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Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of the Christian Faith
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Secret Faith in the Public Square: An Argument for the Concealment of the Christian Faith


Brazos 2009

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


In this groundbreaking and provocative book, Jonathan Malesic examines the tradition and practice of keeping faith separate from public life. Going against the general theological trend of advocating an ever more visible presence for Christianity in American public life, he argues that the best way for Christians to be caretakers of their tradition and to love their neighbors selflessly is to conceal their religious identity in the public square. The alternative—insisting on Christianity's public visibility in politics, the marketplace, and the workplace—risks severely compromising the distinctiveness of Christian identity.

Delving deep into the Christian tradition, Malesic explains that keeping Christian identity secret means living fully in the world while maintaining Christian language, prayer, and liturgy in reserve. He shows how major thinkers—Cyril of Jerusalem, Søren Kierkegaard, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer—sought to protect Christian identity from being compromised by the public sphere. He then shows that Christians' dual responsibilities for the tradition and for the neighbor must be kept secret.

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Key Features

  • Argues for a silent Christian witness in the public square
  • Uses Bonhoeffer, Cyril, and Kierkegaard and exemplars for Christian public engagement
  • Shows how open Christian engagement demands Christian compromise


  • Part One: Secrecy and Christian Faith in Contemporary America
    • Promoting Secrecy in a Christian Empire: Cyril of Jerusalem’s Discipline of the Secret
    • Liturgucal Secrecy as Cyril’s Defense against Oppurtunism and Imperial Authority
    • The Secret Faith in Kierkegaard’s Works of Love
    • How Kierkegaard’s Secret Agape Subverts Bourgeois Culture
    • Bonhoeffer’s Arkandisziplin: Christian Confession in a World Come of Age
    • The Limits of Arkandisziplin and of the Secular
  • Part Two: Concealment of Christian Identity in Contemporary America
    • The Secret-Keeping Self and Christian Responsibility for the Other
    • The Church as a Community of Hidden Disciples
    • Secret Faith’s Fulfilment of the Church’s Mission in America: An Engagement with Hauerwas
    • Epilogue: The Challenge of Ambiguous Religious Identity in Wise Blood and The Moviegoer

Praise for the Print Edition

Malesic’s thesis is striking and provocative: we should conceal our faith in order to protect it from being absorbed and prostituted in our voracious secular culture. Readers may not be persuaded, but by the end of the book they will find themselves richly rewarded with many fresh insights into the possibilities for Christian witness in our strange, postmodern era. A truly fresh contribution to the important debate about faith, politics, and culture.

R.R. Reno, professor of theological ethics, Creighton University

This genuinely fresh, freethinking book displays the independence of mind and life for which it argues. Lucidly written and crisply argued, it is a significant contribution to discussions in the field and will be a wonderful counterpoint to the dominant narrative in classes about religion and public life.

—Charles Mathewes, associate professor of religious studies, University of Virginia

By credibly challenging the assumption that Christian identity is only authentic if it is publicly visible and explicit, Malesic has transformed the conversation about the relationship of the church to the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Bryan Stone, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism, Boston University School of Theology

Product Details

About Jonathan Malesic

Jonathan Malesic is assistant professor of theology at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition