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A Public Faith

June 19th, 2012by Dan Thomas

Recently, I came across a book entitled A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good” by Miroslav Volf of the Yale Divinity School. There was much I liked about the book, but there were two ideas I found especially attractive.

The first was how important it is for Christians who speak publicly about issues relevant to our faith to speak in a Christian way. We are called as Christians to love all, even those whom we perceive to be our enemies. Thus it seems important not to attribute to them evil motives but to presume that they are speaking in good faith with the same good intentions that we have. Therefore, it is essential that we don’t demonize them

We are called, of course, to present the truth as we see it, in the clearest, most accurate, and valid way of which we are capable. We need to present the truth as we see in and as it has come down to us.

The second idea is to present that truth for the purpose of what Volf calls human flourishing. He puts it this way: “[I]t is important for Christians to keep focused on God and on the proper understanding of human flourishing. For this, in the end, is what the Christian faith is all about—being an instrument of God for the sake of human flourishing, in this life and the next.”

This strikes me as one of the most significant meanings of what the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is all about: we are called to seek and attempt to bring about what is best for all here and now as well as in life after death. Both are part of what Christianity is about. In a practical, every-day sense it means caring for all those we meet and come in contact in any way by asking the question how can I be loving to these people in this place. The Reign of God is about love in what I do and say and in the means I use while doing and saying it. Both the truths I speak and the way I speak them must be loving as well.

It certainly isn’t easy to see good in those who oppose the values and beliefs that I consider essential, but I think that is what Christian witness is about both in our lives and our public speech. It is by remembering that even on his cross Jesus was able to forgive his enemies that I can even consider doing this. I hope I can do the same in my less difficult circumstances.

Dan Thomas

Dan Thomas is a retired Director of Religious Education, living in Dayton Ohio. His education includes graduation from Chaminade HS and the University of Dayton (MA in Pastoral Ministry). He is married with two adult sons and is a parishioner at St. Helen, Dayton.