Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A prophetic Christian

A prophetic Christian is one who is attentive to the notion that human beings are unable to create error free or problem free situations, theories or traditions, and as a result prophetic Christians tend to be anti-dogmatic in thought and practice.

A prophetic Christian seeks to view each individual as having equal status, warranting dignity, respect and love, especially those who are denied such dignity, respect and love by individuals, families, groups, social structures, economic systems or political regimes.

The prophetic Christian seeks solidarity and identification with the downtrodden the disinherited, the degraded and disposed; and lastly, the good news of Jesus Christ, which lures and links human struggles to the coming of the kingdom--hence the warding off of disempowering responses to despair, dread, disappointment and death.

Prophetic Christian conceptions of what it is to be human, how we should act and what we should hope for are neither rationally demonstrate nor empirically verifiable in a necessary and universal manner. Rather, they are embedded and enacted in a form of life--a dynamic set of communities that constitute a diverse tradition--that mediates how I interpret my experiences, sufferings, joys and undertakings.

There are good reasons to accept prophetic Christian claims, but they are not a result of logical necessity or conform to transcendental criteria. Rather these reasons are good because they are acceptable and existentially enabling for many self critical finite and fallible creatures who are condemned to choose traditions not of their own creation. To choose a tradition is more than to be convinced by a set of arguments; it is also to decide to live alongside the edge of life's abyss with the support of the dynamic stories, symbols, interpretations and insights bequeathed by communities that came before.

-- Cornel West, The Cornel West Reader, 13-14


TheBlueRaja said...

Really cool post, dude; especially the portrait of West. What would be an interesting exercise is to characterize the "Prophetic Christian" alongside the "Narratival Christian", the "Sapiental Christian", the "Apocalyptic Christian", the "Didactic Christian" and the "Poetic/Artistic" Christian. I suspect that many of the tensions and internal disputations within Scripture are reflections of these different moods found within the various genres of Scripture.

metalepsis said...

I don't think West is trying to connect the 'prophetic' in prophetic Christian with the prophetic genre.

I imagine that he is trying to play on the hopefullness of the prophet in connection with the solidarity of standing for the good news, amid the dirtyness of life.

What are you on about Raja? Are you taking the mick out of me?

TheBlueRaja said...

You're Irish?! Funny - I always thought you were Jewish . . .

I guess I'm saying that there are various outlooks on life that the Scripture communicates beyond the prophetic one. Wisdom literature, for example, has a distinctly different take on the same topics as apocalyptic. While I certainly agree that we can't boil these different perspectives down into simplistic correspondence with genre categories, I do think that different genres at least give us some clues as to the differences in outlook among Biblical authors. Proverbs, for example, gives a distinctly different flavor to the same concerns addressed by West. There are voices in Scripture which would seem to make a markedly more passive attitude toward the injustices of this world (see Rev. 22:11).