Public Faith in Action is a further exploration that follows a book published in 2011 titled A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good. In that book Volf spoke to how Christians might pursue the common good while respecting the pluralistic context in which they operate. In Public Faith in Action, Volf and co-author Ryan McAnnally-Linz offer their insight into how we can take on important issues in public with integrity.
Volf is a professor of theology at Yale and a well-regarded author, who was a student of Jürgen Moltmann. McAnnally was Volf’s Ph.D. student at Yale and is now an associate research fellow at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.
Volf writes that Christians need to be engaged in the world, he urges pursuing the common good with integrity.
Many talk about separation of church and state, but they do not understand what it means, or its history. It means that the state has not and cannot establish any particular religion. It also means there is no religious test to hold office, either.
These principles are at the core of the Australian political system. But, this doesn’t mean, that people of faith cannot bring that faith into the public realm. Assuming that one’s faith is meaningful, then it will guide our actions in the public square. It will influence our thinking about matters of great importance, hopefully offering wisdom, and providing a foundation for voting and acting in public with integrity.
Australian author Roy Williams in his recent volume Post-God Nation? carefully draws together a range of threads to demonstrate how people of faith have had a major role in the shaping of Australia and its institutions. He suggests that many historians have overlooked the faith component as a key driver for many who brought change in our nations history.
In Public Faith in Action, the authors elaborate on the call to pursue the common good within the context of a pluralistic world; it is a toolkit for faith based activism. To speak of the public is to speak of that part of human life “that involves issues and institutions concerning the good of all, the common good” (p. x). When we speak of the public domain, engagement and discourse we’re speaking about the context in which we all live.
The authors want to help us be more intentional about engaging in a “responsible shaping of our common life and common world” (p. x). We may want to withdraw from public life, but as they remind us, even that is a public act. They write: If today you decided to give up on “politics” —to stop voting, to quit reading the headlines, to studiously avoid conversations about taxes and health care, to hunker down and just go about your business as best you could—you wouldn’t be entirely escaping from public life, a limited, largely passive, and likely irresponsible public life, but a public life nonetheless (p. xi)
They urge for a more responsible, more intentional, more active engagement with the public realm. The reader is encouraged to consider how to be involved in public life in a way that recognizes our diversity, including religious diversity, while at the same time being true to our Christian commitment to follow Jesus.
This is another timely and important book. It is especially true if you believe that it is incumbent upon us as Christians to contribute to the common good. To remain silent in the face of injustice is to let injustice rule. We may live in a society that some claim is post-Christian. But we do live in communities that need for us to be present. The question is, how should we do this with integrity? Thinking Christians who read it will consider living in public pursuing the common good.