Religion och Teologi

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March 9, 2020  

Elaine Graham | Christian Apologetics in a Postsecular Age

March 9, 2020

In this episode of R&T, prof. Elaine Graham from the University of Chester lectures on the topic "Jews, Pagans, Sceptics and Emperors: Christian Apologetics in a Postsecular Age." The lecture was recorded on the 10th Febuary (2020) as a public lecture, at CTR.

This is the second lecture in the series ”Beyond secular/religious division. The role of religion in the public sphere in polarized Europe”, presented by the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies and the Centre for European Studies.

Abstract for the lecture: "Public theologians have identified a number of different aspects or functions of their discipline, amongst which normative, formative and apologetic tasks figure prominently. This lecture, focuses on the latter task of public theology as one of apologetic dialogue and what it means for public theology to have an apologetic function or quality. That is to say, apologetic public theology upholds the correlational and dialogical basis of theological understanding in relation to wider cultural discourse, and seeks to communicate itself in ways that are faithful both to that particular context and to the wisdom of the Christian tradition. This applies, however, not only to the substance of its critical and constructive contributions, but, in an increasingly pluralist and sceptical cultural environment, extends to an imperative to uphold, in reasonable and widely accessible terms, the fundamental rationale for considering religion to be a legitimate source of public discourse in order for it to be granted a place in the public square.

In a religiously pluralist, global context it may be expedient to articulate (and to defend) the values that inform Christian statements about, and interventions in, the public realm. This apologetic function reflects a commitment on the part of public theologians to conduct debates about the public trajectories of faith and practice in ways that are trans¬parent and publicly accessible and defensible.

Some of the most significant and foundational events and texts of early Christianity were apologetic in nature. They comprised defences against detractors and persecutors, giving an account of one’s convictions; and commending the faith as just, coherent and credible. However, they were often also in their way examples of public theology: enacted in public assemblies, religious and civic, conducted in a spirit of critical scrutiny and debate. From the second century CE, too, many apologies were petitions addressed to the political authorities, concerning the relationship of Christians to imperial and secular authority, especially when the apologists had reason to believe they were being singled out for unjust treatment. This forms historical precedent for public theology to reassume its apologetic role, to render Christian faith intelligible and credible in a ‘postsecular’ world in which religion is newly and urgently relevant. This historic understanding of early Christian apologists as petitioners to the powers-that-be, calling for justice and civil freedoms must remain a major part of the work of public theologians today."

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Religion and Theology is produced by Joel Kuhlin for the Center for Theology and Religious Studies.

If you have comments or critique of this episode, or any other episodes of R&T, please write an email to religionochteologi@outlook.com.

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Music for R&T is generously provided by the trio Nous (Thomas Hellsten, Tom Tveita, Per Boqvist).