It is often observed that the church as an institution in western societies no longer holds the social capital it did even 50 years ago. While this may be true, however, it is not the case that Christian faith has disappeared from public discourse. The opposite might even be true: Christianity is more present in the public sphere due to a number of charged events: media posts by famous sports people, mass shootings at places of worship, marriage and sexuality debates, voting patterns, and claims about cultural heritage and the needs of civil society. Within each of the various forms of media interaction (social, print, TV), the Christian faith appears in diverse and often contentious ways. This unit looks at the field of public theology. It considers its origins, its main concerns, theories and methods, but moves beyond this to think about the mechanics and intentions of doing theology in public, with the aim of developing practical skills.

Unit code: CT3321P

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 3

Unit discipline: Systematic Theology

Proposing College: Pilgrim Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Articulate a range of definitions of public theology


Name key authorities in the field and the central theoretical lines


Develop critical criteria for naming how theology might be “public”


Develop and use tools to facilitate theological responses to public events

Unit sequence

No pre-requisites


Lectures and workshops

Indicative Bibliography

  1. Blondheim, Menahem, and Hananel Rosenberg. “Media Theology: New Communication Technologies as Religious Constructs, Metaphors, and Experiences.” New Media & Society 19, no. 1 (2016): 43–51.
  2. Bretherton, Christ and the Common Life: Political Theology and the Case for Democracy. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2019.
  3. Breitenberg Jr., E. Harold. “To Tell the Truth: Will the Real Public Theology Please Stand Up?” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 23, no. 2 (2006): 55–96.
  4. Carey, Greg. Using Our Outside Voice: Public Biblical Interpretation. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press, 2020.
  5. Forrester, Duncan B. "Christian Justice and Public Policy." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  6. Kim, Sebastian, and Katie Day, eds. "A Companion to Public Theology." Leiden: Brill, 2017.
  7. Mannion, Gerard. “A Brief Genealogy of Public Theology, or Doing Theology When it Seems Nobody is Listening.” Annali diStudi Religiosi 10 (2009): 121–54.
  8. Metz, Johann Baptist. "Political Theology: A New Paradigm of Theology?” In Civil Religion and Political Theology, edited by Leroy S. Rouner, 141–53. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986.
  9. O’Donovan, Oliver. Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  10. O’Sullivan, Dominic. “Reconciliation as Public Theology: Christian Thought in Comparative Indigenous Politics.” International Journal of Public Theology 8, no. 1 (2014): 5–24.
  11. Rodríguez, Rubén Rosario. Racism and God-Talk: A Latino/A Perspective. New York: NYU Press, 2008.
  12. Tanner, Kathryn. Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism. Yale, CT: Yale University Press, 2019.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Article (for Newspaper, e.g. letter to the editor) - Newspaper article 700 20.0
Oral Presentation - In-class presentation

10 min presentation

1000 30.0
Case Study - Case Study 3000 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Maggie Kappelhoff on 17 Sep, 2021

Unit record last updated: 2022-01-13 14:19:08 +1100