The cultural persistence and political salience of the ‘un/deserving poor’ – the moral categorization of people in poverty – rests, inter alia, on the use of Christianity to construct a class-inflected position from which to judge or categorize the lives of others. Interpretation of the claim that the poor are ‘always with you’ (Matthew 26:11) plays a role in this process of asymmetrical moralization, specifically through the framing of ‘the poor’ as a class with divinely-mandated functions and virtues. To develop theological challenges to asymmetrical moralization, I examine patterns in contemporary and historical interpretation of the gospel accounts of the woman who anoints Jesus (the wider context of the claim that the poor are ‘always with you’). I propose that, while many interpreters attempt to use these texts to establish a position from which to judge both the woman and ‘the poor’, they can be reread in a way that undermines that construction.
This article investigates Schleiermacher’s ethics in relation to two important questions in public theology: how should a Christian negotiate their religious and civic identities in between church and state and how should this relationship direct Christian life and action? In his Philosophical Ethics, the spheres of the state and church carry distinct roles and responsibilities toward attaining the highest good. In his Christian Ethics, the conception of broadening action in the outer sphere prescribes how Christians ought to expand the reign of God. Integrating insights from both sources shows Schleiermacher’s commitment to the church as the central medium of communication for expanding the redemptive work of Christ through a collective embodiment of God-consciousness. This work can come alongside the state’s work for national unity but it is never beholden to it because Christians are ultimately called to a greater mission to expand God’s reign in all spheres of human community.
The common good is a surprisingly elusive concept. While we may reasonably assume it to describe a life of shared purpose and solidarity in ordered, just, and equitable community, there is, unsurprisingly, no one agreed description of the shape and structure of such a life – which is why those who write about the common good often prioritize the quality of the conversation over the substance of the vision. This article holds the notion of the common good, for all its imprecision, to be nonetheless importantly, and demonstrably, more than the sum of its variously described parts. It explores some historical and contemporary understandings of the common good before proposing an holistic and essentially Christological approach, rooted in a responsible and participatory account of being drawn principally from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology.
The disruption wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic has been the greatest global upheaval since the Second World War. All sectors have been forced to recalibrate their practices, including churches. Although practical concerns around worship, pastoral care, and missional activities have required extensive thought, considered theological reflection is also called for. In a context often resistant to change, theologically informed adaptation is critical, countering the temptation to prioritise mere functionality. In the past, the best Christian responses to pandemics have discerned them as ‘vocational moments’, kairos times where the faith’s longstanding theological commitments were brought to bear in faithful practice. This article promotes a ‘gentle witness’ as one possible way the church might construe a response. As the prevailing mood is one of fear, isolation, loneliness, separation, a witness that comes alongside in loving presence, lament, solidarity, and care for Jesus’ sake, incorporating a public face, commends itself as an appropriate ‘way’ for a public-facing church.
This article examines the contribution of Jesus as an innovator to a public world in need of change. Jesus, as the fulfilment of God, is interpreted using the insights of Josef Schumpeter who argued for innovation as social change through creative recombination. The potential of recombination is located in the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible and then in Pauline literature, with ministry in 1 Corinthians portrayed as serving, gardening, building, resourcing, risking and parenting. These six practices are theorized as recombinations in which Paul seeks social change. Recombination is further tested through analysis of Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator. An illustrative example, of an innovative Christian response to food insecurity, is provided to demonstrate a recombination that is socially (ir)responsible in challenging existing practices of consumption. Hence innovation is sourced in Jesus, as One who empowers socially (ir)responsible public formations that bear witness to God’s wisdom.
This article brings together Christian theology, creative literature and history in the current spirit of interdisciplinary scholarship. It endeavours to unveil, in the first place, the image painted of Nigeria as a post-colonial entity in the novel, Purple Hibiscus, by the award-winning writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Through the events, characters and realities employed by her in painting the above-mentioned image of Nigeria, it is evident that the historical period captured is most likely located in the military regimes of Ibrahim Babangida (1985–93) and Sani Abacha (1993–98). The article then considers the role that the Catholic Church in Nigeria, especially its hierarchy, played during the period and what that performance of such has to say to the same church leaders in Nigeria, today. These reflections stand inside the emerging tradition of a public theology in Nigeria.