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A Theology of Public Life (Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine) [Paperback]

Charles T. Mathewes
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

October 14, 2008 0521539900 978-0521539906 1
What has Washington to do with Jerusalem? In the raging debates about the relationship between religion and politics, no one has explored the religious benefits and challenges of public engagement for Christian believers - until now. This book defends and details Christian believers' engagement in contemporary pluralistic public life not from the perspective of some neutral 'public', but from the particular perspective of Christian faith, arguing that such engagement enriches both public life and Christian citizens' faith themselves. As such it offers not a 'public theology', but a 'theology of public life', analysing the promise and perils of Christian public engagement, discussing the nature of civic commitment and prophetic critique, and the relation of a loving faith to a liberal politics of justice. Theologically rich, philosophically rigorous, politically, historically and sociologically informed, this book advances contemporary discussion of 'religion and public life' in fundamental ways.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I am in awe of this book ... On so many levels, it is a delight."--Ian S. Markham, Virginia Theological Seminary

"Theologians as well as clergy and lay people (who should find this book quite accessible, if still academic) who heed Mathewes's advice would certainly prove welcome additions to our civic conversation, secular or not." --Anglican Theological Review

"...a joy to read." --The Christian Century

"Mathewes' project is a worthwhile contribution... The book is also noteworthy as an updated, sophisticated Niebuhrianism for post-modern, post-secular, post-political age." --Modern Theology

"Just a few times in each generation a Christian thinker of dazzling talent emerges. Charles Mathewes is one such person. With A Theology of Public Life, Mathewes has solidified his status as one of the most profound thinkers in the Christian world. Mathewes pulls out all the stops. His erudition is stunning, the range of his research extraordinary, his vocabulary demanding." --Journal of Church and State

Book Description

In the raging debates about the relationship between religion and politics, no one has explored the religious benefits and challenges of public engagement for Christian believers - until now. Theologically rich, philosophically rigorous, politically, historically and sociologically informed, this book advances contemporary discussions of 'religion and public life' in fundamental ways.

Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine (Book 17)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521539900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521539906
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,170,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Mathewes is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He spent much of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, and was educated at Georgetown University and the University of Chicago.

He works mostly in theology and ethics, with some attention to religion, politics, society, and culture as well. In 2003 at the age of 34 he was appointed Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the flagship journal in the field of religious studies, and is the youngest editor ever of that journal, where his tenure ended in 2010.  He is also Associate Editor of the forthcoming third edition of the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics, and currently serves on the House of Bishops Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church.

He lives with his family outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Charles Mathewes is Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, USA.

This book aims to answer the question: `What has Washington to do with Jerusalem?' It seeks to broaden the conversation from a `public theology' to a `theology of public life'. Mathewes describes this as a picture of how Christian life should be lived in public engagement.

Inspired by Augustine, Mathewes considers the balance of commitment to both God and the world. In Part II of the book he examines the civic and political order and urges Christians to engage on this stage. He argues that there is a symbiotic interaction between faith and civic engagement. Mathewes concludes with an eschatological reflection.

Webb has described this book as extremely important. He describes it as `cover(ing) a remarkable range of theological and philosophical issues while tossing out smart, pointed insights on nearly every page' (Webb 2008, p. 422). He points out that Augustine is usually overlooked in relation to public theology and that an optimistic and hopeful view of politics can be seen through Mathewes' writing that draws on Augustine insights (Webb 2008, p. 422).

Elgendy emphasises Mathewes' rejection of cynicism and despair. He sees Mathewes' brand of civic engagement to be `unafraid to be Christian, humbly and charitably, in public - in confessing the sins of the church, in accommodating others in charity, in humbly representing the kingdom of God, and so on' (Elgendy 2008, p.826).

Personally, I found this recent book to be highly relevant in a global geo-political context that is coming to terms with the theological aspects of both diplomacy and war.
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