It’s a shame that I’ve taken this long to pick up and read a copy of Lee C. Camp’s first book Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World, now it it’s 2nd edition. I studied Political Theology under Camp’s in 2011 at Lipscomb University, and it was the most challenging and time consuming course in all my graduate studies, partly because I was quite ignorant in the ways of politics and felt like I noob. I was, however, already a pacifist, convinced of the necessity to love our enemies and witness to the sacrificial way of the cross as commanded by our Lord, Jesus; but I what I lacked was a fuller understanding of multiple arguments, typical jargon, and a better way to articulate my beliefs. It was unfortunate for class dialogue that every student in the class was already against any form of just war theory, though I did consider it an encouragement and joy to wrestle with all of our differing perspectives on politics as a whole. It was also in this course that I was introduced to John Howard Yoder, whose arguments upon which the book at hand is based. Following in the footsteps of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, Camp wrote Mere Discipleship after Yoder’s passing to honor his work. It should be noted that this is note merely a work based on Yoder; it is also in line with Camp’s own convictions. So, let’s now (finally) turn to the book!
If you’re looking for a step-by-step book on how to “disciple” (mentor) someone, as it is often called in evangelical circles, this is not that book. Again, Mere Discipleship is like Mere Christianity in that it addresses several contexts and how one ought to be a disciple therein. Given the focus on Yoder’s teachings, it is highly political, and rightly so! Being a disciple of Christ includes a holistic approach to life, not a sectarian approach. As such, all of life must been seen through one’s position as a citizen in the kingdom of God with Jesus as Lord. Any other perspective betrays one’s allegiance to something other than Christ, whether it’s a job, family, country, etc. (A book I previously reviewed, The Myth of a Christian Nation, quotes heavily from works of Yoder and this book.)
Camp structures the work into three parts: 1) what we mean when we talk about “discipleship,” 2) what disciples believe (gospel, savior, church), and finally 3) what disciples do (worship, baptism, prayer, communion, evangelism). Taking us from the first century, through the Constantinian shift of the church becoming the state (convert or die!), and to today whereby there has been a complete separation of church and state in more recent centuries so that we now (wrongly) perceive our lives in compartments: I have duties to God and duties to the state and they are mutually exclusive. This has been detrimental in living as true disciples of Christ, wherein our lives ought to holistically pursue Christ in the way of the cross (it’s never just politics, business is never just business, etc.).
Included in the 2nd edition is a wonderful, in-depth study guide by Joshua Graves for personal and groups use. This is not simply a collection of questions to ponder! A guide for each chapter contains a serious synopsis hitting the big points, a list of important terms and definitions found within the chapter, questions on content, questions relating the material to discipleship, and then a list of relevant bibliography for further reading; truly one of the best study guides you could hope for in a book!
This may end up being a bit more academic for the liking of some, but I still highly recommend it for all.