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Jonathan Malesic: Secret Faith in the Public Square


Malesic is to be commended for the recommendations that he makes in his book. He begins his work on a good biblical base. Historically, he could have pushed for an earlier precedent than that of Cyril of Jerusalem. The earliest Christians were not visibly conspicuous to the pagan public as they did not frequent public forums, theatres, and civic buildings yet their actions of caring for the dying, infirm, children, widows, and the wounded were certainly noted within the pagan society. Justin Martyr, in his 1st Apology, made note of that fact,[2] as did also Origen (Contra Celsus 3:56) and Aristides (Apology 15 {to Hadrian, a.d. 130}) Even at that Malesic could have better selected Cyprian of the third century than Cyril of the fourth.

Malesic could also have done better than draw a wide difference between himself and Hauerwas. He devoted the whole of chapter nine to delineate the differences between himself and Hauerwas. There is an inherent problem with “either-or” as there is no clear distinction between visibility and what is done “behind the scenes.” What is done behind the scenes will eventually come to light. Hence what Malesic admitted at the very first of preventing Christians from advertising themselves and what they do and stand for is more to the point. Malesic’s work needs to be read by would-be politicians and concerned Christians on a number of public issues.

This reviewer’s comment is partly conditioned by not only having read Hauerwas’ Peaceable Kingdom which was quoted in Malesic’s work but also having heard Hauerwas speak to the very concern that Malesic addresses in Secret Faith in the Public Square. In no way, does this defense of Hauerwas detract from the important contribution that Malesic makes for a more silent faith. Secret Faith in the Public Square should be read by any serious student or concerned Christian as the book wisely counsels against a self-promotion pose in the public square. There is too much of that. There is much to commend in Malesic’s argument for a secret faith within the American public square. Malesic could have, in this author’s estimation, leaned far more upon Christian history where this distinction between no–visibility and visibility has been played out by individuals and blocs of Christians from the beginning to the present. Greg Forster has done a magnificent job of providing such a study in his work on “The Crisis of Christianity and Politic” in his The Contested Public Square.[3]

Reviewed by Woodrow Walton


Publisher’s page:



[1] Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. Models of the Church, expanded ed. (New York: Image, 2002), 205. Quoted by Jonathan Malesic, Secret Faith in the Public Square, p. 208.

[2] Justin Martyr, 1st Apology 14; Ante-Nicene Fathers 1, p. 167.

[3] Greg Forster, The Contested Public Square. IVP Academic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008).


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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2014

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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