Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

This week I am beginning a new series blogging through the excellent book Seeking the City: Wealth, Poverty, and Political Economy in Christian Perspective by Chad Brand and Tom Pratt. First, full disclosure, Dr. Brand was a professor of mine at both Boyce College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Secondly, this massive volume was given to me by Kregel Publishers for the purpose of a review (you can read that review here).

With that said, shortly after readings its first few pages, it became clear to me it deserves a fuller treatment than what a simple review can awful. In addition, I believe the book handles an issue that Christians rarely address. All Christians have personal views on politics, economics, taxes, and the progressive state we now live under, but few Christians have seriously evaluated and developed a robust theology of a political economy. This is a real weakness of evangelicalism. One powerful voice that progressive theologians and Christians have over orthodox believers stands at this point. They are deeply engaged not just in the political process, but appear to be more compassionate, caring, and, well, Christian.

I want us to begin with the authors for this first post. At the end of their preface, the authors write:
A nineteen-year old student of mine . . . who is from the part of eastern Kentucky where I am now serving my church, related to me how years ago before he was born during the "Great Society" buildup of Lyndon Johnson, the president came to his county and gave a famous speech about his new program, photos were taken and are famously displayed in that county, but the county has never recovered financially from Johnson's program. It is worse off today than it ever was in 1963, the year Johnson took the presidency.

What we are engaging in here is a dialogue that has in recent years taken on the name of "theo-politics" and "theo-economics." We are entering the field of dialogue known as the "political economy," and we are dealing with it from the standpoint of the Christian Bible, the Christian theological heritage, and biblical Christian ethics. But we are playing on the field of political economy. So, if there are times in reading this volume that you are not sure whether you are wrestling with political science, with economics, or with theology, then you are right with us! Neither Tom nor I pretend to be political science experts or experts in economics. Tom is a pastor and a businessman, and I am a pastor and a theologian by training. But someone has to speak to the interface between these issues, and if the people who have more credentials are not doing it, then we will take our shot and at least open a side of the conversation that has not yet really been broached.

Tom and I believe that for our nation's well-being, and for the church's spiritual vitality, there needs to be a new look at the issues of work, wealth, and stewardship, and it is in hope and expectation that we might do some good, that we offer this book. We realize that the volume you hold in your hand (or are looking at on your screen) is weighty. We make no apology for that in terms of the ground to be covered. We became convinced in the midst of the construction of this book that there was a body of information that needed to be presented, and that without all of it, the story could not be told. Here is our story. It is ours in the sense that we have lived it, and it is ours in the sense that we have assembled it. (14-15)
In the weeks that follow, we will explore with the authors how Christians should contemplate and address issues of politics and economics theologically. It is crucial to note at the beginning that this series and this book, is not a partisan attack on this or that party. Rather it is a work of systematic, historic, and practical theology. Christians, I have found, are quick to make political and economic arguments but are woefully unprepared to defend their positions theologically.

For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Class Warfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther
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