- Beyond "Holy Wars": Forging Sustainable Peace through Interreligious Dialogue—A Christian Perspective by Christoffer H. Grundmann
In this well-researched volume, Lutheran theology professor Grundmann shares the fruits of his extensive research into a philosophy of encounter, concluding that only a process of open, face-to-face, I-Thou encounters by people of different faith traditions can break down the walls of suspicion and condemnation that have led to religious violence perpetrated by members of all the major world religions.
Along the way, Grundmann's substantive chapters first establish the necessity for interreligious dialogue as the only means for achieving sustainable peace. He then critiques models of interreligious dialogue that a priori deny the ability of religions to make absolute claims, because artificially flattening [End Page 457] the substance of a religion removes it from the lived personal experience of its adherents. Finally, and most crucially, he insists that interreligious dialogue be conceived of and conducted in personalist categories, i.e., between the lived experiences of women and men who adhere to different religions, and not in a comparative abstraction. Genuine interpersonal dialogue entails "mutual respect for existing differences" and "mutual personal esteem," a process that allows the other to be other and to live his or her own faith with integrity in the process of mutual sharing.
The book's major strength is in its well-informed erudition. Grundmann marshals an impressive array of resources from a wide variety of religious traditions to illustrate his thesis and build his argument, treating them evenhandedly, fairly, but critically. In this way, he models the dialogical approach he advocates well, allowing the absolute claims of each religion to stand without flattening them artificially. The one place this otherwise fine work could use some further development is when Grundmann turns from the theoretical to the practical. Although the book is subtitled A Christian Perspective, the specifically Christian theological reflection does not begin in earnest until the final seven pages of the book, functioning as a sort of caboose to the engine of the philosophical investigation of religious dialogue that is the book's central thrust. One is left wishing Grundmann had spent more time, perhaps an entire concluding chapter, going deeper into the specifically Christian foundations for dialogue, and even sharing narrative examples of what fruitfully engaging in interreligious dialogue as a Christian ought to look like.