At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

Six Quotes from ‘The Political Disciple’ for Inspiring Your Public Discipleship

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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 new book being released today, 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 six 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.”

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  • GScandlen

    This is all very well, but I hope the book gets beyond bland platitudes. For example, many Christians who actively practice their faith in the public square today are being reviled and scorned for doing so. We should not be surprised when this happens. Jesus told us the World will hate us as it hated Him. Far too many Christians are ill-prepared to be hated and instead work hard to be popular. We need a reminder about putting on the Armor of God.

    • gregoryayers

      Thanks for weighing in. I think this book provides strong theological justification for practicing faith in the public square, so Christians who are already actively practicing their faith in the public square can draw encouragement and strength from what this book has to say. The book exhorts Christians to remain involved in public life even during times of hardship, and draws on biblical reasons for doing so.

  • I don’t see a lack of interest in politics among Christians. What I see is too much reliance on it to achieve what it can’t. While I agree that Christians should be engaged in politics, we also need to temper our expectations about what politics can achieve. No amount of legislation will transform non-Christians into Christians or make Christians better. No amount of legislation will cause non-Christians to act like Christians.

    What’s missing is a clear guide for Christians about the role of government. In the Reformation Christians decided that the state should be like a night watchman and guard the life, liberty and property of the citizens from threats to it by the state, citizens or foreign states. Christians today don’t see that limited role for the state. Instead, they see it as the answer to all problems.

    • gregoryayers

      You make a good point about tempering expectations, Roger. One of the things I appreciated about Vince’s book is that in the final chapter he addresses that very issue, saying in essence that we should refrain from both excessive pessimism and excessive optimism, realizing that our actions are significant but they aren’t the ultimate acts of history that will fix the deepest problems of the world (and the section is title, appropriately, “Tempering Expectations”.

  • KHoeft

    I appreciate this article and all the comments because the “spiritual escape clauses” are so common it can be depressing….they tend to be the first response I hear from believers when talking about anything in the civil sphere. Maybe discussing the primacy of doing what is right in the public arena, in faith, trusting God for the outcome can replace the do-nothing and hope for Christ’s immediate return approach to public challenges. Scripture does apply to all of life….Amen for those in our history who saw it this way or we wouldn’t have the liberties we enjoy on a daily basis. Thank you for discussing these issues….it is timely and necessary.

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