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Public Faith, A: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good Hardcover – August 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Debates rage today about the role of religion in public life. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, various religions come to inhabit the same space. But how do they live together, especially when each wants to shape the public realm according to the dictates of its own sacred texts and traditions? How does the Christian faith relate in the religious pluralism of contemporary public life?

Renowned theologian Miroslav Volf argues that there is no single way Christian faith relates to culture as a whole. He explores major issues on the frontlines of faith today, addressing questions such as:

• In what way does the Christian faith come to malfunction in the contemporary world, and how should we counter these malfunctions?
• What should a Christian's main concern be when it comes to living well in the world today?
• How should we go about realizing a vision for human flourishing in relation to other faiths and under the roof of a single state?

Covering such timely issues as witness in a multifaith society and political engagement in a pluralistic world, this compelling book highlights things Christians can do to serve the common good.

From the Back Cover

Named One of the Top 100 Books and One of the Top 10 Religion Books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly

Serving the Common Good in Public Life

"Why should Christians use the resources of their faith to speak to and to serve the common good rather than reducing the faith to a message that soothes individuals or energizes them to pursue success? And how can they do that without coercing those who are not Christians? In A Public Faith, Miroslav Volf sets for himself the daunting task of addressing these two deep and urgent questions in a way that is both widely accessible and that takes account of the scholarly literature. He succeeds on all counts. It is a wonderful guide for the perplexed in our times."
--Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology, Yale University; senior fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia

"Our efforts as people of faith to bring our religious convictions into the public arena have clearly malfunctioned in recent years. But Miroslav Volf does not want us to retreat to a 'private faith' mentality. Instead he offers profound counsel about how faith-based public advocacy can promote the common good in our increasingly pluralistic world. This important book is packed with wisdom!"
--Richard J. Mouw, president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Firmly rooted within his own tradition of Christianity, Miroslav Volf has produced an indispensable guide for voices of faith within the arena of public discourse. A Public Faith is arguably the most important book on the topic since H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture."
--Randall Balmer, professor of American religious history, Columbia University

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587432986
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587432989
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. He has published and edited nine books and over 60 scholarly articles, including his book Exclusion and Embrace, which won the 2002 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Customer Reviews

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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Tiger CK on August 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Miroslav Volf is one of the most gifted theologians in the country today. He writes in a way that is sophisticated enough to satisfy his academic colleagues yet comprehensible to most readers who are interested in reading thoughtful, serious work about religious issues. In this book, Volf addresses a controversial topic -- the role of religion in the public sphere. In particular, he talks about how people of his own faith, Christianity, should allow their religious values to influence their civic commitments.

As Volf knows, the subject that he talks about is one that naturally raises a great deal of fear and suspicion. Today Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists all fear each others' efforts to increase their influence over public life. At the same time, secularists deem all faiths irrational and are highly suspicious of the imposition of any religious values on culture, politics or society at large.

In a brilliant opening chapter, Volf talks about what he calls "religious totalitarianism," an ideology which advocates that religion dominate all aspects of public life. Although Volf uses the Islamic cleric Sayyid Qutb as an example, he argues that members of any faith can be guilty of religious totalitarianism. On the other end of the spectrum are absolute secularists who claim that religion should play no role at all in public life. Volf believes that we do not need to choose between these two unattractive alternatives. Instead, he contends that it is possible to choose a middle path that makes room for religion in general and Christianity in particular to influence but not dominate the public sphere. He makes his case by focusing on three critical questions.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Robert Cornwall on October 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The never ending question in American life concerns the role religion should play in public life. That is, in a modern, secular, democratic state that values political pluralism, can faith have a constructive role in public life? This question involves the way in which people of faith root their public life in their faith. Theologian Miroslav Volf takes up these kinds of questions in his latest book, in which he advises Christians on the perils, pitfalls, and possibilities of engaging public life from a faith perspective. To do so, however, requires that persons of faith enter the public sphere understanding the dynamics present - it is a politically pluralistic sphere - and so one must not seek to co-opt the conversation or act coercively. Neither an "idling faith," one that is private and inwardly focused, nor one that is aggressively and coercively active is an appropriate response to God's call to be present in the world.

A well known theologian teaching at Yale, and formerly on the faculty of Fuller Seminary, Volf is fresh off the publication of his important engagement with Islam (Allah, Harper One, 2011). As a Croatian Christian who grew up in the former Yugoslavia, Volf has had a front row engagement with both religious pluralism and coercive secularism. In Allah, he tries to create a theological space for engaging Islam in conversation, with a view to seeking the common good, on the basis of a common affirmation of the oneness of God. Here he takes the conversation into the broader context of religious engagement with the public sphere, arguing that there is a place for faith in public life. Indeed, if faith remains private, both faith and public spheres will be impoverished.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jdb VINE VOICE on January 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been meaning to review this book for quite some time now, but it took longer to read it than I thought it would. At just over one hundred fifty pages (not counting the notes section), it is not that long of a read. The point of it taking me longer to read than anticipated was my feeling "over my head" quite often. There are over two-hundred references noted in the book and most of them unknown or unread by me. It was necessary for me to put the book down on more than a few occasions to reflect and research on what I had read. I must say it was worth my time and worth every minute of my effort. I appreciate the challenge the book was for me to read and I appreciate the challenge to me personally with the call to exercise and integrate my faith in ways and in places I might not have been so eager to enter previous to reading Volf's thesis in A Public Faith.

Volf relates the sum of the premise for this volume in his introduction stating; "My contention in this book is that there is no single way in which Christian faith relates and ought to relate to culture as a whole. The relation between faith and culture is too complex for that. Faith stands in opposition to some elements of culture and is detached from others. In some aspects faith is identical with elements of culture, and it seeks to transform in diverse ways yet many more. Moreover, faith's stance toward culture changes over time as culture changes. How, then, is the stance of faith toward culture defined? It is--or it ought to be--defined by the center of the faith itself, by its relation to Christ as the divine Word incarnate in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." It is with this contention that Volf seeks to explore three questions he poses within the pages of A Public Faith.
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