Two of the authors involved in our new pocket sized Bible study, "Calling People of Goodwill", write about their collaboration
We live in an age of seismic political change and social fragmentation, where venomous abuse can take the place of serious debate, an age that is aching for a solid base for our civic and political life. In that world, our new book, Calling People of Goodwill: The Bible and the Common Good, seems very timely. And we are delighted with the things that people are saying about it.
Over 18 months ago, we started with two simple questions: What does the Bible say about the common good? How can we help people understand and act upon this transforming approach?
We pray that this little book will help all Christians grasp their potential for changing the world together and, through prayer, discern how God is calling them to their own unique role. After all, it’s much better to take responsibility for positive action than simply shout at others for doing what we think is the wrong thing. Doing positive things together is more difficult than campaigning, but ultimately more rewarding and mutually enriching. It involves accepting that we disagree on some things while valuing each other’s differences. That’s why we wanted to provide inspiration and spiritual resources for the task of building the common good.
Relationships between different traditions bear great fruit when we share a common project
We wanted to create something short and accessible, so it was quite a challenge to show the scope of the Bible’s emphasis on the common good in just six texts. We decided to start with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts because it’s God who empowers people to work together. But we then delved back into the Old Testament, looking at the misguided common task of building the Tower of Babel and the message of the prophet Amos, who wants people to work for the common good in business and the law. The other passages are from the New Testament: John, 1 Peter and Revelation. Between them they speak of how the church’s mission involves building the common good and how all people are invited to seek God, our eternal common good. Readers will add colour to the picture painted in Calling People of Goodwill with their own favourite texts, of course, since there’s lots more to say. As well as offering some brief reflections, we provide questions for discussion and action, and anchor each chapter with a short prayer.
The Bible gives us solid content to get to grips with the common good. Calling People of Goodwill debunks the idea that the common good is just a woolly notion. On the contrary, it is strong, clear and challenging. We show how the Bible describes the common good as the conditions necessary for individuals to live well, and also as an aim, something we aspire to and work for. But the scriptures show us that it is not, as is sometimes thought, a utopian ideal to be imposed by one ‘enlightened’ group upon another. Most importantly, the common good is a practice, something that must be built by us, as we work together across our differences.
In fact, our own collaboration has put into practice what we write about: Calling People of Goodwill is much better for being the fruit of collaboration, discussion, different perspectives and mutual critique. One of us is Catholic, the other Anglican; and we have worked with and taken on board comments from people of lots of other church traditions, as well. So writing and producing the Calling People of Goodwill has been more than just ecumenical dialogue: we have shown that relationships between individuals and churches of different traditions bear great fruit when we share a common project. We are already planning our next book!