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A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good
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A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  230 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Debates rage today about the role of religions 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 ...more
Hardcover, 174 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Brazos Press
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Miroslav Volf believes it is possible to be unapologetically Christian, or otherwise religious, in a pluralistic world without resorting to violence or, alternatively, isolating yourself into a cultural ghetto. He argues that Christians can choose a third way of seeking the public good while remaining faithful to the core values of their faith--the dignity of humans in the image of God, the servant way of Christ, the care of creation. Along the way, Volf also discusses why believing people have ...more
Alex Stroshine
Miroslav Volf's "A Public Faith" is an excellent declaration of how Christians can engage with the rest of society in an increasingly pluralistic world. Volf discusses many of the contentions people have with religion such as the tragic history of religious violence that has left millions dead. In answer to this, Volf suggests that "more religion" is needed in order to guard against "malfunctions" of religion (e.g. some will use only certain tenets to support their aggression without also holdin ...more
Really helpful account of how Christian faith can find authentic expression in our multicultural world.
This book was an excellent introduction and defense of the idea that Christians and all the major religions should be committed to the project of plurality in a truly liberal democratic society. This idea runs counter to the prevailing religious and secular views. Volf presents a convincing case for the idea that secularism itself operates as a religious system, and has become illiberal in our religiously pluralistic culture. He presents a convincing case that neither secularism nor any religion ...more
Dayo Adewoye
In a globalized world where traditional geographical and cultural boundaries are being broken down and people and ideas freely travel across the globe, how can the collision of faiths be kept peaceful? How can society eliminate the threat of imposition (i.e., that the principles of a particular faith would not be foisted on the rest, as the agenda of radical Islamists is)? Specifically, how should the Christian community respond to this trend?

This is what this book seeks to address. It is writte
Miroslav Volf's slim volume charts a course for people of faith -- Christians, in particular -- in the public square. Increasingly, popular opinion would prefer that citizens leave their religion at home and feels irritated or threatened when they won't. The book does not aim to outline a full-blown theology of public engagement but has a more modest goal: to propose a negotiated way of life that avoids the poles of withdrawal and triumphalism. According to Volf, promoting common good through a ...more
This isn't a particularly long book, but does raise some interesting questions about how Christians (or religious people? I never could quite understand whether he was suggesting a normative framework for Christians or all religious people.). In sum, though, he lays the groundwork for what faith ought to look like in a pluralistic environment. There were two quotes that I found particularly insightful regarding the tension between religion and the modern world. The first, regarding secularism:
Miroslav Volf thinks about and teaches deep things. But they're all rooted in his understanding of God's graciousness, generosity, and gifts. That understanding is applied to the public sphere and our multicultural (multireligious) world. Volf makes a strong argument for recognizing and honoring the diversity of religions and their perspectives, while not necessarily giving up one's own deeply rooted way of being in the world. He's speaking to a non-violent pluralist way of faithing as integral ...more
Ross Emmett
Volf provides a tour of Christian social ethics that walks a middle path among the various schools of thought. While brief and written in a plain, almost casual style, there is much here to mull over. His basic message is captured in the "Two Noes and One Yes" section on pp. 93-97. After arguing that the way Christians confront society is via their personal difference from the mainstream of society (the Christian is always different than a culture without being completely separate from it), he s ...more
Robert D. Cornwall
Miroslav Volf's latest book A Public Faith is a necessary read for Christians wishing to be present in public. Volf speaks to Christians, encouraging them to be present in public, serving the common good. There are, he says two poles to avoid, a private, idling faith, that is focused on what happens inside the person or the religious edifice, and one that is coercive -- seeking to impose its vision on the broader public. As to the latter he uses the figure of Sayyid Gutb, whose philosophy underg ...more
Mu-tien Chiou
Volf dissects the dysfunctions of faith in its public application by its problematics in the ascension on the one hand and of return on the other.

Ascent malfunction can be easily understood as the lack of real connection with God (yet the believer or the church leader pretend to have done so). But Volf is ambivalent about the deeper causes of what he calls the “functional reduction [of the divine]” in this situation (he did allude to a lack of faith, misappropriated religious symbols, and even
Needed contribution from a careful thinker on the interplay of faith's relationship to culture.

Much of the literature on this topic is overdrawn and lacks nuance. Not so with Volf. He refuses to be pinned down by any of Niebuhr's categories of Christ and Culture. (In fact Volf's lack of reference at all to such formal categories is a dismissal of such a rubric.) He refuses to be carried away either by the Eeyore-like pessimism of the isolationists or the pollyanish optimism of the transformati
Tim Hoiland
The role of faith in the public square is a theme I’ve been considering a lot lately, thinking about the need for civility in place of the contentious rancor so prevalent on both sides of the aisle, even (or especially) in Christian circles. And not only civility as a sort of quiet, passive alternative to culture wars, but somehow redirecting those energies into something a little more worthwhile, like a commitment to humble service — not seeking just our own self-interest, but instead working t ...more

Volf uses a fairly straightforward taxonomy of religious practice to argue for a pro-active Christianity in the world. He distinguishes between "mystic" religions (that seek only to attain to a transcendent moment) and "prophetic" ones (which attain that . . . and then let it shape how they engage the world), and shifts from there to an articulation of why the church needs to offer its wisdom back into the world.

It's straightforward and sensible argument, and I think it will appeal mostly to pas
Bob Price
Miroslav Volf's A Public Faith ought to be mandatory reading for any Christian who wants to speak about politics in a halfway intelligent way.

Volf, a Professor of Political Theology at Yale, is an extremely intelligent man and has a great deal of insight into religion, theology and politics. One does not need to agree with him in order to understand that he has a great deal to say. If he and I were to sit down and have coffee, I imagine that most of the time would be spent in disagreement...but
Nancy Peifer
Excellent and thought-provoking book on being a Christian in public in our current cultural climate where it is not acceptable to have a belief in a religion that claims to be the one true way. This book is intellectually challenging; sets Christianity (uncomfortably) alongside Islam in terms of both faiths seeing themselves as the one true way; forces readers who are serious Christians to acknowledge the poor track record Christians have in evangelising in a way that "loves your neighbor as you ...more
Volf goes after the idea that the experience of pleasure is life's meaning to human flourishing, and how religion offers better answers. I liked his approach to meaning in life, and his approach with all religions. I don't care to much for the politics at the end, but that's because I hate politics. He discusses malfunctions of faith and how particularly Christian would do better.
Miroslav Volf lays out an excellent presentation on how we can bring our faith into public and politics while still respecting the faith/beliefs of others. It is a sound and reasonable outline. Those who are sound and reasonable are probably already engaging in public and political discussion in these ways. Those who are not, likely will not. Instead, they will attempt to use a majority or misuse a minority to force and coerce their will and beliefs on the populace. Volf certainly realizes this ...more
Justin Zalesny
Not life changing but definitely thought provoking. This book is a reasonable defense of civility and charity toward people who are religiously different.
Dennis Henn
I did lots of underlining in the first couple of chapters and much less toward the end as he worked out his thesis in practice. With the emergence of Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, and Sarah Palin, with the ongoing legacy of Reed's Christian Coalition, Dobson's Focus on the Family and Pat Robertson, with 9/11 and the spread of militant Islam, I wondered what space a public faith could rightly occupy. Volf creates that space and challenges those who say religion should be privately held, that deci ...more
Danny Yang
"One way to make my point would be to say that accommodation happens whether you intend it or not; it is a given. Difference, as I understand it here, is an achievement, a conscious exercise in defining one's identity around the center of faith in dynamic give-and-take with surrounding cultures by practicing the love of God and love of neighbor. The positive result of both de facto accommodation and conscious drawing of permeable boundaries is inculturation—an expression of the Christian faith i ...more
Paul Heidebrecht
Volf at his best. He wants to make Christian communities more comfortable with being just one of many players in a pluralist societies. That means being hospitable to other religious voices as well as secular ones, not backing off on our own convictions but respecting other points of view and looking for common ground when there are disputes. He calls it learning to share religious wisdom well. This man should be our teacher.
A crisply reasoned book which demonstrates some very deep thinking on the part of Volf. The book is philosophical rather than applied but provides a clear overarching framework for integrating Christian faith into public life. Volf addresses objections and pitfalls in doing this and shows how when properly understood and applied Christianity offers a multi-level vision for human flourishing to society.
Chris Comis
American Muslims are really good guys because they are much more democratic (and American) in their beliefs than their crazy kin over in Afghanistan. "Serving the common good" for Volf basically means make Christ subservient to the gods of the common good. This book was pretty much an argument for political polytheism and polytheistic pluralism wrapped in a Christian cover.
Melissa Stebbins
Lots to think about, he argues that the remedy to the worst public misfires of faith is not less religion as the secularists would argue, but in the case of Christianity, a fuller and deeper practice and understanding of the faith in its' thickest sense. Calls to exclude religion from the public sphere are in effect calls to privilege one worldview.
Luke Evans
Mildly disappointing but still helpful in many places. Chapters 1-3, and 7 were best. Chapters 4 and 6 were weak.

Some smarmy liberal comments here. I like Volf but he can't get away from his previous book, Allah, in this one.

Generally agree with his take on culture; but prefer Hunter.
Excellent book for near anyone. In this post-Christian culture Volf teaches the reader valuable lessons on how to effectively engage with the culture on theological, ethical, and moral issues without entering into useless conflict.
Anthony Rodriguez

Volf makes compelling statements about the Christian aims for the world we live in. I had lots of underlining and was both challenged and encouraged by this book. Good, thoughtful read.
Bo White

The first chapter alone was helpful, but this is a good series of reflections by someone who cares for and appreciates America, but retains an international and outside perspective.
Dion Forster
A wonderful reflection on the theological and existential significance of work. I used it for a lecture that I am giving as part of the University of Stellenbosch Winter school.
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Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and the founding director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. “One of the most celebrated theologians of our time,” (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury), Volf is a leading expert on religion and conflict. His recent books include Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities, ...more
More about Miroslav Volf...
Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace Allah: A Christian Response The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity

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“To live with integrity, it is important to know what's right and what's wrong, to be educated morally. However, merely KNOWING is not enough. Virtuous character matters more than moral knowledge. The reason is simple: like the self-confessing apostle Paul in Romans 7, most of those who do wrong know what's right but find themselves irresistibly attracted to its opposite. Faith idles when character shrivels” 5 likes
“In his early text, somewhat cumbersomely titled 'Towards a Critique of Hegel's PHILOSOPHY OF RIGHT,' the young Karl Marx famously noted that religion - the Christian faith, he meant primarily - is 'the opiate of the people.' It's a drug, and it's a 'downer' or 'depressant' insulating people from the pain of oppressive social realities and consoling them with a dream world of heavenly bliss. Alternatively, religion can function as an 'upper,' a 'stimulant' energizing people for the tasks at hand - a function of religion Marx failed to grasp.” 1 likes
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