The religious groups that peopled this country in the 17th and eighteenth centuries generally had well developed theologies of political engagement. But few evangelicals in America today have such historical resources to draw from. The Christian traditions that have given evangelicalism its vitality in recent generations have been individualistic, pietistic, and theologically unreflective in their approach to politics.
This is why in a post from last summer I implored evangelical leaders to explain the scriptural precepts and theological principles that guided their course during the recent presidential campaign. The Scripture calls us to “take every thought captive to obedience to Christ.” When it comes to politics, we need to know how to think more than what to think. What Scriptural principles should be shaping our thinking as we strive to live faithfully in the political arena?
Just this morning I finished a wonderful introduction to this crucial question: The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life, by Vincent E. Bacote. Vince Bacote is my colleague–an associate professor of theology and director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics here at Wheaton College. He has written an invaluable little book for lay Christians who want to think and act faithfully with regard to politics.
Bacote writes clearly, simply, and conversationally about a series of related questions:
- Should Christians even participate in the public sphere?
- How might Christian beliefs influence our engagement in the public realm?
- How should Christians understand their identity?
- What kind of people should Christians be in public?
- How might Christians retain hope, given the frustrations of public engagement?
Bacote’s reasoning throughout is judicious, scripturally based, and scrupulously non-partisan. I highly recommend it.