Christianity must reactivate its humaneness if it is to survive and continue its history of inventiveness.
This theme is emphasised in one of the year's key series of lectures at the University of Leicester's prestigious Centre for Religious, Inter-Faith Dialogue and Pluralism.
Delivering the stimulating and controversial 'Christianity: Two Thousand Years of Inventiveness' on Tuesday, March 28 is the Revd Alan Race who is Rector of Aylestone in Leicester and has a strong reputation internationally as a theologian. It is the Fourth Geza Vermes Lecture in the Centre's History of Religions series. The lecture is open to the public and free, and will take place in the New Building, Lecture Theatre One at 5.30pm.
"Christian identity has evolved from a double heritage of Hebrew ethical monotheism and Greek religious metaphysics," said Alan Race.
"The inventiveness that derives from this combination of influences explains both its cultural successes and its obsessive quarrelsomeness.
"On the one hand, the cultural successes of Christianity derive from its distinctive universalism. Thus, from being a small sect of a long established and venerable religion in the ancient world, Judaism, it has spread throughout the world. This universalism is intrinsic to ethical monotheism with its keen interest in historical change, whilst the thirst for metaphysical explanations contains the power for intellectual transposition into different cultural forms.
"On the other hand, the quarrelsomeness of Christianity derives from the early anchoring of Christian identity in right belief as opposed to right behaviour. The negative effects of tying identity to belief are found in the history of intolerance shown to the outsider, the heretic and members of other religions," he said.
Alan Race believes that as Christianity is under attack in the modern period from the forces of intellectual and cultural criticism. It must learn more modesty about its intellectual convictions and seek a greater inclusiveness with regard to its ethical recommendations. The rediscovery of the future as both a human and divine opportunity could signal a very different Christianity from that of the first two thousand years.
"Looking back over 2,000 years, one can see that Christianity is a story of the continuous reinvention of itself. It makes one realise that Christian identity is always as much a prospect of the future as it is an inheritance from the past," he said.
Professor Richard Bonney, Director of the Centre, said that the lecture would be stimulating and controversial.
"Some academics argue that faith commitment and objectivity are impossible to reconcile", he said.
"It is certainly true that people with strong religious views often find it quite difficult to be self-critical about their own faith tradition. One way to gain a greater sense of objectivity is to compare different faith traditions as they have evolved over time.
"It is excellent to have Alan Race as our speaker for this lecture. He happens to be a local person, who straddles the world of academic and church life; but he is also a specialist on the Christian interpretation of religious plurality. He is well known for his own publications is this area and for his work as editor of the much acclaimed journal World Faiths Encounter."
Alan Race has recently returned from Indonesia where he was involved in the 'international scholars annual trialogue', a theological forum of Jews, Christians and Muslims from around the world.
NOTE TO NEWSDESK: Please note that there will be a photo-call at 4.45pm on Tuesday, March 28, in the New Building, Room SR528, University of Leicester.
For further information please contact Revd Professor Richard Bonney on 0116-2522803.
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