Max Lynn Stackhouse

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Max Lynn Stackhouse
BornJuly 29, 1935
DiedJanuary 30, 2016
Spouse(s)Jean Stackhouse
ChildrenDale Stackhouse, David Stackhouse
Academic background
Alma materDePauw University Harvard Divinity School
Academic work
DisciplineChristian ethics

Public theology

InstitutionsAndover Newton Theological School Princeton Theological Seminary

Max Lynn Stackhouse (July 29, 1935 – January 30, 2016)[1] was the Rimmer and Ruth de Vries Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was ordained in the United Church of Christ[1] and was the president of the Berkshire Institute for Theology and the Arts.

He specialized in theological ethics and social life, Christianity and the ethics of the world religions, and public theology, and the mission of the churches. He taught courses on the place of faith in educational life, the theological implications of the arts, religion and journalism, and theology in relation to the environment. He was the first director of Princeton Theological Seminary's Abraham Kuyper Center for Public Theology.

Academic life[edit]

Dr. Stackhouse retired from his position as the Stephen Colwell Professor of Christian Ethics (1993-2004), Director of the Project on Public Theology and the Rimmer and Ruth de Vries Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life at Princeton Theological Seminary.

His doctoral dissertation at Harvard University (1961 - 1965) was entitled "Eschatology and Ethical Method in W. Rauschenbusch and H. Niebuhr." He has an M.A. and B.D. from Harvard Divinity School (1958 - 1961), and a B.A from DePauw University (1957).[1]

Max L. Stackhouse was the Coordinating Editor of the Center of Theological Inquiry's groundbreaking God and Globalization project. The findings of the project are edited Stackhouse in partnership with Peter J. Paris, Don S. Browning, and Diane Obenchain and published in 4 volumes entitled God and Globalization by Trinity International Press and Continuum International Publishing Group. The three former volumes are multi-authored while the fourth volume is authored solely by Stackhouse, with a foreword written by the historian Justo Gonzalez. In the final interpretive volume, Stackhouse argues for a view of Christian theology that, in critical dialogue with other world religions and philosophies, is able to engage the new world situation, play a critical role in reforming the "powers" that are becoming more diverse and autonomous, and generate a social ethic for the 21st century.

He also served as the "Herbert Gezork Professor of Christian Social Ethics" at Andover Newton Theological School for almost 30 years, as well as the Robert and Carolyn Frederick Distinguished Visiting Professor of Ethics at DePauw University during the spring semester of 2006-07.[2] Also, He was a visiting professor at United Theological College, Bangalore.[3] In 2010, a collection of essays was published to honor Stackhouse and his works in public theology entitled Public Theology for a Global Society: Essays in Honor of Max L. Stackhouse, edited by Deidre King Hainsworth and Scott R. Paeth (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010).

Professional Memberships and Offices:
President, 1986-87 Society of Christian Ethics
President, 1982-92 James Luther Adams Foundation
Editorial Board, The Christian Century
Editorial Board, Journal of Political Theology
Editorial Board, Religion in Eastern Europe
Member, American Theological Society
Member, American Academy of Religion
Member, American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy
Member, Société Européenne de Culture
Member, Amnesty International USA

Past Church Activities:
China Academic Consortium (Christian Scholars Exchange and Research Program) B Board Member
World Reformed Alliance - Roman Catholic Bilateral Consultations
World Council of Churches Conference on Faith, Science and the Future
Moscow Interfaith Peace Conference-National Council of Churches & Russian Orthodox Church
Evangelische Kirche der Union-UCC Working Group, Board for World Ministries
World Reformed Alliance-Mennonite Bilateral Consultations
Delegate, American Committee for Human Rights, Mission Team to the Philippines
Delegate, Consultation on the German Churches and Unification, Munich[3]

Personal life[edit]

He and his wife, Jean Stackhouse have two sons: Dale and David. He died on 30 January 2016 at his home in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. His memorial service was held on 13 February at The First Congregational Church of Stockbridge, MA.[3]


On the reductionist economic inquiry into globalization:
"The inquiry into why globalization is taking its present shape, and organizing the economic forces the way it does convinces me that an economistic view is too limited--so limited, in fact, that to treat it as such is to obscure the scope, structure, force and meaning of the phenomenon."
(Max L. Stackhouse, God and Globalization: Globalization and Grace [USA: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007], 1-2)

On "power" and "spheres":
"..."the powers" [...] drive the formation of civilizations; each "power" is organized by institutional clusters sharing primary norms and commons ends, which we call "spheres." Each sphere has a distinct role in today's social and historical life and functions more or less in accord with its own pattern of "best practices"; yet each interacts with every other sphere to form a society guided by a central faith-based worldview and an implicit ethos."
(Max L. Stackhouse, God and Globalization: Globalization and Grace [USA: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007], 41)

On understanding globalization:
"...globalization is best understood as a worldwide set of social, political, cultural, technological and ethical dynamics, influenced and legitimated by certain theological, ethical and ideological motifs, that are creating a worldwide civil society that stands beyond the capacity of any nation-state to control. It is influencing every local context, all peoples, all social institutions and the ecology of the earth itself. It is forming an alternative postmodernism, one that has elements of the fragmentation and the relativization of all previous securities, but that also is demanding the rediscovery of universalistic principles of anthropology, spirituality, morality and law, refining distinctive purposes and forming new institutions that require common recognition."
(Max L. Stackhouse, God and Globalization: Globalization and Grace [USA: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2007], 8)

On the place of theology and ethics in a globalized world:
"In an emerging global civilization, theological-ethical issues are again unavoidable. Insofar as we can know these issues with any confidence, we must come to an informed judgment, as many traditions would put it, about how God wants us to live in the global civilization, to respond to it, and to shape it."
(Max L. Stackhouse, “General Introduction,” in God and Globalization: Religion and the Powers of the Common Life, ed. Max L. Stackhouse and Peter J. Paris [USA: Trinity Press International, 2000], 7)

On the theology of public debate:
"What made a serious debate possible and not simply a series of postures shouting at each other is “common grace.” God has not only created all humans in the divine image, God works in the hearts of all, constraining evil and fostering impulses to the good, and allowing all to have a sense of what is right and true—or at least to be suspicious of what seems wrong and false. This grace does not bring salvation, but it invites the recognition of validity and excellence from many sources, and the relative capacity of all, including the “little people” and unbelievers, to contribute to the general welfare. God’s providence continues to unfold the first principles and ultimate purposes of it all. If one goes into politics, as did Kuyper, the primary purpose is to seek that polity and those policies that would allow the various spheres of society and all people to do their best without undue interference of statist or ecclesiastical control, and to enable each perspective to try to make its case in public debate."
(Max L. Stackhouse, Theology in the Public Square: Kuyper’s Contributions Highlighted in New PTS Center)

Exposition on the concept of "sphere sovereignty":
"Each sphere is regulated by customary or legislated rules, and each is defined by its own specification of ends and means, as these accord with the nature of the activity and its place in the whole society or culture. Each sphere develops methods of fulfilling its own standards, ways to mark accomplished goals, definitions of excellence, and standards for success. Each sphere may involve a host of organizations and practices—in economic life, for example, these practices range from the village market, to the partnership, to the family firm, to state-run factories, to the giant corporation, to the international financial market.

"Such levels of complexity exist for all the spheres, meaning that while each 'power' has a 'sphere' in which it is predominant, it is very difficult to make each sphere a closed system. [...] No sphere supplies all that it needs within itself, although some hearth societies, political regimes, and religious communities have attempted to be self-sufficient. Over time, encounter and exchange result. Each sphere must draw from what is around it; the permeability of each of each sphere means that each is always influenced by powers beyond itself. Economic life, to pursue the example above, is shaped not only by government and technology, but by the fact that people fall in love at the factory or office, which alters work habits, and sometimes leads to marriage and families, which further alters both earning and spending partners. Similarly, an erotic attraction is not only shaped by psychodynamics and familial history but by the economic (and cultural and political and religious) factors in the social context in which it takes place. If any one of these spheres begin to be dominated by an external power, distortion is inevitable.

"Thus, each sphere will have its own functional requirements, which can be recognized cross-culturally and cross-historically, and will inevitably take on distinctive institutional forms. But spheres do so variously from society to society according to the relative influence of other powers and spheres and the dominant values and norms present in the wider ethos."
(Max L. Stackhouse, “General Introduction,” in God and Globalization: Religion and the Powers of the Common Life, ed. Max L. Stackhouse and Peter J. Paris (USA: Trinity Press International, 2000), 39-40).

Selected publications[edit]


  • "A Premature Postmodern." First Things 106 (October 2000): 19-22.
  • "Spheres of Management." Theology Today 60, 3 (October 2003): 370-383.
  • "Civil Religion, Political Theology and Public Theology: What's the Difference?" Political Theology 5, 3 (July 2004): 275-293.
  • "For Fairer Trade: Justice and the Global Market." Christian Century 124, 16 (August 7, 2007): 28-31.
  • "The Christian Ethic of Love." Journal of Religious Ethics 35, 4 (December, 2007): 700-711.
  • "Framing the Global Ethos." Theology Today 66, 4 (January 2010): 415-429.
  • "Global Engagement: How My Mind Has Changed." Christian Century 128, 8 (April 19, 2011): 30-34.


  • "Christianity and the Prospects for a New Global Order." In Christian Political Ethics, ed. John A. Coleman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. ISBN 9780691131405
  • "Christianity, Civil Society, and the State: A Protestant Response." In Christian Political Ethics, ed. John A. Coleman. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. ISBN 9780691131405
  • "Ethics and Eschatology." In Oxford Handbook of Eschatology, ed. Jerry L. Walls. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 9780195170498


  1. ^ a b c "Max L. Stackhouse". Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. 2002. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. ^ "Max Stackhouse, influential theologian and ethicist, dies at 80". The Christian Century. Retrieved 2017-12-22.
  3. ^ a b c "Former Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Max Stackhouse Dies at 80". Planet Princeton. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2017-12-22.

Further reading[edit]