Truemper’s Seven Principles for Ecumenical Conversation

In his article, “Introduction to the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification,” David G. Truemper lists the following as principles for ecumenical conversation.  I found them both encouraging and challenging.  If only we could see these principles embodied in actual theological and religious dialogue, perhaps a real movement toward unity or at least understanding (rather than caricature) might occur.

  1. One may disagree with and/or condemn another’s position only after one has demonstrated the ability to state the other’s position in such a way that the other agrees with that formulation.
  2. Since even very simply formulae have great power to create meaning, one must handle theological and doctrinal formulae with great care.  One must ask whether this or that formula is an essential expression of truth as we have come to understand it, or is it (merely) a way people at one time and place chose to articulate essential truth?
  3. The truth that is sought in ecumenical conversation resides beneath the surface of venerable and traditional formulae and not necessarily in the formulae per se.
  4. Language and terminology are cultural artifacts and therefore are susceptible to change; thus merely asserting an ancient or traditional formula does not necessarily assert the same thing as the formula originally intended and conveyed.
  5. Given the increasingly evident pluralism of the global village we now inhabit, spokespersons for the faith will do well to observe Luther’s advice, made in another connection, “Es gehört Bescheidenheit dazu” (modesty is required here).[1]
  6. Since God’s communication with human beings in various cultural settings and cultural circumstances must be held to be in a fundamental sense “effective,” we must conclude that there will be diverse appropriations of even central truths of the Christian faith.  Accordingly, the goal of ecumenical conversation is mutual understanding and what the Joint Declaration calls “differentiated consensus,” not uniformity of formula or of emphasis.
  7. Ecumenical conversation is a profoundly churchly action, undertaken not with the goal of defending the fortress of doctrine, but with the awareness that the gospel defends and protects the church, against whose mission not even the gates of Hades will ultimately prevail.[2]


[1] Luthers Werke, Tischreden 5, Nr 5245 (1540).

[2] David E. Aune (ed).  Rereading Paul Together:  Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification. (Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic, 2006) p. 41-42.

3 thoughts on “Truemper’s Seven Principles for Ecumenical Conversation”

  1. I will de-lurk as a long time reader of this blog to thank you for posting some of the late Truemper’s work. He was an inspiration to many at my alma mater Valparaiso University, and helped inspire many to these sorts of conversations.

  2. Hello Cynthia,

    Just checking, Is this article you refer to taken from the book “Rereading Paul Together…”? I have it on my wish-list and just wanted to know.

    BTW, I like these principles, but I have my reservations about number 4.

  3. Hi Karl,

    This is my first time to read any of Truemper’s work, and I really like this article. It’s good to know that he lived out what you find in his work.


    Yes, the article is from _Rereading Paul Together…_. I’ve enjoyed the book so far.

    Best wishes,

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