I have been reflecting on the prophetic dimensions of a faith-commitment.
It seems to me that we now live in a time and situation where not just some individuals, but perhaps all people of faith are in some degree called to a prophetic stance. But the peculiarity of our situation is that we are not only called to protest against the ’empire’ in its political and economic power, but perhaps even more acutely against the religious power structures which have and do reinforce those economic and political regimes.
Maybe this was always so, in biblical history.
Surely now, though, we have a situation where ‘religion’ has become so tainted with the power structures of the corporate world, and the definitions of life which separate the ‘spiritual’ into private piety and individualist moralism, while all the rest of life is assigned to the empire of money and might: and so God is put into the corner and told to keep out of the things of this world.
The church has all too easily made its peace with this order of things.
On the other hand, a faith in Jesus and his Gospel calls us to trust in something else altogether, even in the face of this power and might. It is prophetic, it is protest, but it also has a promise, a hope.
Not many will accept this way: Jesus turned to his own and asked them would they, too, abandoned him. (John 6. 67)
So we have to be very mindful that it may be a lonely road, and those who do follow this way will need to hold together, in a fellowship of faith, knowing who we really are and what really matters.
That seems to me the present state of things—and it is not welcomed by church leaders any more than it is welcomed by the political and business leaders.
In this context, I would suggest that people who claim the heritage ‘Baptist’ need to look again to their origins, and consider the special invitation of the ‘Anabaptist’ emphases. Here there was a strong resistance to any of the forms of institution and, instead, an insistence on the idea of being a community constantly in formation.
To embrace the challenges of our time, I believe we must clearly name the inherent values of this Baptist identity. We are a pilgrim people, with no fixed abode in the current world order. We believe in the promise of Jesus that there will be a new way, a new order which will overcome the death-dealing ways of the world.
We believe, too, in the reality of structural sin which infects all our systems and can blind us to these realities and this call. We must always be on guard for this sin, lurking at the door—and therefore humbly seek each other’s wisdom and guidance, not imagining that we know it all.
In short, we must continue in the time-honoured ways of Baptist life, attending diligently to the Word of God and trusting the presence of the Spirit amongst us. Without this dimension of corporate discernment and faith, we easily lose our way. But with it, we journey in hope!
We need prophets: indeed a prophetic community. Not profits.