(Above, front row from left) Brother Celestine Toh, CSsR, Sister Theresa Seow, FDCC, Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Monsignor Eugene Vaz, Father Michael Arro, Sister Maria Lau, IJ, and Reverend Gabriel Liew, listen as Father Timothy Radcliffe (bottom) talks about God’s morality as His friendship. Photos by Daniel Tay
SINGAPORE – Catholics and Methodists learnt about morality as friendship with God and the use of dialogue to engage doctrinal issues at Dominican Father Timothy Radcliffe’s talk “Being Christian in the 21st Century”.
Father Radcliffe, 64, delivered the lecture to the 250-strong crowd comprising clergy, religious, laity, and Methodist pastors at Church of St. Teresa’s auditorium on Nov 13.
In his talk, the former Master of the Dominican Order noted that society, especially in the West, is “profoundly suspicious of doctrine” and fearful of morality.
Father Radcliffe cautioned Christians not to be tempted to retreat into a “Christian ghetto” or “disappear into the secular pothole”, but to be open to secularism and to people of other faiths.
He challenged those present to go beyond the idea that morality is “about what you are allowed or forbidden to do” and instead, see it as a form of friendship with God.
He said that God gave us the Ten Commandments to share in His friendship, and the new commandment of love which Christ gave is also about friendship.
One way of preaching, Father Radcliffe said, is “through loving dialogue and true conversation which leads to the conversion of everyone”. This, he said, results in people of other religions returning to God and being strengthened in their own faith.
Present that evening were pastors Reverend Malcolm Tan from Barker Road Methodist Church and Reverend Gabriel Liew from Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
Speaking to CatholicNews, Reverend Liew said that he is “spiritually nurtured and nourished by the theologically progressive lecture”, and identifies with Father Radcliffe’s positive approach to faith and practice.
“Father Radcliffe’s placement of doctrine and morality in the context of our friendship with God is brilliant!” Reverend Liew said. “In this way, doctrine and morality become life-affirming and life-giving instead of dead orthodoxy and moralistic.”
Reverend Liew also shared Father Radcliffe’s enthusiasm about dialogue as it promotes human dignity and understanding, bringing about conversion to oneself and then to those of other faiths.
“God is dialogical and so must we be,” said Reverend Liew, warning that the alternative to dialogue, fascism – which takes control of others without permission and cooperation – destroys relationships.
Others too shared Father Radcliffe’s spirit of openness.
Lutheran Mark Wee, 31, an RCIA Inquirer who attended the talk at the invitation of a Catholic friend, found striking Father Radcliffe’s interpretation of morality as “a means of liberation”.
St. Bernadette parishioner Davina He, 21, said that Father Radcliffe’s call for Christians to engage the secular world rather than isolate themselves from it resonated within her.
While Father Stanislaus Pang found Father Radcliffe’s views rather progressive for the Asian context, he praised the latter as “an articulate speaker in presenting our practice of the faith in relation to others” in a down-to-earth manner.
Father Timothy Radcliffe, educated in Oxford and Paris, is from the Dominican community at Blackfriars, Oxford. He spends most of his time giving talks worldwide. He has written six books including the 2005 publication “What is the point of being a Christian?”
By Darren Boon