Evaluating Public Witness in the United States

Jennifer M. McBride

in The Church for the World

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199755684
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932160 | DOI:
Evaluating Public Witness in the United States

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Chapter two examines some factors driving Christian conceptualizations of witness in the United States by depicting tendencies that are examined through the theologies of Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth. Sociological and ethnographic research provides evidence for these tendencies and offers descriptions that help assess the tensions and ambiguities inherent in the way most Protestants understand “witness.” The chapter offers Bonhoeffer's prison reflections on religionless Christianity as a frame for evaluating a non-triumphal witness, drawing on his distinction between special favor and this-worldly belonging. It argues that U.S. Protestants communicate that they are specially favored when they interpret Christian faith as the possession of right knowledge and/or right morality. These interpretations stem from the tendency to misidentify witness with possession of truth, from the lack of sustained reflection on the simultaneous inclusive and exclusive nature of Christ's person and work, and from the presumption that Christians have been chosen to be the standard bearers of morality

Keywords: witness; Bonhoeffer; Karl Barth; religionless Christianity; inclusive; exclusive; morality; non-triumphal; favor; truth

Chapter.  16282 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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