Public discourse is any branch of reason intended for use by the population at large. By contrast, private discourse is reasoning used among members of an organization be it a family, a church, a group of friends, or a club. The patterns of thought and discourse are similar in both cases with the primary exception that there are fewer shared ideas among a larger group.

If, for instance, you were speaking at a boating club, then metaphors dealing with lakes and oceans would have more sway and people would be more likely to know the difference between starboard and centerfield. Likewise, you could probably deduce that, within the club, people would take the preservation of waterways as a given, as something that does not need to be proved.

However, if you were to talk to the public at large you would find that the use of boating language might bring more confusion than understanding and you would find that not everyone is as excited about the preservation of waterways. At this point, such ideas would no longer provide common ground.

Additionally, in both public and private discourse the results of such discourse are often binding on the participants. If the boat club implements a rule, then the members of the club are required to follow it. If a city passes a law, all who live inside the city limits are required to follow it. Thus, public discourse has much more at stakeā€”it has binding power even upon those who might not care to be part of the group.

These facts are often used to discourage the use of Scripture in public discourse. The thought process is this: If you are speaking to a broad audience, not all of them will share your belief in Scripture. Therefore, using Scripture to prove a point is not valid, as they do not share your belief in Scripture as an authority. Additionally, if you use Scripture in public discourse and if you happen to be successful, you are forcing others to believe in what should be a private belief. While I think these two points are important, I do not think they are cause to avoid Scripture in public discourse. Instead, they should be used to help us use Scripture in public discourse more judiciously.

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