paul Murray explains that the “driving assumption is that if all were to be asking and acting upon this question, even relatively independently of each other, then all would be moving, albeit somewhat unpredictably, and in such a fashion as might open up currently unforeseeable possibilities” (x). 

He does not despise the careful conceptual clarification that has been central to bilateral ecumenical discussions, but argues that something more is needed at the present time: “As necessary complement, then, to the important work of conceptual and grammatical clarification, the strategy espoused here of a somewhat ad hoc yet nevertheless systematically tested and responsible receptive learning process has, it is assumed, the potential to take each tradition with integrity to a different place than at present; one resulting . . . from the creative expansion of current logic rather than its mere clarification, extrapolation, and repetition. The further assumption is that the new places in which the various traditions might with integrity so find themselves could, in turn, give rise to contexts in which issues of apparently irreconcilable difference – viewed from within the respective current logic of things – become genuinely navigable as all grow with creative integrity but nonlinearly beyond the present impasse.” (14).

Fundamentally, Murray advocates a replacement of an assertive logic of competition and conflict for a Levinasian logic that prioritizes attending to the other: “Only in this way can the closed logic of competitive assertion and defence be transcended by an imaginative dynamic capable of opening up fresh possibilities. For this to happen, for this process of overcoming stasis to begin, it requires some to take responsibility, to take the initiative, and this regardless of whether others are ready to reciprocate. As the therapeutic adage goes, ‘We cannot change others. We can only change ourselves and, thereby, the way we relate to others.’ But doing this will itself alter things and open up new possibilities” (15).

Catholics who pursue receptive ecumenism thus seek to learn from other traditions of the Christian church, not in an effort to become less Catholic but to become more Catholic, as Catholics become “more appropriately Anglican, more appropriately Lutheran, more appropriately Methodist, more appropriately Orthodox” (16). Reception of the gifts of others will enrich Catholicism, expose blind spots, and perhaps open up fresh ways through the apparently intractable conflicts of the past. He describes is as a conversion of heart, almost a romance, “a matter of falling in love with the experienced presence and action of God in the people, practices, and even structures of another tradition” (15).

It’s a generous offer and a generous program. Perhaps Evangelicals will reciprocate by listening more carefully to Catholics so as to become more fully Evangelical?

Browse Our Archives