‘The Judgement of the World’ by Rowan Williams

Chapter 3 in On Christian Theology (Oxford; Blackwell, 2000)

I’m a Priest.  I talk to people about God all the time!   Why should anyone be convinced that what I believe about life, humanity and the universe might obligate what they believe about life, humanity and the universe?

Again, if you understand nothing else, understand that for Williams theology is all about conversation.

Let’s imagine (not hard if you know me well) that you and I are sitting down at my big kitchen table with a cuppa – the kids playing boisterously outside in the back yard.  What are we doing?  Talking!  Having a conversation in which I share about my life and you share about yours.  Some of the things in our lives are the same, some are different.  That is exactly how the Christian story is able to relate to others who do not share a Christian commitment to Christ.

Genuine conversation respects the unique integrity of each person.  Imagine, sitting down at my big kitchen table, I reprimand you in regards to your children’s behaviour – they are out of control because you don’t discipline them severely as I discipline my own (hmm… much more likely someone would be criticizing me for this particular failing).  I would hope that you would be offended!  Grab your kids and leave my house never to return – I have been rude and wrong!  Instead, imagine that when listening to the dramas created by the challenging behaviour of our offspring, we share tips we’ve learned along the way, books we’ve read, things we’ve observed.  Jesus is no less real because he has been encountered in my subjective experience.  But it is the field of my subjective experience that others may first encounter Him.

There are a whole host of concerns shared by all humanity, particularly amongst those who express some kind of religious faith – sustainability, human spirituality, global poverty, etc, etc.  The grounds for conversation and working together with others on these concerns furthers the kingdom of God as Christ instructed us, this work is no less our faithful response to Jesus just because other people are involved in it as well for other reasons and God will use it all.

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