14 May 2017

"The Political Disciple"

This past February I posted here and here on the Renew Conference hosted by Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church. Keynote speaker Vincent Bacote has written a short (88 pp.) book titled "The Political Disciple" (Zondervan 2015). Given a busy semester, it's taken me this long to finish it.

Like many in the American Evangelical tradition, Bacote grew up with little consciousness of any connection between Christian doctrine and political life. Apart from a few hot button issues, Christianity was concerned with little more that the doctrine of the atonement, personal holiness, and confidence of a heavenly reward at the end of our days.

Unlike most in the American Evangelical tradition, Bacote is of African ancestry. Thus, for him and his family, matters of racial (in)justice also figured into the political calculus. Yet even here, political action was not deeply integrated into a biblical foundation.

As Bacote continued his education through the doctoral level, however, he became acquainted with Dutch theologian-statesman Abraham Kuyper. (For more than you might want to know about Kuyper read a few of my posts about him here, here, here, and here.) Grounding political action in a robust doctrine of creation as well as the Fall and redemption, Bacote's eyes were opened to a structural approach to framing contemporary problems instead of one that found its justification in a few isolated proof texts.

I won't take the time to work out Bacote's thoughts here because his fundamental approach should be familiar to the many of my readers who are acquainted with or part of the neo-Kuyperian tradition flourishing in North America. (Suffice it to say he chooses race, ineffectual humanitarian action, and the sexual revolution for sustained analysis.) Instead, I will pick up a theme in his book that I've not seen elsewhere in connection with Christian political action: lament.
There are three areas that I will consider.
The first is what some call the long-lost art of lament. Though I have encountered many Christian who have mourned in the face of loss and tragedy, the practice of lament has been a relatively new dimension to my conversations with God. I propose the practice of lament in the face of the frustrations that attend the practice of public engagement because this is a way for Christians to fiercely tell the truth about the heartbreak the world brings us.
[For those who are curious, Bacote's next two areas are "tempering our expectations" and "suffering along the way." No one can accuse Bacote of being a triumphalist!] 

Lament struck a special chord with me because less than a year earlier we had attended a conference titled "Recovering the Lost Art of Lament" lead by Michael Card, a Christian artist-theologian. Lament is certainly a lost art, one that disciples of Christ should employ personally but also corporately. And by drawing our attention to lament in our lives as the political disciples, Bacote has done Evangelicals a great favor.

In brief, I can commend "The Political Disciple" to my readers. Bacote's book would work well for individuals as well as small groups or Sunday School classes.

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