August 27, 2008
I’m doing a mini-dissertation in public theology at the moment. And when I say “at the moment”, I mean it! I have about 5/6 weeks to finish 80 pages, and I just started writing. Now, there is many different understandings of public theology, but one aspect is taking part in the public conversation as Christians. Formulating concepts into words which can be used in the public, and not just in the church.
We had a conference on Public Theology at the University of Pretoria about 3 weeks ago. Sadly I couldn’t attend, but I’m busy reading the papers that was presented. Two of the world-class theologians who spoke mentions the link between public theology and cyberspace. Professor Will Storrar from Edinburgh is currently heading the Centre for Theology and Public Issues and said:
Whether the 21st century bloggers of cyberspace have restored some of that critical function to the virtual and global public sphere is a matter for debate.
Furthermore the South African New Testament scholar Andries van Aarde also says:
The social location of public theologians is not the university campus, but rather the university campus, but rather the public square – in other words, the modern-day agora – wherever it may be situated in the “global village” or in the cyber space.
So-called “Christian” blogs easily become just that: Christian blogs. Blogs fostering the insiders conversation. Now, I believe there is a place for this. But what Storrar is looking for is those who take part in the public conversation. And from my perspective, I would like to tell Storrar (not that he’s likely to ever read this), that I believe bloggers do just that. Maybe we are not always good at it, maybe sometimes we suck. But we take part in the public conversation. Many of us do social critique, we talk about politics, justice, ecology and other issues from the agenda of the city.
One of the things I’m becoming more and more convinced of is that your theology will determine whether it will ever be a public theology, and if, what form it will take on. And with bloggers it’s no different. Some of us work with a theology which make it impossible not to take part in the public conversation, but others prefer not to. They do this simply by blogging about issues which has relevance only for the church.
If Van Aarde is correct, then public theology doesn’t happen in the chairs of public theology, but, among other places, in cyberspace. And in this way bloggers are public theologians. Because the moment we write, we open ourselves up to the public conversation, to the google bots, to the technorati databases. What I write might be written in a form which only make is accesible to the church, but the medium I chose make it accesible to the world.
So keep it up! I believe we could be this generations public theologians.