You also suggest that our consideration of this subject should be understood as part of the grand narrative of scripture and our performance of it. Can you summarize your thoughts here?
There's far too much to summarize easily, John! However, consider the way that Gentiles and Samaritans feature very little (and mainly negatively) in the Old Testament. Then, as Scripture unfolds into the New Testament, they assume a much greater significance. It is the life (and death and resurrection and Spirit-sending) of Jesus that made the difference—as confirmed by the attitude of Jesus toward these outsiders. Jesus, especially in Luke 4, sees Gentiles as illustrative of the reversals that his Kingdom brings. In other words, we should learn to "see" and to "read" these outsiders by means of what you, John, have called a "Christological hermeneutic."
If Evangelicals will pause for a moment of critical self-reflection, how does some of the way of Jesus in interreligious encounter provide a rebuke for contemporary Christians?
In my experience, Evangelicals often or even usually react to the presence of other religions with either indifference or suspicion and anxiety; or fear, denigration, and triumphalistic confrontation. Liberals typically react with romanticized naïveté or even guilt—and I'm opposed to those attitudes too! But when Jesus meets the "aliens" of his day—Gentiles and Samaritans—he engages them with love, sympathy, help, and even appreciation at times. In our Christian denominations we greatly resent it when we're subject to misrepresentation by other churches. Well, Muslims feel the same about many of our attitudes to them.
What are some of the "take away" elements of Jesus' encounters with Gentiles and what do they mean for Evangelicals?
Consider how Jesus reacts when he meets Gentiles: he treats them not with fear or suspicion but with non-condescending respect; he heals them; he praises their faith and humility; he offers only the barest of criticism. So, while the command "love your neighbor" is found only once in the Torah, the imperative to "love the alien / stranger" in your midst is found thirty-seven times. The example of Jesus shows us how to do this loving.
Why are Evangelicals an important segment of the world's religious subcultures in terms of the positive potential for impact in interreligious affairs, and why should this be a major part of the Evangelical social agenda in the 21st century?
Firstly, our numbers, global influence, and missional, activist inclinations mean that we Evangelicals are very likely to encounter Muslims, for example, in the global south, or to meet and comment on them from the relative isolation of our enclaves in the global north. Secondly, the popularist dimensions of Evangelicalism will remind progressive and secular opinion that the vast majority of the world's people are religious. Because we Evangelicals also underline the central place of religious commitment (and reject any bracketing out of conviction and evaluation) we are well-placed to comprehend the worldviews of, for example, new arrivals in our nations. We know that authenticity in our meeting requires and will benefit from honesty of conviction and acknowledgement of real differences.