Evangelical Christians are beginning to realize again in our day that, although salvation cannot be earned, the most important test of its genuine presence in the world is ethical. And, as a result, they are asking about the meaning of the biblical faith for ethical decision- making, and searching for a broad theological basis for their newfound social and political concerns. It will not be sufficient to be able to cite a text from the prophets or even from Jesus himself. What we really need is a systematic theology for public discipleship, a theological framework which is truly adequate to deal with a profound Christian concern about economic justice, political repression, racism, militarism, and the like. We need a theology that expresses the radical nature of Christianity. Not a theology that merely reflects the thinking of some secular ideology, but one which is rooted in the Word of God and responds to the command of God.
The Authority of the Bible
The inspiration and normative authority of Scripture is an indispensable foundation for our Christian social concern and public discipleship. All Christians, even though they differ in the nature of biblical authority, acknowledge that the Word of God is mediated through the Bible and that its teachings disclose the authentic will of God for human life and society. This is not to minimize the importance of having the highest possible respect for the Bible and all that it teaches. It is simply to observe a remarkable agreement that exists amongst liberals and conservatives alike as to the primacy of Scripture for ethical norms and standards. The unity at this point gives the evangelical a basis from which to appeal to other Christians to extend their respect for the Bible to other areas as well. Our theology for public discipleship does not spring out of a turning from Scripture, but arises out of our willingness to hear God’s Word without reservation.