How does globalization aff ect the lives of older people? Developments in demography show that the world population is rapidly getting older, and not only in affluent societies. Politically, economically, socially and culturally, the elderly are in a vulnerable position. Is a global ethical response possible? Christian theology should actively support the human rights discourse that pleads for non-discrimination of the elderly in society. Yet, a human rights ethic is unable to account for the stages of life and the specific role of the elderly within communities; these are highlighted within more communitarian approaches. Communitarianism however, has its limitations as well. A global ethic of ageing should not fix the elderly within closed traditions and communities; rather, it requires openness towards other cultures and ways of life. 'Dialogical contextualism' should be the method, and its main question should be: can people globally learn from one another about how to live in dignity into old age? is article concludes with some European refl ections on the dignity of older persons, in which a hermeneutic of the concept of human dignity and empirical findings are brought together. The results may function as an impulse for further intercultural conversation on a global scale.
In the current Dutch public debate on the public role of religion, three political options are defended: secularism, pacified pluralism and social cohesionism. They correspond to three types of ecclesiology: the church as witness, the church as a platform of moral deliberation and the church as a community of moral formation. In the document ‘The Church and the Democratic Constitutional State’ (2009) the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PCN) set out its vision on its own public role. The church is presented as ‘prophet at the round table’; a combination of the first two types of ecclesiology. It results in a ‘polder-ecclesiology’, fully understandable within the Dutch context of a radically secularized, democratic constitutional state, but probably inadequate as a response to its reigning political, ethnic and social instability.
In this article the author develops four essential methodological guidelines, discovered while engaged as a European public theologian in the debate on ageing. They might be exemplary for public theologians working in other spheres of the public domain as well. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christological understanding of reality functions as a leading intuition. A public theologian (1) finds her- or himself involved and already situated in discursive practices; (2) critically and constructively contributes to the development of ‘social imaginaries’; (3) is an expert in her or his field; and (4) looks for allies and gladly cooperates with them.
The modern life course is described as a 'choice biography.' Rationality and control, and life planning and self-management are central notions. Instead of rejecting the notion categorically, this article opts for a more balanced approach. The Protestant tradition shares central characteristics with choice biography, as Calvin, Edwards, and Bunyan show. However, there are dissimilarities as well. Fundamental in 'choice biography' is its lack of transcendence. Modern individualism threatens to collapse into one-dimensional secularism and egoism. In retrieving Kierkegaard's legacy, the notion 'choice biography' might undergo a critical re-appraisal. In his philosophy, we find both the absolute value of the individual's choices, and a plea for transcendence.