The Politics of Discipleship

The Politics of Discipleship

Graham Ward, Baker Academic

Ward’s “politics of discipleship” springs from his conviction that the modern identification of the secular as a realm distinct from religious life has led to a theology — call it “secularism” — which operates as an antipathetic rival to the Christian theological vision.

The book has two main sections, entitled “The World” and “The Church”. The first is intended to give a diagnosis of the primary ills of the current global society guided by secularism: weakening of democratic governance, reduction of all values to market values, and a resurgence of religion — but in forms that capitulate to and legitimate the inhumanity licensed by the other ills.

The second section proposes a Christian response that neither capitulates to nor legitimates such a world. This inevitably makes discipleship political action: disciples pursue full civic participation as Christians; they pursue it not only for themselves but for all, so celebrating the worth of all in inclusive embodiment of church in society; and they obediently anticipate the ultimate reign of God among us.

Ward opens with the warning: “This is a political book. It is not a polite book.”

It isn’t a polite book, but unfortunately this is the case less because it tries to speak theological truth to secularistic power than because it plays fast and loose and sloppy.

Ward does not so much argue for his position as dogmatise; and, in any case, the postmodern theory and analysis he brandishes seems of doubtful relevance to the dogmatic assertions.

In fairness, I haven’t read the two previous books, which Ward says prepare for this one, but then the editor of the Church and Postmodern Culture series claims The Politics of Discipleship was written for a broad, non-specialist audience.

To my great disappointment, because I really hoped to learn from this book, I think he’s wrong about that.

Andrew Irvine

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