Posted by: gcarkner | August 8, 2012

James Davison Hunter’s Concept of Faithful Presence

I have argued that there is a different foundation for reality and thus a different kind of binding commitment symbolized most powerfully in the incarnation. The incarnation represents an alternative way by which word and world come together. It is in the incarnation and the particular way the Word became incarnate in Jesus Christ that we find the only adequate reply to the challenges of dissolution and difference. If, indeed, there is a hope or an imaginable prospect for human flourishing in the contemporary world, it begins when the Word of shalom becomes flesh in us and is enacted through us toward those with  whom  we live, in the tasks we are given, and in the spheres of influence in which we operate. When the Word of all flourishing—defined by the love of Christ—becomes flesh in us, in our relations with others, within the tasks we are given, and within our spheres of influence—absence gives way to presence, and the word we speak to each other and to the world becomes authentic and trustworthy. This is the heart of the theology of faithful presence.

~from James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: the irony, tragedy and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world. OUP, 2010.

This quote from a book we studied together in GCU in 2010-11 speaks to  a deep impression left on us in the GCU community. Hunter in surveying the three major camps (Religious Right, Religious Left, and Neo-Anabaptism) in American Christianity, concludes that the challenges of a pluralistic society in late modernity can be met, not through power politics, but through Christian integrity and servanthood–what he calls “faithful presence”. It is an immensely challenging book, and we recommend especially Essay III “Towards a New City Commons: Reflections on a Theology of Faithful Presence” if you want to capture the core thought and impact. This book helps us understand something of our larger Christian context and the debates that are quite lively. In future I will write about a complementary book, Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson, which follows through in a very existential way from this challenge by Hunter.

Gordon Carkner

See also program “The Truth about Post-Truth” on CBC Ideas. We seem to be in for a rough ride ahead with the surge in the political far right. Hunter talks about this on pp. 101-131. Attention my friends. Lots is at stake.


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