“Public theology” typically describes “theology that addresses common concerns in an open forum, where no particular creed or confession holds pride of place,” writes Kevin Vanhoozer in his recent The Pastor as Public Theologian. The “public”: in view is “society at large,” and so public theology takes the form of theological reflection on public policy (17).
Vanhoozer says that public theology in this form is “first and foremost a reaction against the tendency to privatize the faith, restricting it to the question of an individual’s salvation” (17). While Vanhoozer sympathizes with that effort, he offers a more “radical” vision of public theology, one founded on the original meaning of the term “public”: “Public theology, as we are using the term, means ‘theology made up of people.’” The church is the “public of Jesus Christ,” not only the place where theology is done, but the very content of theology.
The pastor’s task is always a public one, since it always has to do with helping a congregation “to become what they are called to be.”
This is indeed, as Vanhoozer claims, a “more excellent way” of conceiving of and doing public theology.