Ross Emmett's Reviews > A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good

A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf
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Jun 11, 12

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bookshelves: religion-and-society, christian-writings
Read from April 28 to June 11, 2012

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 says:

a) Christians will not be able to transform the whole culture of which they are a part because they cannot get "outside" of the culture which raised them; however,
b) Christians should not simply accommodate themselves to the surrounding culture; they have a unique identity to embrace and celebrate; and
c) therefore, Christians must engage their society as prophets of what human flourishing can look like.

I concur, but can't help leaving Volf's book with commenting on his almost total disregard for political economy. Like most social ethicists (yes, this is a broad claim, but my long experience of reading this literature would make the claim defendable), he is not sure what to make of our participation in the economic realm and in defense/criticism of the features of society which encourage human flourishing. For him, it all seems to happen in local communities. Perhaps, but more is required!

Two aspects of the book which do touch on economic subjects are the section on vocation and work (pp. 32-36) and the section on creation (pp. 43-46). The former is the only section which explicitly incorporates the relevance of his ideas for economic life, and it is pretty consistent with standard treatments of vocation and personal responsibility. The latter section is written in the context of a discussion of the use of violence, but includes the striking sentence: "Creation, then, is not a coercive act" (p. 45). Here is a central piece for a theology of innovation. Innovation, which emerges from our co-creation with God (he treats co-creation in this same section), is not a process which gives some power over others, but which creates possibilities for new ways for humans to flourish. I wish he had done more with the theme of creation in the book.
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message 1: by Don (new)

Don Bryant Tell me what you think about this book when you are ready. Would love to have your input.


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