Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith; How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2011), 174pp.
Miroslav Volf, a systematic theologian at Yale and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, explores in this book how believers are called to be in the world without themselves becoming worldly. There are many ways that our faith "malfunctions," he observes. There's a general fear, not entirely unfounded, that believers will try to impose their faith on others, and then a predictable backlash of suppression and secular exclusion of religion from the public square. Some retreat into what he calls the mystical and neglect their prophetic call. Somehow we need to avoid the pitfalls of accommodation, abandonment, and coercion.
As H. Richard Niebuhr showed in his classic book Christ and Culture (1956), there's no one single way to be faithfully present in the world. The earliest believers "were not major social players at all" but a fringe sect on the periphery of the powers, so there's no reason to bemoan any sense of diminished influence. And today, with power widely diffused through media like the internet, there are fewer places where it is obviously centralized. There are elements of culture Christians will accept, other elements we should reject, and still others we might adopt and transform. In the end, Volf objects to the criticism that Christian faith in a pluralistic world is inherently violent. Rather, he appeals to the "golden rule." Believers should treat others in the world like they want to be treated. This is a "vision of human flourishing" for all people, not just a favored few, and "the most important contribution of the Christian faith to the common good."