Public Faith in Action

How to Engage with Commitment, Conviction, and Courage

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Celebrated Theologian Offers Wisdom for Civic Engagement

Christian citizens have a responsibility to make political and ethical judgments in light of their faith and to participate in the public lives of their communities--from their local neighborhoods to the national scene. But even in countries where Christians are free to engage in public life, it can be difficult to discern who to vote for, which policies to support, and how to respond to the social and cultural trends of our time.

In this nonpartisan handbook, world-renowned theologian Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz explain that Christians need to develop habits of wise reflection if they are to engage faithfully with their political communities. To do so, they need to identify the key commitments of their faith that connect with contemporary public issues, understand the roots of those commitments, and learn what sorts of questions to ask when applying those values to the concrete realities of their contexts.

Following Volf's successful A Public Faith, this book offers Christians practical guidance for thinking through complicated public issues and faithfully following Jesus as citizens of their countries. Public Faith in Action focuses on enduring Christian commitments that should guide readers in their judgments--not only for the next election, but beyond--and encourages legitimate debate among Christians over how to live out core values. The book also includes lists of resources for further reflection in each chapter and "room for debate" questions to consider.


Part 1: Commitments
1. Christ the Center and Norm
2. Christ, the Spirit, and Flourishing
3. Reading in Contexts
Part 2: Convictions
4. Wealth
5. The Environment
6. Education
7. Work and Rest
8. Poverty
9. Borrowing and Lending
10. Marriage and Family
11. New Life
12. Health and Sickness
13. Aging Life
14. Ending Life
15. Migration
16. Policing
17. Punishment
18. War
19. Torture
20. Freedom of Religion (and Irreligion)
Part 3: Character
21. Courage
22. Humility
23. Justice
24. Respect
25. Compassion


"A concise, readable, theologically informed guide for Christian political engagement, this book deftly integrates relevant biblical principles and contemporary data, summarizes the key issues at stake, and points to important additional reading. An excellent contribution to the rapidly growing body of work on how Christians can engage politics in a faithful way."

Ron Sider, president emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action

"The question isn't whether you'll live out a public faith but how. In this wise, measured, and refreshingly concrete discussion, Volf and McAnnally-Linz encourage Christians to be active, thoughtful contributors to the 'life together' that is society. The book is unapologetically convicted, but it makes room for the global realities that demand different responses and creates space for Christians to come to different prudential conclusions. Here is an antidote to polarization."

James K. A. Smith, Calvin College; author of You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit; editor of Comment magazine

"Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz's volume achieves its aims: opening up a series of serious questions that are a matter of public debate in a pluralistic society, while exhorting Christians to responsibly explore the answers through the lens of faith."

Stephanie Summers, CEO, Center for Public Justice

"The world needs our active Christian faith more now, perhaps, than ever. Public Faith in Action provides a deeply thoughtful model for how we as Christians might work out our faith for the glory of God and the flourishing of communities and people. One needn't agree with every application here in order to be instructed, challenged, and inspired by this call to commitment, conviction, and character as we strive to serve a suffering world faithfully and well."

Karen Swallow Prior, author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More--Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist

The Authors

  1. Miroslav Volf
    © Christopher Capozziello

    Miroslav Volf

    Miroslav Volf (DrTheol, University of Tübingen) is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture in New Haven, Connecticut. He has written more than twenty books,...

    Continue reading about Miroslav Volf

  2. Ryan McAnnally-Linz

    Ryan McAnnally-Linz

    Ryan McAnnally-Linz (PhD, Yale University) is associate director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He is the coauthor, with Miroslav Volf, of Public Faith in Action and editor of The Joy of Humility and Envisioning the Good Life.

    Continue reading about Ryan McAnnally-Linz


A Best Book of 2016 in Religion, Publishers Weekly

"Mixing faith and politics can be tricky, but [the authors] have assembled a helpful, concisely written guide to help Christians through this election season. Working on the premise that Christian faith must naturally spill over into public discussion, they offer insight into making informed decisions around candidates and political issues. Aptly subtitled, the book asks readers to consider issues from a biblical perspective and then to take action in a courageous but respectful and humble manner, working to influence society while representing Christ well. Political hot potatoes such as immigration, debt, same-sex marriage, abortion, and affordable health care are explored. The authors draw conclusions without pushing an agenda and suggest that moral issues don't always have to trump the law. . . . For readers who don't agree with their conclusions, they offer 'Room for Debate' sections with questions for reflection as well as additional resources for deeper study. . . . A must-read for anyone contemplating debating the issues during this election cycle."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"[The authors] have offered both a life preserver and an atlas for navigating the ever-expanding enmeshment of Christianity and politics. . . . The result is an exceptionally readable handbook for Christians who desire to engage both their faith and their politics more deeply. . . . The organization of the book lends itself well to a group study or classroom text. The content of the book is impressive and exhaustive. . . . With sharp focus, the authors support their claims with robust biblical, theological, and social examples. . . . Perhaps most notably, the authors are careful to stay focused on Christian faith and practice in the public sphere. They resist the temptation to get drawn into conversations about political parties, platforms, or candidates. . . . [The authors] have called our attention to an inescapable dimension of our lives of faith, and they have equipped us with many of the tools we need in order to take thoughtful action. Let the church say, 'Amen!'"

Marshall A. Jolly,

Anglican Theological Review

"Public Faith in Action presents in an elegant, simple manner that reads well as an introductory text designed to foster conversation. . . . The purpose of Public Faith in Action . . . is to introduce relevant and important issue areas that have ramifications for Christian public engagement. This is done well. The questions that the work raises are both modern and ancient. . . . Public Faith in Action demands Christian public engagement not only because the issues that it raises are ones that have grave implications for human flourishing, but also because Christians are required to follow the work of Christ in the world, thus demanding engagement in the 'inalienable public dimension' of Christianity."

Michael Phua,

Calvin Theological Journal

"A timely and important book for Church leaders and Christians of all traditions. . . . Public Faith in Action is concise, readable, and both biblically and theologically informed by two scholars well versed in their subject matter. [It] is easy to read and should be a must for all who are interested in issues of life and death and how our communities are responding to the range of ethical issues that in previous times our nation framed and interpreted from within the Christian tradition. . . . [The authors] provide a model for engagement at the personal and political level. The matters are examined with rigor and sensitivity. . . . The book could be used for a series of discussions in parishes. Public Faith in Action opens up serious questions to be explored and is an important addition to responding to the challenge the Church faces in speaking to and competing with the many different faiths and ideologies present in western society. One does not have to agree with all that the book contains, but if read with serious intent it can challenge any prejudice, bias, and lack of information that prevents individuals speaking with clarity and knowledge on these important issues for our times."

Ray Cleary,

Melbourne Anglican

"The tone of the volume is reasonable and non-accusatory. The authors have succeeded in presenting their case in a way that is inoffensive and engages the big ideas in culture without demeaning people that do not hold the same positions. The style of communication is exemplary for real public discourse. . . . This book is to be commended for seeking to diagnose and respond to central questions related to significant public concerns. . . . Another strength of the volume is that it works from the understanding that the Christian worldview touches every aspect of life. . . . This book is worth reading and sharing. Although some of their conclusions are debatable, the general approach to each topic is exemplary. . . . It is a worthwhile example of faithful engagement of important issues in a non-contentious manner."

Andrew Spencer,

Ethics and Culture blog

"I commend Public Faith in Action first of all because for many of us, a wide-ranging inventory of our political convictions is long overdue. . . . There will be parts of this book you won't like. There will be conclusions you don't agree with. But in my reading of it, even in the spots where I disagree with them, the authors never come across as glib or smug. They refuse to take potshots. That this is the case is a testament to the sincerity of their stated goal for the whole project: 'not to end a conversation but to enrich it, not to achieve passive submission but to invite critical discussion.'. . . When all the news stories and friends' posts we see serve to confirm our hunches and beliefs, our biases and fears, we lose sight of the fact that the sincerely-held views of many millions of our neighbors--and, quite possibly, crucial aspects of the truth--lie outside of our narrow feeds. That's why a book like Public Faith in Action will make a lot of us uncomfortable--and why it's so important for our individual and collective civic life."

Tim Hoiland, (blog)