Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of Christian Identity

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"Against all the arguments that religious conviction should be manifest in public life, Jonathan Malesic offers perhaps the most theologically profound, fruitful, and rigorous challenge: the real truth of Christianity cannot be worn like a flag pin on a politician's lapel. It occurs in secret and in silence. True subjectivity of faith precludes its manifestation in public life, and all attempts to display it in such a way only profane it and further pervert the church as a community of 'secret disciples.' This genuinely fresh, freethinking book
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Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of Christian Identity

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Overview

"Against all the arguments that religious conviction should be manifest in public life, Jonathan Malesic offers perhaps the most theologically profound, fruitful, and rigorous challenge: the real truth of Christianity cannot be worn like a flag pin on a politician's lapel. It occurs in secret and in silence. True subjectivity of faith precludes its manifestation in public life, and all attempts to display it in such a way only profane it and further pervert the church as a community of 'secret disciples.' This genuinely fresh, freethinking book displays the independence of mind and life for which it argues. Lucidly written and crisply argued, it is a significant contribution to discussions in the field, and will be a wonderful counterpoint to the dominant narrative in classes about religion and public life."--Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia; editor, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"Malesic's thesis is striking and provocative: we should conceal our faith in order to protect it from being absorbed and prostituted in our voracious secular culture. Readers may not be persuaded, but by the end of the book they will find themselves richly rewarded with many fresh insights into the possibilities for Christian witness in our strange, postmodern era. A truly fresh contribution to the important debate about faith, politics, and culture."--R. R. Reno, Creighton University

"Jonathan Malesic calls Christians in America to conceal their identities in public life as a form of therapy that unhinges Christian witness from its accommodation to public expectation and reward. By credibly challenging the assumption that Christian identity is only authentic if it is publicly visible and explicit, Malesic has transformed the conversation about the relationship of the church to the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This book should be read and discussed widely."--Bryan Stone, Boston University School of Theology

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A professor of theology, Malesic offers a theological and philosophical treatise on the need for Christians to resist mass culture and its corrupting accommodation to worldly ideas by keeping their faith a secret. Malesic traces this idea to fourth-century St. Cyril of Jerusalem, who, in an effort to inspire awe in candidates for conversion, hid from them certain doctrines until after their baptism. The book then explores the thought of Søren Kierkegaard and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who also argued for secrecy lest Christianity fall prey to consumerism, comfort or complacency. The book will be appreciated by theologians who worry that the evangelical zeal to make converts may inevitably conform more to American capitalism than to Christian creeds. But the book is more interested in a theological exploration of the concept of secrecy than in arguing for any modern-day solutions. Malesic's many repetitions and inelegant use of language make this book a hard read, though it rewards readers interested in the ideas of a trio of Christianity's most complex theologians. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587432262
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Malesic (PhD, University of Virginia) is assistant professor of theology at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He has written several essays for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Secrecy and Christian Faith in Contemporary America Part 1: Concealment of Christian Identity in the Theological Tradition
1. Promoting Secrecy in a Christian Empire: Cyril of Jerusalem's Discipline of the Secret
2. Liturgical Secrecy as Cyril's Defense against Opportunism and Imperial Authority
3. The Secret of Faith in Kierkegaard's Works of Love
4. How Kierkegaard's Secret Agape Subverts Bourgeois Culture
5. Bonhoeffer's Arkandisziplin: Christian Confession in a World Come of Age
6. The Limits of Arkandisziplin and of the Secular Part 2: Concealment of Christian Identity in Contemporary America
7. The Secret-Keeping Self and Christian Responsibility for the Other
8. The Church as a Community of Hidden Disciples
9. Secret Faith's Fulfillment of the Church's Mission in America: An Engagement with Hauerwas Epilogue: The Challenge of Ambiguous Religious Identity in Wise Blood and The Moviegoer
Index
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