Public Intellectuals and the Common Good
Evangelical Christians are active across all spheres of intellectual and public life today. But a disconnect remains: the work they produce too often fails to inform their broader communities. In the midst of a divisive culture and a related crisis within evangelicalism, public intellectuals speaking from an evangelical perspective have a critical role to play—within the church and beyond. What does it look like to embrace such a vocation out of a commitment to the common good?
Public Intellectuals and the Common Good draws together world-class scholars and practitioners to cast a vision for intellectuals who promote human flourishing. Representing various roles in the church, higher education, journalism, and the nonprofit sector, contributors reflect theologically on their work and assess current challenges and opportunities. What historically well-defined qualities of public intellectuals should be adopted now? What qualities should be jettisoned or reimagined?
Public intellectuals are mediators—understanding and then articulating truth amid the complex realities of our world. The conversations represented in this book celebrate and provide guidance for those who through careful thinking, writing, speaking, and innovation cultivate the good of their communities.
"The phrases 'public intellectuals' and 'common good' are often misunderstood and misappropriated. But confusion over their meanings does not diminish their importance—inside and outside of Christian discourse. This impressive volume assembles leading experts and practitioners whose work and lives shed light on what it means for Christians to engage in public discourse, and the social ends toward which that engagement points."
"We are alive at a time of profound disorientation. We know instinctively the pace of change is accelerating and that we can't comprehend the scope of overlapping crises everywhere we turn. It's a moment that cries out for public intellectuals—truth tellers who help light our way forward. Yet as our society fragments and diversifies, it is increasingly difficult for us to agree on what truth even is. Because I am a journalist, I grapple constantly with this call to truth telling. How do we get to truth, and how do we inform the world? After reading Public Intellectuals and the Common Good, I am now reconsidering and expanding how I view this role. It may not be enough for us simply to tell truthful stories—we also have an active role to play as moral contributors to the common good."
"We're in great need of a Christian public voice amid the ravages of Trumpism. In this collection of compelling, invigorating essays, there is encouragement and modeling for how Christians can speak up in service to the common good. I read these essays amid the double pandemic of COVID-19 and white supremacist backlash. Here's a book needed now more than ever."
"At a time when separate identities and discord are championed as a way forward, this collection of essays offers hope in seeking the 'common good.' At a time when the microphone has been co-opted by those who divide, this work seeks to reclaim the microphone by bringing us together. At a time when the ivory tower has become a target, this collection calls for intellectuals to engage. The essays invite those within the evangelical movement to an expansive vision and those outside the evangelical movement to a broader view of visionaries than the stereotypes portray. It deserves a wide reading."
"While some fear that the role of the public intellectual has been overpowered by social media platforms on which anyone can claim to be an authority or influencer, Public Intellectuals and the Common Good makes the case for pursuing and honoring the vocation of the public intellectual. Whether as theologians, scholars, journalists, or social activists, Christians have been called to identify and argue for a vision of human flourishing that crosses religious and cultural boundaries, making complex ideas accessible for all citizens. These provocative essays explore both the theoretical views and personal practices of Christian public intellectuals in the United States, who serve as prophetic voices in an age of incivility."
"Public intellectual and common good are two terms that have lost much of their valence in our frayed and polarized culture. While acknowledging the gap, the essays in this volume call for a renewal of these ideals and present concrete ways to reengage for the good of us all. A book of wisdom worth serious attention."
"Can there be an authentic Christian voice in the public square? Can the church contribute to the common good in the context of polarization, fragmentation, and anti-intellectualism? This timely volume of perceptive essays offers insight into some of the most important issues of our day. It deserves careful consideration and widespread discussion."
Foreword, George M. Marsden
Introduction, Todd C. Ream, Jerry Pattengale, and Christopher J. Devers
Part 1: Theological Reflections
1. On Being a Christian Public Intellectual, Miroslav Volf
2. The Spirit, the Common Good, and the Public Sphere, Amos Yong
Part 2: Professional Reflections
3. Cultivating Public Intellectuals for the Common Good, Linda A. Livingstone
4. Loving God and Neighbor, Heather Templeton Dill
5. The Common Grace of Journalism in a Post-Truth Era, Katelyn Beaty
Part 3: Personal Reflections
6. How Reconciliation Saved My Scholarship, Emmanuel Katongole
Concluding Conversation: An Interview with John M. Perkins, David Wright