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Public Reason and Public Theology: How the Church Should Interfere

Bradley Pace

Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple wrote that the Christian is in the awkward position of being a member of two societies, the church and the state, and that this dual citizenship creates problems. On the one hand, the Christian faith is a divine revelation that takes precedence over all other concerns. On the other hand, religious faith is often seen as purely personal and irrelevant to public, political, or social issues. This paper gives some reflections on the public nature of theology and its connection to Christian mission. The position taken here runs against the grain of traditional, liberal political theory for which social and political reasons must be public. This kind of liberalism fails to make sense of the strength of the Christian claim to public truth, which reaches both the private lives of Christians and the public and relational aspects of all human beings. However, the case for a public Christian theology must be made without hubris, maintaining space for a plurality of divergent religious and moral worldviews. On this view, the church is a gadfly that challenges the prevailing political and social principles at work in the world.

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