Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Paul Tillich Chair of Theology inauguarated

Tonight, our friend and distinguished theologian, Dr. Paul Knitter was formally instituted as the Paul F. Tillich Chair of Theology, World Religions and Culture in a ceremony at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. We were fortunate to hear and speak with Dr. Knitter last fall at a lecture at the Inter-Church Center.

Since then we have kept in contact as time permits, particularly regarding my response to the letter of the Muslim scholars, A Common Word Between Us and You, which I delivered in December.

As for most brilliant thinkers, including Paul Tillich himself, all has not been without criticism and controversy and even attempted "punitive" actions, in the name of "Christian propriety." Another friend, journalist Gary Stern, wrote today about Knitter's theology and the journey there.

As liberation theology was controversial and shocking to many in the last decades of the 20th. century, the theology of religious pluralism is certainly new and unsettling for many today. The waters are still greatly untread.

Despite the level of comfortability such shifts in paradigms may challenge on the surface, it is imperative that we continue on. All theology, if it is considered to be sustained by the Holy Spirit, must continue to be open to revelation, for this is exactly the work of God's spirit. Eastern Orthodoxy speaks of the "vivifying Spirit" for it is the Spirit that gives life and life is not stagnant, but a process of growth and development.

Only when a living organism dies or begins the process of demise, does it stop growing and cease re-creating itself in new, more beautiful representations. The church, as the living habitation of God, must not show signs of rot or decay, but rather appear in its true radiance, obtained by the creativity of the Spirit.

Dr. Knitter in his remarks tonight said that "if Christians are to dialog inter-religiously, then they must learn to do theology inter-religiously." This is a task for us in our ever shrinking world. One hallmark of theology in the first part of the 21st. century must be be to approach thinking theologically from our present experience in a global and increasingly interactive environment.

I encourage all of you to listen to Dr. Knitter's address given this evening at Union Theological Seminary, entitled, Doing Theology Interreligiously: Union and the Legacy of Paul Tillich, in this audio excerpt from the inauguration ceremony.

Visit the Union website for more about Dr. Paul F. Knitter and links to biographical and experiential information.

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