Original Research - Special Collection: Public Discourse

Prophetic witness and public discourse in European societies – a German perspective

Heinrich Bedford-Strohm
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 66, No 1 | a784 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v66i1.784 | © 2010 Heinrich Bedford-Strohm | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 January 2010 | Published: 08 October 2010

About the author(s)

Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, University Bamberg University of Stellenbosch, Germany


The role of prophetic witness of the churches in the public discourse of modern civil societies is analysed on the basis of three public memorandums of the German Protestant churches on economic questions and their impact on the public. Among the ten systematic conclusions which are drawn from this case study is the importance of the specific context for the role of prophetic statements. The article tries to show how prophetic witness is a necessary element of a public theology, which is not based on fundamental criticism, but develops both critical and constructive perspectives for politics and society. If such public theology is liberation theology for a democratic society it is the task of the church to get involved in the public debate in a ‘bilingual’ way, that is, on the basis of its biblical-theological sources but at the same time with the ability to engage in the secular language of pluralistic societies.


Public Theology; public discourse; civil society; prophetic witness; option for the poor; economic ethic


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