Doing Theology in a Straitened Public Square

in International Journal of Public Theology
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A public theologian will have two questions constantly in mind: Where is the public square with which I am expected to engage? And, what are its terms of engagement? Both questions necessarily involve examining the nature and role of the media as it touches upon the given context, and it is the intention in this article to reflect upon the challenges and opportunities of undertaking public theology in an environment where, (a) significant sections of the mass media accord very low priority to serious discussion of current issues and (b) voices offering a ‘faith’ perspective, or seeking even to draw upon the language of conviction or moral value, are at worst unwelcome and at best misunderstood. What does it look like to do public theology in a ‘straitened’ public square? What challenges are presented and how might they be met?

Doing Theology in a Straitened Public Square

in International Journal of Public Theology




See for exampleChristianity and Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1995) and ‘Democracy’ in Adrian Hastings ed The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000) pp. 157–9.


John RawlsCollected Papers (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press1999) pp. 579–80; cited in Sen The Idea of Justice p. 324.


Ibid. pp. 40–1.


Gordon McLauchlanThe Passionless People Revisited: New Zealanders in the 21st Century (Auckland: David Bateman2012) p. 22.


See for example Diana Wichtel‘Our anti-intellectualism a no-brainer’New Zealand Herald11 October 2003; Keith Rankin ‘On the Role of “Intellectuals” as an Academic Sub-Species’ Scoop 24 February 2012 <> [accessed 29 May 2014]; Simmons ed. Speaking Truth to Power passim.


Wikipedia‘Television New Zealand’<> [accessed 27 May 2014].


Rowan WilliamsFaith in the Public Square (London: Bloomsbury2012) chapter 2 ‘Secularism faith and freedom’; cf. John Stenhouse ‘Secular New Zealand or God’s Own Country?’ in Bruce Patrick ed. new vision New Zealand Volumeiii 2008 (Auckland: Tabernacle Books 2008) pp. 79–92 which argues that the ‘secular New Zealand thesis’ obtained broad currency during the mid-late 20th century with university-educated academic political and media elites.


Jonathan ChaplinTalking God: The Legitimacy of Religious Public Reasoning (London: Theos2008) p. 51.

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