Explorations in Theology

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Following Tim Suttle

I get a number of feeds each day of blogs that I follow, and have just begun to follow Tim Suttle at Paperback Theology: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/paperbacktheology/

Today he wrote, with reference to Stanley Hauerwas’ book Resident Aliens under the title of Christianity Shouldn’t Be Infused With Politics—It Is a Politic. Ever since the late 90s when I was involved in prayer teams to cities I have been strongly convinced that the Gospel is political – the language of ‘church’, ‘repent’ and all other such language is deeply political, and the exposure of the spirit of empire that comes to a sharp focus in Revelation, so of course in reading the article I am already biased toward it. Here though are a few quotes:

Christianity is a whole new way to be human that requires a complete reordering of the way we organize our lives both personally and communally—or politically. Christianity is a politic.

That’s where we are. I mean, nobody who begins with “Greater love has no one than the one who lays down their life for a friend,” could ever end up with the American brand of radical individualism. Nobody who begins with “Consider the lilies…” could ever end up with present day consumer capitalism. Nobody who has taken seriously the story of the Good Samaritan could end up with nationalism.

He writes as an American so of course critiques Christianity in that context, but the application is certainly not limited to the USA. Here is the link:

PaperBack Theology

6 thoughts on “Following Tim Suttle

  1. Very interesting and it really makes such great sense to those of us confused by the current situation we’re facing when Christians strongly endorsing particular secular expressions of politics as he said on both sides which are adhering to values which do not serve others and reflect little of the gospel. Not that we should therefore not vote for our preferred party but we acknowledge that the politics of Jesus are radically different and we are merely compromising in doing so until there is in truth a better way. Thank you for posting this.

  2. Very timely link, Martin, thank you. Perhaps it is just in the wording because there is nothing here of which I have not (thought I) had some appreciation. I felt something click into place, like a lens that had been slightly out of position. I have been wanting to find a way to embrace some of the broader conclusions of Andrew Perriman’s work with the work of other social and political thinkers like Hauerwas, Yoder and the next generation down. It seems like such a small thing and it will, no doubt, take me a while to get to grips even with a small thing. But the sense of freedom that happens when realizing not so much that the the biblical narrative is so fundamentally political but that I need to let go of those last remnants of any idea that it was ever anything other than that… well, as poorly described as it is, it raises hope that in Tim Suttle’s description at least, is a formulation that might open the way for a fresh embrace of a very differently described purpose.

    1. Just read that comment back. Congratulations, Martin, you are now the recipient of the most tortured and confusing comment I think I have ever posted anywhere. Sorry about that.

    2. Thanks Chris… ‘any idea that it was ever anything other than that’ sums it up. We are pretty slow to move on are we not? I find a ‘yes it is that and it is also…’ but I am persuaded (in my better moments) that it is political and therefore all-embracing.

    3. That is a great point. For so long the universalising forms of the Jewish story, to the modern individualized and ‘personal faith’ that is so foundational to Evangelicalism and such a bugbear to people like Hauerwas, has been assumed (and read back) to be the way the gospel ‘applies’ to everyone everywhere… when all along something that could have done this job without uprooting the narrative and rendering it so abstract was powerfully in place. That is quite a thought… political therefore all embracing.

  3. A little serendipity today when I read Andrew’s most recent post. He mentions the critique from the Gospel Coalition of Paula Fredriksen’s ‘Paul: The Pagan’s Apostle’. He disagrees with the first two of their three criticisms and completely recasts the third. But then he says this, which resonates very much with our topic here:

    “The problem is that modern interpreters on both sides of this debate tend to discount the hermeneutical force of the pressing historical reality. It’s not just that Paul was a Jewish apostle who assumed the fundamental historical orientation of biblical prophecy. It is that a real world with real threats and challenges and possibilities imposed itself upon his consciousness. This concrete reality has to be factored into interpretation. His apocalyptic narratives were not pious flights of fancy; they were about something.”

    “”the hermeneutical force of the pressing historical reality”” Now that is a phrase to be conjured with, or, in other words, was it ever not thus?

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