Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has composed a message to the Christian community replete with intellectual light and heartfelt warmth, and it is a great honor to be asked to respond to him. I would like to focus on three topics: creative minorities, universalism, and Christianity in a post-Constantinian age.
First, then, creative minorities. Sacks identifies three forms of creativity in Judaism that have greatly influenced humanity over time. Lets call these the creativity of internal renewal, cultural mediation, and the construction of the modern mind. It would not be difficult to transpose each of these themes into a Christian key.
Internal renewal. The examples given were Torah education and Talmud. Without a clear identity, you have nothing to give others. To some observers, Christian philosophy and theology in the past fifty years seem a bit dispersed, and driven by trends. Theology must be, above all, scriptural. Does any formation in Christian interpretation of Scripture and intellectual life have an equivalent to the study of the Talmud? Where do we find sound references in an age of uncertainty? (A Dominican Thomist might ask this question in as innocent a voice as possible.) Not in writing dissertations about Giorgio Agamben. Christians must have the courage to acquire solid speculative theological formation. This formation is inherently related to a concrete way of life, a commitment to regular prayer, moral discipline, and a culture of learning.