Dialogos cannot be made happen nor can I just wait for it to appear in some magical way.
Dialogos appears where there is dialectic. Dialectic classically is the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions.
And while we investigate or discuss the truth of opinions in an engaged and open manner, dialogos might come to us.
Dia means through, and logos is a word with many meanings.
A banal, yet correct translation of dialogos, drawing from those meanings of logos, might be through words, but dialogos goes so much deeper. One way of expressing it could be: when the divine expression shines through. Another: when everything falls in its place and makes sense.
There can be inner dialogos, when through intuitiveness, imagination or reason things just fall in place for us. This often is explained as the work of the Holy Spirit in us, which I find to be a wonderful description of divine expression shining through, that is, dialogos.
And there is dialogos between people. Jesus says that where there are two or three people gathered in his name or function, he is in their midst. It is in this in-betweenness that dialogos happens as well: things fall into place when the divine expression shines through.
One historical example are the early churches. They never looked for great leaders or to overthrow the government. They built those small house churches that practiced dialectic and invited dialogos.
And they changed the world. Not by might nor by power but through his spirit.
Today, the church engages in apologetics. It is the art of proving that I am right. There is no investigation nor does it allow for different opinions. Thus, there will be no dialogos.
Apologetics only knows winning and losing. Either you win somebody over, and that somebody loses the battle. Until somebody comes up with more convincing arguments. Or, if both just leave with the same opinion that they had from the beginning, which is usually the case, a great opportunity is lost. It’s all vanity.
Another tool we use is preaching. Preaching does not allow for investigating the truth of opinions, it is mere broadcasting of one opinion. Granted, when I hear a great idea, I might be intrigued and it might lead to an inner dialogos. But don’t you think that this is rather rare?
It is more common that people in church might just react to what is said by taking on the preacher’s opinion or rebelling against it. Or they might not react and forget in minutes what was said. This is certainly true for ex-cathedra teaching. Granted, we trust that the Holy Spirit does his work. Thus, we do not have to changed and keep on using suboptimal tools.
Do you think that it is by coincidence that we have chosen the word dialogos as the descriptor of a discussion between two people? We have narrowed down its meaning, but clearly identified the main fertile ground for dialogos to happen: in the dialog between people.
Interestingly enough, we have a similar sounding word in diabolos. It literally means “through the fall”. Everything that came to us through the fall therefore is diabolic, but what comes to us through divine expression, that is dialogos, is the remedy.
I would propose that proving that I am right comes through the fall. Teaching the other is suboptimal as it might lead to some internal dialogos, but usually is done from a position of “I am right”. Why are we not engaging in dialectic in the classical sense, a dialog that investigates truth in opinions, and allow for dialogos?
By assigning this to the work of the Holy Spirit, we are in danger of diminishing our own role. We say that we are not worthy and mere vessels. Limiting ourselves to that, we might fall into one of two traps:
One, we limit our own contribution to denying ourselves, maybe thinking that our whole job is to life a holy life to be worthy of being a vessel.
Or we believe that what we believe must be true because it is worked in us by the Holy Spirit and he does not err.
So at the same time, we diminish our self-worth and become narcissistic.
The way out of this?
I believe that it’s in dialogos. Us coming humbly to investigate and discuss the truth of opinions, inviting a dialog with others and God himself.
It’s in forming true community. To investigate and discuss the truth of opinions does not know taboo topics and builds on mutual trust, not fear to lose one’s belonging.
It’s the death of having to be right.