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Roshnee Ossewaarde-Lowtoo

Abstract

The works of Reinhold Niebuhr contain invaluable examples of how Christian resources can be fruitfully exploited to address urgent economic and political issues. The ideas of sin and continuous redemption, which arguably belong to the core of the Christian faith, are creatively translated by Niebuhr, so that they can be included in public debates and interdisciplinary dialogues. In this article, his conception of sin as the perversion of the will-to-live into the will-to-power is endorsed. Its counterforce, it is argued, is human love infused with divine love. Love is, therefore, not a simple possibility, which can be applied to our economic and political problems. Instead, it is the impossible possibility, the ultimate and critical perspective from which prevailing forms of justice and philanthropy are judged. Through the public theology of Niebuhr, the ideal of love becomes a universally valid alternative to the rationalist and naturalist approaches to human morality.

Derek McDougall

Abstract

The key task for Christian public theology is to determine the most effective way in which theological insights can contribute to the public good within any given polity and beyond. In the past the assumption has been that this task is undertaken in a secular political environment. After examining different ways in which such an environment might be understood, this article examines the approaches of Stanley Hauerwas, Rowan Williams and Oliver O’Donovan to Christian political engagement. These approaches are characterized as separatist, pluralist and sympathetic to Christendom. Subsequently there is a shift in focus to consider how relevant these approaches are to the emerging post-secular and pluralist environment in the western world. While there is a range of approaches as to how to pursue the public good in this context, I argue that Hauerwas, Williams and O’Donovan remain relevant, contributing to the task of public theology in various ways.

Samuel Lee

Abstract

Contemporary missions, regardless of the sending country, often include socio-economic dimensions. One application of the socio-economic aspect is Entrepreneurial Church Planting which uses business entrepreneurs and clergy members to launch spiritually and economically integrated communities of faith. In a world that measures success economically, how should be success being measured in such endeavours? For too long in the history of the Christian faith, financial stewardship or the number of conversions has sufficed. Increased economic pressures have led to the need not only to be governed by the quantifiable elements of reconciliation or financial flourishing, but also to evaluate outcomes of transformation—and thus to be accountable. This article explores these issues through a case study of the Blue Jean Church in partnership with Arsenal Place Accelerator and the Children’s Policy Council in Selma, Alabama. It represents a form of a congregationally-based practical public theology.

Richard Brash

Abstract

The theologian John Webster (d. 2016) is sometimes criticized for having little to say about politics. This article seeks to demonstrate how Webster furnishes a set of conceptual resources that provide the theological and anthropological bases for a Christian public theology, as well as the rationale for the sort of moral reasoning that will give involvement in politics its appropriate shape and content. Webster understands humanity theologically, as creatures of God. The consequence of this position means we must appreciate the (protological and eschatological) givenness of our situation, rejecting the possibility of secular space, and accepting our teleologically-oriented vocation. Webster’s theological anthropology constitutes an indirect challenge, and a clear—and ultimately more compelling—alternative to the political liberalism proposed by John Rawls.

Patrik Hagman and Liisa Mendelin

Abstract

This article explores the connections between political activism and Christian asceticism. It does so through a discussion with recent political theologies and historical research into (early) Christian asceticism. Two present-day cases, the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Buy Nothing Year, are used to demonstrate similarities and potential for fruitful engagement between the two traditions. It is suggested that asceticism needs to be understood in a fuller range, incorporating introspective, imaginative and institutional aspects in order to make visible the potential for a dialogue between the Christian ascetic tradition and present-day political activism. The article thus contributes to the discussion concerning asceticism in the Christian tradition, developing public theology as a bodily practice and to a theological understanding of political activism.

Joseph Drexler-Dreis

Abstract

This essay develops a response to the historical situation of the North Atlantic world in general and the United States in particular through theological reflection. It offers an overview of some decolonial perspectives with which theologians can engage, and argues for a general perspective for a decolonial theology as a possible response to modern/colonial structures and relations of power, particularly in the United States. Decolonial theory holds together a set of critical perspectives that seek the end of the modern/colonial world-system and not merely a democratization of its benefits. A decolonial theology, it is argued, critiques how the confinement of knowledge to European traditions has closed possibilities for understanding historical encounters with divinity, and thus possibilities of critical reflection. A decolonial theology reflects critically on a historical situation in light of faith in a divine reality, the understanding of which is liberated from the monopoly of modern/colonial ways of knowing, in order to catalyze social transformation.

Laura Rediehs

Abstract

Quakerism emerged in the seventeenth century, during a time when philosophical debates about the nature of knowledge led to the emergence of modern science. The Quakers, in some conversation with early modern philosophers, developed a distinctive epistemology rooted in their concept of the Light Within, which functioned as a special internal sense giving access to divine insight. The Light Within provided illumination both to properly understand the Bible and to ‘read’ the Book of Nature. This epistemology can be thought of as an expanded experiential empiricism that integrates our ethical and religious knowledge with our scientific knowledge. This epistemology has carried through in Quaker thought to the present day and can be helpful in the context of today’s epistemological crisis.