Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Even more on dialogue: Jacques Maritain part 1

A couple of days ago, I followed the link from Fr Tim's post about Jacques Maritain's authorship with regard to the Credo of the People of God to this article. The reference in this article to Jacques Maritain's Peasant of the Garonne prompted me to pull it off my bookshelves earlier today while I had a cup of tea. I alighted on Chapter 4, entitled "Christians and Non-Christians".

Having considered Christians and non-Christians in their common humanity precisely as all being men (sorry, humankind, to update Maritain's vocabulary to contemporary sensitivities), and making the suggestion that this allows the possibility of agreement on practical action for the common good among those who radically disagree on principles, he goes on to consider them as members of Christ:

I am considering them as members of Christ: explicitly and visibly members of Christ if they are Christians (living members if they have grace, "dead" members if they have lost it); members of Christ implicitly and invisibly if being non-Christians they have Christ's grace; potentially and invisibly members of Christ if being similarly non-Christians they do not have Christ's grace....

...in one guise or another and in one way or another, all men (humankind ...), at least potentially, are members of Christ ...

From this, Jacques Maritain argues that we must have an interior conversion in our attitude towards our fellow men that is based on recognising in them the reality of their, at least potential, membership of Christ:

.... it is by reason of this mysterious supernatural reality that men, as divided as they might be in their most profound convictions, can and should look each other in the eyes with respect, and desire a true mutual comprehension, and be ready to help one another sincerely.

And it is the next paragraph that expresses a principle that might be called a principle of dialogue:

How can this happen? By knowing (I am speaking of Christians and Christians know this) that they are all members of Christ, at least potentially, and all called to the life of grace and charity; and by each one presupposing (I am still speaking of Christians) that the other lives in the grace and charity of God. When it comes to non-Christians, they can do this by making an analagous supposition each from his own religious or philosophical standpoint (even if, in the case of the atheist, it is only the perspective of universal human solidarity and the common vocation of mankind).

This approach does, of course, depend on the possibility of the non-Christian making that "analagous supposition", and that this is possible across all other religions and non-religious belief systems.

To see how Jacques Maritain develops more fully a praxis of dialogue, see part 2 ....

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