West’s use of the word “prophesy” does not refer to any predictions about the future, but rather to the moral condemnation of evil, combined with active efforts to bring about greater justice, equality, and benevolence toward the poor and oppressed. For models, West points to the prophetic works of Jesus of Nazareth, later Old Testament prophets, opponents of slavery, civil-rights leaders, and African American liberation theologians. In this vein, he quotes Luke 4:18, a passage in which Jesus proclaimed that he was anointed to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the afflicted, and to liberate those who were oppressed.
While frequently classifying himself as a Christian thinker, West shuns the role of theologian and writes that he has no interest in attempting to systematize the doctrines and dogmas of the Christian tradition, even expressing skepticism that they can be “rendered coherent and consistent.” Thus, he has little to say about Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, biblical miracles, or the uniqueness of Christian revelation. Profoundly influenced by the quasi-Marxist school of liberation theology, he views himself as primarily a cultural critic with philosophic training who works out of the Christian tradition.
West combines his pragmatic philosophy with a rather mystical interpretation of the Christian message. He writes: “Jesus Christ is the Truth, a reality that can only be existentially appropriated (not...
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