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Public Theology: Key Document for a Protestant Public Theology
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Key Document for a Protestant Public Theology
A recent interview with Jurgen Habermas provides an excellent framework for thinking about the contours of a public theology today, including the concept of egalitarian universalism.

By Ed Knudson

A very significant interview with Jurgen Habermas has been conducted by Eduardo Mendieta called A Postsecular World Society: On the Philosophical Significance of Postsecular Consciousness and the Multicultural World Society published at the Immanent Frame at the Social Science Research Council. Since it is such an important document for the project of this website I have saved a copy here, just in case something happens to the SSRC site.

Habermas is the leading social theorist living today and has become active not merely as an academic in the fields of philosophy and sociology but also as a public intellectual in Germany and many other parts of the world. His philosophy has focused on language and communication in the "public sphere." It is his thought which has been associated with the phrase "public theology" as a number of theologians have sought to interact with him in the construction of their own theological thought.

Habermas has in more recent years been calling for a legitimate role for religion in debates leading to the formation of public policy. In this document, however, he goes much further as I understand him. He is here saying that what "religion" actually means for him is what can only be called a Protestant Public Theology. And he says it is the local congregation engaged in worship which is the source of legitimacy for what constitutes authentic religious engagement.

Fundamentalist religion is rejected because it fails to carry on a serious relation with modernity. And even Catholicism is not capable of performing a helpful role in public policy because, under the current Pope, it is committed to an outdated form of natural law thinking based on Aristotle. It is the nominalism of the Protestant Reformation which, for Habermas, provides the basis for the Protestant Church to be able to provide a legitimate voice within a secular world. It is just these postulates which I have for some time been proposing at this website in many various ways.

When in this paper Habermas speaks of "egalitarian universalism" I immediately thought of the central ritual of communion in Christian worship where all are welcome and all participate equally.

I am particularly interested to hear from those who read this document what they think. This document by Habermas ought to provide Protestant pastors and scholars much to think about as they consider their pastoral and academic practice.

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Date Added: 2/4/2010 Date Revised: 2/4/2010

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