Essay: Public Theology

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Public Theology

One of the most pressing issues in current American evangelism and ministry is how to reconcile the church with its prevailing culture. If the prevailing culture can be fairly described as one that is secular, materialistic, and liberal, then the challenges facing Christians become both evident and salient. Many of the essays in Hunsberger and van Gelder's the Church Between Gospel and Culture address these core Christian concerns and offer solutions rooted in gospel truth. In "Christ All in All," David Lowes Watson discusses the "recovery of the gospel of evangelism in the United States." The title of Watson's essay is taken from Colossians 3:11: "Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all," (NIV). The solution to the problems facing American evangelism today lies in a simple formula of recovering the gospel from an anthropocentric perspective and making it about Christ in the world, and Christ of the world. Douglas John Hall offers a similar message in "Ecclesia Crucis: The Theologic of Christian Awkwardness." Hall suggests that the means by which to recover the heart of Christianity in America is to first disengage from the dominant culture, and then re-engage it fully in the name of Christ. Both authors affirm the importance of returning to the essence of evangelism as it is outlined in the life and teachings of Christ.

The context of American evangelism reveals that the church has become what Watson calls "enculturated." The enculturation of the church is a two-fold process. It is congregational on the one hand, as the church has allowed itself to become a tool of the culture rather than vice-versa. On the other hand, the church has become enculturated to be anthropocentric, narcissistic, and materialistic. In a "well-churched" society like the United States, it seems ironic that Christianity would be suffering from any threats to its integrity. Yet these two problems of enculturation and anthropocentrism remain extant. Evangelism has become a caricature of itself, victim to materialism and the drive toward bigger, but not necessarily better, congregations. Many congregations have strayed far from the gospels to the point where Christ is no longer the "all in all." Likewise, many churches have allowed themselves to be subsumed by the dominant culture by making evangelism and Christian identity about the self rather than about Christ, or even the community.

Hall's argument complements Watson's analysis, providing a narrower focus on the nature of the dominant culture and how Christians can contend with it. While Hall remains fixated on a perceived dominant culture that is "WASP" in nature as well as "middle-class," and "liberal," the author acknowledges that American demographics are changing rapidly. As Keilfert points out in Welcoming the Stranger, there is a "moral demand to respect cultural and religious diversity" in the United States (ix). It is critical to move beyond the belief --… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Public Theology.  (2013, March 15).  Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/public-theology/4511217

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"Public Theology."  Essaytown.com.  March 15, 2013.  Accessed July 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/public-theology/4511217.