Christian radicalism

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Christian radicalism (radical Christianity or radical discipleship) encompasses a number of different movements and actions in practical theology.[1] It entails a radical re-orientation towards the root truths of Christian discipleship through personal reflection and action.[2]

Radical re-orientation and reflection[edit]

"Radical" refers to the need for perpetual re-orientation towards the root truths of Christian discipleship. Radical is derived from the Latin word radix meaning "root."[3] One way Christians achieve this is to revisit the Sermon on the Mount or the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the canonical gospels.[4][5] Alternatively this re-orientation may consist of Christians re-examining their roots or discovering an anti-imperialist heritage within their own traditions, such as Methodists studying John Wesley, Baptists remembering the Anabaptists or Catholics finding Francis of Assisi.[6] Christian radicals, such as Ched Myers, Lee Camp and Shane Claiborne, believe mainstream Christianity has moved away from its origins, namely the core teachings and practices of Jesus such as turning the other cheek and rejecting materialism.[7]

Personal action[edit]

Radical discipleship calls Christians to follow the will of God through personal action and example.[8] This may encompass theological ideas and actions that are perceived to be subversive or extreme, and therefore unacceptable to either the Church or State. The methods by which radical Christians attempt to transform the social order can vary widely, from constructive activism to destructive fanaticism, as Christopher Rowland explains:

Christian radicalism has had its roots in the Bible. Both those committed to violence, and those who resorted to peaceful means to bring about change, have appealed to the Bible, albeit using different hermeneutical strategies. We cannot understand Christian history without recognising the interweaving of destructive fanaticism and constructive activism, and, what is more, the knee-jerk reaction to radicalism, of whatever hue, from the wielders of power, whether secular or ecclesiastical.[9]

Examples of nonviolent radicalism include Martin Luther King, Jr., Toyohiko Kagawa, Leo Tolstoy, Gerrard Winstanley, William Blake and Gustavo Gutiérrez, whilst examples of violent radicalism include the Münster Rebellion, Thomas Müntzer and Camilo Torres Restrepo.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dancer, Anthony (2005). William Stringfellow in Anglo-American Perspective. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 16–18. 
  2. ^ Myers, Ched (1988). Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Orbis Books. p. 8. The first is repentance, which for us implies not only a conversion of heart, but a concrete process of turning away from empire, it's distractions and seductions, it's hubris and iniquity. The second is resistance, which involves shaking off the powerful sedation of a society that rewards ignorance and trivializes everything political, in order to discern and take concrete stands in our historical moment, and to find meaningful ways to 'impede imperial progress.' Both themes demand a commitment to nonviolence, as a personal and interpersonal way of life and as a militant and revolutionary political practice. 
  3. ^ Ferré, Nels Fredrick Solomon (1943). Return to Christianity. Harper & Brothers. p. 14. Christianity must, in short, become radical. 'Radical' comes from the Latin radix, meaning 'root.' Radical Christianity is simply root Christianity. Every great reform in Christianity has come from going back to the root. 
  4. ^ Chia, Roland (2006). Radical Discipleship: Reflections on the Sermon on the Mount. Wipf & Stock Publishers. 
  5. ^ Myers, Ched (1988). Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Orbis Books. p. 13. As the earliest Gospel, it has stood at the center of critical efforts to reconstruct the life of Jesus 
  6. ^ Myers, Ched (1988). Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark's Story of Jesus. Orbis Books. p. 7. …reexamining their roots (Latin radix, whence 'radical'). For many there was a rediscovery of a nonimperial heritage within their own traditions: Lutherans found Bonhoeffer, Baptists remembered the Anabaptists, Methodists reread Wesley and the Abolitionists, Catholics found Francis and a host of martyrs, and so on. 
  7. ^ Camp, Lee C. (2003). Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. Brazos Press. pp. 19–30. Radical Discipleship 
  8. ^ Camp, Lee C. (2003). Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. Brazos Press. p. 133. The gospel is not merely a belief system...The gospel calls us to participate in the kingdom of heaven, to embody the will of God on earth, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. 
  9. ^ a b Rowland, Christopher (2007). Timmerman, Hutsebaut, Mels, Nonneman and Van Herck, ed. Faith-based Radicalism: Christianity, Islam and Judaism Between Constructive Activism And Destructive Fanaticism. Peter Lang. pp. 115–129. ISBN 90-5201-050-1. Radical Christian Writings 

Further reading[edit]

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

21st century[edit]

  • Dan McKanan (2002) Identifying the Image of God: Radical Christians and Nonviolent Power in the Antebellum United States
  • Andrew Bradstock and Christopher Rowland (2002) Radical Christian Writings: A Reader
  • Wes Howard-Brook and Sharon H. Ringe (2002) The New Testament: Introducing the Way of Discipleship
  • Lee C. Camp (2003) Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World
  • Joerg Rieger and John Vincent (2004) Methodist and Radical: Rejuvenating a Tradition
  • Wes Howard-Brook (2004) Becoming Children of God: John's Radical Gospel and Radical Discipleship
  • Rad Zdero (2004–2011) The Global House Church Movement ISBN 978-0-87808-374-9; NEXUS: The World House Church Movement Reader ISBN 978-0-87808-342-8; Letters to the House Church Movement: Real Letters, Real People, Real Issues ISBN 978-1-61379-022-9
  • Shane Claiborne (2006) The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
  • David Augsburger (2006) Dissident Discipleship
  • Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. (2006) The Politics of Jesus: Rediscovering the True Revolutionary Nature of Jesus' Teachings and How They Have Been Corrupted
  • Daniel M. Keeran (2006–9) Radical Christianity: Peace and Justice in the New Testament; Christian Terrorism: lay down your life.... take up your cross
  • Roland Chia (2006) Radical Discipleship: Reflections on the Sermon on the Mount
  • Andrew W. McThenia Jr. (2007) Radical Christian and Exemplary Lawyer: Honoring William Stringfellow
  • Robert Rix (2007) William Blake and the Cultures of Radical Christianity
  • Richard A. Horsley (2008) In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance
  • Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (2008) Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
  • John Stott (2010) The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling
  • Z. Holler (2010) Jesus' Radical Message: Subversive Sermons for Today's Seekers
  • David Platt (2010) Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream
  • Jamie Arpin-Ricci (2011) The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis & Life in the Kingdom
  • Mark Van Steenwyk (2013) The unKingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance
  • Benjamin L. Corey (2014) Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus