Clarence Walhout argues that both the "melting pot" or assimilation model of social life in America and the "salad bowl" or multicultural model are inadequate. A third model, suggested by the term "public sphere," offers a more productive way of thinking about American public life. Ideas developed by Habermas and Ricoeur suggest why this third model is also more compatible with Christian thinking than are the other two. The public-sphere model offers productive ways for understanding how literary studies can enhance Christian beliefs and how Christian beliefs can enhance literary studies. The interaction demanded by the public sphere model enables Christian literary criticism to participate in and contribute to contemporary debates over literary and cultural understanding. Mr. Walhout is Professor of English at Calvin College.