Protestant Theology at the Crossroads: How to Face the Crucial Tasks for Theology in the Twenty-First Century

By Gerhard Sauter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Public Theology — Theology outside the Church?

In the last two chapters we were confronted with the question of how theology interferes in public discourse. Now we must more thoroughly work on this task, comparing it with attempts to prove “theology in public.” There may be another fork in the road.


The Public Service of the Church

In 2000 a Hungarian theologian, who was the consultant in church relations to the Hungarian prime minister, told me about a terminological complication. The story he told me revealed the delicate constellation of state and church after the dark years of Communist government. The prime minister was preparing a speech for Saint Stephan’s Day — a patriotic memorial day remembering a decisive point in early Hungarian history and a day loaded with religious sentiments. The politician wanted to engage as many Hungarian Christians as possible in the social and spiritual renewal of his country, since it was struggling intensely for economic reforms and the restructuring of politics. He thought it right to call for the service of the church in favor of the common good. But he overlooked or maybe did not know that this very term “service” was misleading and provoked extremely bad memories. In the sixties and seventies the Hungarian Protestant churches, the Reformed church even more rigorously than the Lutheran church, had called for a “Theology of Service.”1 This theology aimed to encourage

1. Cf. chap. 7, n. 6, and chap. 10, n. 7, in this volume.

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