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Evangelicals in the Public Square

There is only space for two sets of remarks in concluding this already lengthy review. First, the preceding set of reflections summarizes some of the major reasons why I identify myself first and foremost as a Pentecostal rather than an evangelical theologian. While I wish to uphold the authority of scripture with evangelicals, I have come to see that evangelical mantras such as sola scriptura, however qualified, are insufficient for any political theology, much less any robustly theological perspective on much of life in our late modern context. This is not because I think the Bible is irrelevant to our concerns–far from it! Rather, it is because I don’t think that evangelical approaches to the Bible are adequate for developing holistic theological understandings of modern life, much less contemporary political theory and practice. Budziszewski’s proposal to retrieve the doctrine of general revelation for the purposes of evangelical political reflection highlights precisely my point: there is no plain sense reading of the Bible relative to contemporary concerns that is non-theological (or non-historical, non-political, non-socioeconomic, non-ethnic, etc.).

Hence, second, if I did not agree with Budziszewski’s specific suggestions, my response is either 1) propose an alternative theological perspective to complement or perhaps even replace the role he sees being played by the doctrine of general revelation, or 2) shift the terms of the conversation completely, perhaps as suggested by Weeks and Bolt, but, perhaps more radically, toward a Yoderian vision of the church as an alternative politics. What I don’t have is the luxury to embrace the non-politically engaged posture of my (classical) Pentecostal upbringing because that in itself is a political response. Now there may indeed be some overlap between (classical) Pentecostal sectarianism and the Yoderian account of what it means to be church in a post-Constantinian and even post-Christian world. However, even if we were to adopt such a posture of being church as a form of cultural criticism, as Woodiwiss’ comments show, there is still the need for some concrete suggestions for how to live as political creatures in a modern democracy such as we have in North America. Hence the task of political theology cannot be completely ignored. And for this assignment, might I suggest that Pentecostals and charismatics have theological resources at their disposal in the Pentecost narrative–e.g., in the Lukan account of the Spirit’s having been poured out on all flesh (Acts 2:17)–which can complement either the Kuyperian notion of common grace or Budziszewski’s affirmation of general revelation. But the details of what such a distinctive Pentecostal political theology might look like will have to await another occasion.

Reviewed by Amos Yong

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About the Author: Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, history, and religious studies from Western Evangelical Seminary and Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, and Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, and an undergraduate degree from Bethany University of the Assemblies of God. He is the author of numerous papers and over 30 books. fuller.edu/faculty/ayong/ amosyong@fuller.edu Facebook

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