Public Square & Theology 101

Does Following Jesus Lead to the Public Square?

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Do politics and public life have anything to do with God?

That’s the question Vincent Bacote, associate professor of theology at Wheaton College and an IFWE guest contributor, seeks to answer in his book, The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life.

Over the course of eighty-five pages, Bacote provides a primer on Christian engagement in public life and the importance of public discipleship.

The Political Disciple is a quick read, but rich in theological insight. It’s driven along by Bacote’s personal reflections on his own biography as an evangelical navigating the promise and peril of public life.

By way of introduction to the book’s key concepts, here are some significant quotes for inspiring your own public discipleship, whether you’re in politics, business, the arts, or any other sphere of influence.

On the Reason for Public Discipleship

Common grace is a doctrine that gives us a vision for seeing one vital part of Christian faithfulness. While it is vitally important to proclaim the gospel, introduce people to Jesus, and help them move toward faithful discipleship as they participate in church life, it is also tremendously important for Christians to see that it has always been our responsibility to care for the world, cultivating the flourishing of life through our activity in culture, politics, education, medicine, business, and every public arena.

On “Spiritual Escape Clauses”

While there are many reasons to grieve the ills we see all around the world, and days when the refrain “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” seems to be the only appropriate response, our responsibility for the life of the creation does not ultimately allow us to say, “This world is not my home; I’m just passing through.” While understanding that many people make such statements to express their allegiance to God and their detachment from the materialistic cultural and political idolatries that surround us, I fear that such thoughts become a spiritual escape clause that gives permission to abdicate our role in creation.

On Holiness in Public Life

Though we may often think of holiness in terms of our internal personal piety (and indeed we should), the pursuit and expression of holiness is hardly antithetical to Christian engagement in public concerns….Our pursuit of holiness should not be limited to our internal transformation but should extend to all our public actions.

Holiness is not supposed to be cloaked in the chambers of pious hearts but displayed in the public domains of home, school, culture, and politics….If we heed this call and continue down the path of transformation, our private and public practice will produce more amazement than exasperation, and even our enemies will see that we act like those who are…human.

On Perseverance in Public Discipleship

The great temptation many of us face today is to leave the mess of the public square and find another way to be faithful, a way that may be less costly though maybe less spiritually valuable. To yield to such a temptation is to develop amnesia about our first commandment and commission.

In the end, the reason for staying in the game is the same reason for getting into it in the first place. God gave humans a Great Commission and never rescinded it.

Editor’s note: Learn more biblical principles of common grace in How Then Should We Work?

On “Flashback Friday,” we publish some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was first published on May 5, 2015.

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