Call for Papers: Theology ‘In Exit’ for a Better World: Consolidating the Intersecting Features of Public Theology

Call for Papers: Theology ‘In Exit’ for a Better World: Consolidating the Intersecting Features of Public Theology

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Special Issue Editor

Faculty of Theology, Salesian Pontifical University, 000139 Rome, Italy
Interests: practical and empirical theology; contextual theology; inculturation and interculturality; interreligious dialogue and conflict; religion, human rights and citizenship; religious education and pedagogy; youth studies and ministry; public theology
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Fifty years ago, the expression ‘Public theology’ was introduced into theological debate by Martin E. Marty (1974). Since then, Public theology has evolved in varied ways, progressively engaging numerous intersecting perspectives and methodologies. Since 2007, the Global Network for Public Theology (GNPT) with its associated International Journal of Public Theology (IJPT) has been a propelling force in this endeavour by fostering collaborative research and publication in this area.

The recent document Ad Theologiam Promovendam (To Promote Theology) of Pope Francis (2023) addressed to the Pontifical Academy of Theology (PATH), calling for a Theology ‘in exit’ (Teologia in uscita, in Italian), entails an overall paradigm shift in consonance with what has been emerging as Public theology. In other words, theology is urged to overcome its obsession with self-referential preoccupations and exit into the public square for making its unique contributions for a better world along with others engaged in this venture.

The fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948), for the last seventy-five years, has been drawing ever-growing attention of Christian and other religious traditions suggests that human dignity, human rights, and human responsibility are crucial ambits of Public theology or Theology ‘in exit’. These ambits would embrace the so-called first generation of human rights, namely, ‘blue rights’, comprising civil liberties besides political and judicial rights; the second generation, referred to as ‘red rights’, incorporating economic, social and cultural rights; and the third generation of collective rights, namely, the ‘green rights’, focusing on the emerging needs, particularly of developing countries, i.e., healthy environment, natural resources, cultural heritage, intergenerational equity and sustainability. In this regard, mention may be made of the Empirical Research in Religion and Human Rights series edited by Johannes A. van der Ven (2010-2015, four volumes, Brill) and Religion and Human Rights series edited by Hans-Georg Ziebertz and Carl Sterkens (2017-2023, ten volumes, Springer).

Instead of being reduced to another sector of theology, Public theology transpires as a paradigm shift in theologizing that necessitates rethinking the entire field of reflection, research and action with reference to diverse realms of human and ecological welfare. Exiting into the public sphere, theology can lay bare its public significance (Francis & Ziebertz 2011).

Generally, theology has been classified into Historical, Philosophical and Practical theology. The paradigm shift that is called for in these interdependent sectors of theology implies acknowledging the glocal (global–local) nature of theologizing and accordingly reviewing the epistemologies and methodologies with reference to the public sphere. Historical theology—with its historical-critical method—traces the development of Christian tradition beginning with the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Western linguistic and cultural resources. Although Philosophical (Systematic/Dogmatic) theology—with its analytical-critical method—aims at the universal understanding of Christian faith, its development is marked by the contribution of contextual linguistic–philosophical traditions in which Christianity has taken root. The question that arises now concerns the extent to which languages, philosophies and the cultural context of contemporary local churches in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania can actually shape or should shape Historical and Philosophical theology. Forming an integral part of the latter are Fundamental theology with its apologetic intent and Moral theology with its ethical concern. Practical (Pastoral) theology—with its inductive or empirical-critical method—seeks to transform ecclesial praxis to its ever-greater authenticity and significance. Correspondingly, the envisioned paradigm shift denotes a theological advancement in terms of Philosophical–Public theology, Historical–Public theology, and Practical–Public theology in the academic domain. Together with the latter, ecclesial and societal domains are recognized as the three domains of public theology.

In the ecclesial domain, theology emerges as the intellectual, emotional and behavioural agency of believers, namely, their lived theology or people’s theology. Likewise, in the societal domain, we can speak of the religio-cultural, socio-political and economic-environmental agency of believers. The underlying question is how theology ‘in exit’ can shape believers’ agency in dialogue with religious, cultural, social, political, economic and environmental studies, and enhance human development and ecological wellbeing.

The effectiveness of Public theology in a specific societal context is determined by Christianity’s majority or minority status. Although Christianity—as every other contemporary world religion—is of Asian origin, it has a minority status in almost all Asian countries, with the exception of the Philippines (88.7%) and East Timor (98%). Christianity’s minority status in the Asian countries, despite the missionary efforts already at its origin, raises serious questions about the role public theology can play in such a context. To assume an effective role, Christianity would have to decolonialize, i.e., shed its colonial features, and delve into the Asian cultures in terms of inculturation, interculturation and conculturation (Anthony 1997). The latter term indicates that in sharing the local culture, Christianity must contribute—together with others—to the development of local culture proffering specific contributions to the literature in the local language, art, music, dance, drama, etc. Given that traditional local cultures have their own religious core, public theology would have to engage in interreligious dialogue as well. In the traditionally Christian Western world, the challenge is to encounter the secular modern or post-modern global culture with its ideological core. In this sense, the historical insertion of Christianity and its status as a majority or minority religion shape the configuration of public theology in diverse geographical milieu.

Furthermore, promoting Public theology in the ecclesial, societal and academic domains necessitates intradisciplinarity, i.e., assuming the methods of other sciences: analytical-critical, historical-critical, empirical-critical and other methods. Such an intradisciplinary approach can ensure proper interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary (meta-disciplinary) engagements with other sciences in promoting a better world (van der Ven 1993).

Thus, this Special Issue seeks to reinforce the paradigm shift in the ongoing development of theology in terms of Public theology or Theology ‘in exit’. In other words, in tune with the scope of the present journal, this Special Issue provides a scholarly platform for consolidating the intersecting theoretical, historical and empirical features of global-contextual Public theology, engaging interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives on human dignity and wellbeing, human rights and responsibility, social justice and peace building, economic and ecological flourishing, as well as contributing to the common good of linguistic, artistic, educational and technological development, etc.

Prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors are invited to submit a title and an abstract of 400–600 words summarizing their intended contribution. Please send this to the Guest Editor at and to Religions editorial office (; as early as possible, but not beyond the deadline 24 September 2024. Abstracts will be reviewed by the Guest Editor for ensuring its proper fit within the scope of the Special Issue. Full manuscripts of at least 6000–10,000 words will undergo double-blind peer review.

We await your valuable contributions to endorse a theological paradigm shift in terms of Public theology.


Anthony, Francis-Vincent. 1997. Ecclesial Praxis of Inculturation. Toward an Empirical-Theological Theory of Inculturizing Praxis. Roma: LAS.

Francis, Leslie J. & Hans-Georg Ziebertz. (Eds.). 2011. The public Significance of Religion. Leiden/Boston: Brill.

Marty, Martin E. 1974. Reinhold Niebuhr: Public Theology and the American Experience. Journal of Religion 544: 332-359.

Pope Francis. 2023. Ad theologiam promovendam, Lettera Apostolica Motu Proprio. Available online: (access 15 November 2023).

van der Ven, Johannes A. 1993. Practical Theology: An Empirical Approach. Kok Pharos: Peeters.

Prof. Dr. Francis-Vincent Anthony
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI’s English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • public theology
  • historical theology
  • philosophical theology
  • practical theology
  • empirical method
  • intradisciplinarity
  • interdisciplinarity
  • transdiscipinarity
  • common good
  • human rights
  • environmental development

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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