Friday, November 08, 2013

Let's go outside and talk about Jesus!

“What is public theology?”  I was asked this question during week seven of the “Introduction to Public Theology” course.  It was one of those moments when you take a deep breath and wish that there was someone else in the room to answer the question.  Twenty pairs of eyes looked my way and I couldn’t help but wonder why the question came up in week seven instead of week two?  And where was my co-leader with the PhD?

For seven years, I had been listening to faculty, students and staff talk about the seminary’s commitment to public theology, but for at least six of those years, I wasn’t sure I knew what they were talking about.  It had to be more involved than doing theology in public.  Right?

It’s not.  At least that’s what I told the student who asked me the question.  It’s talking about God and doing God’s work in the public forum.  It’s being straight forward about who you are and what you believe, with whomever you encounter in daily life.

The next question came. “Well, why is that important?”  I wondered if it was a trick question until I realized the student was sincere.  I took one more deep breath and hoped I would successfully make my point.  Public theology is important because we aren’t just called to do theology inside the church.  We’re called to go out into the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ.

I think he wanted a more complex answer or permission to just deal with the folks inside the building.  But I don’t believe that’s how it works.  All theology if it is going to be effective has to go public at some time or another.  If we only talk to each other, we’re only doing half the job.