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Brian Stiller: Jesus and Caesar

Stiller’s most innovative discussion deals with pluralism. Religious pluralism contends that all faiths are legitimate, but this leads to relativism. Cultural pluralism, however, allows people of differing faiths and beliefs to coexist in harmony and recognizes that all faiths have a right to exist. The benefit of cultural pluralism is that it defends against domination and ideological tyranny. Although Christianity no longer has special status, cultural pluralism maintains that all truth claims have a right to be discussed in a public forum. Finally, Stiller insists that Christian participation in the public square must include personal involvement, institutional engagement, a willingness to counter sinful ideology and practice, an “arms-length” (critical) distance from the world and when necessary withdrawal from the world. The tragedy, Stiller notes, is that the church has withdrawn from public engagement and has “stopped singing the song of biblical faith and life in the public square” (p. 170).

Although Stiller is at times too brief in his comments, the value of the work is that it succeeds in its intent—to outline an appropriate approach for Christian involvement in public interchange. The book’s intended audience is Christian pastors and leaders, but it has intellectual credibility. It not only dissects the contemporary church’s tendency toward sectarianism, but it offers a prognosis for Christian participation in the public sphere. Pastors and leaders will find Jesus and Caesar valuable for understanding the public role of the church.

Reviewed by Peter Althouse



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Category: Fall 2004, Living the Faith

About the Author: Peter F. Althouse, PhD (University of Toronto), is Assistant Professor of Religion at Southeastern University. He is the author of Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jürgen Moltmann (T & T Clark, 2003), and has written many articles on eschatology, pneumatology and Pentecostal studies. Faculty page. Facebook.

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