Friday, April 15, 2011

Radical Revisited

Recently I took at look at David Platt's new books "Radical" and "Radical Together." These are good books that strongly make the point that the kind of obedience required to be a disciple of Jesus is more than most of us like to admit. Jesus' call is for a radical obedience that will follow Him in whatever He asks of us. The major issue I had with Radical was the suggestion that those who were choosing more exotic or dangerous paths (selling their homes and moving to a developing nation to share Christ) were inherently better disciples or glorifying God more than those who felt led to remain in the situation they are in.

Skye Jethani wrote a two-part article, "Redefining Radical" (part-one and part-two) where he makes the case that the call to radical mission is not the solution to consumerist Christianity. He had the same misgivings I had about the book.
“How radical do I have to be?” the suburban mom asked. She had recently read a number of Christian books decrying the self-centered nature of much of the American church. The authors had apparently had enough of the consumer orientation of their congregations. As a remedy, each of the books calls readers to live a counter-cultural life of radical sacrifice and mission. The books, while inspiring, left this woman feeling “exhausted.”
The rally cry to consumerist Christians is to become activists - whether that means sharing the gospel message (for traditional evangelicals) or compassion and justice (for many emerging and/or younger evangelicals). Jethani points out that if we're not careful, we replace one error with another. The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 shows two paths that ignore the father's love - the younger prodigal son choosing the path of consumerism, but equally wrong is the older son who is far more interested in obedience to his father than loving communion with his father.

Skye asks "Whatever happened to a theology of calling and vocation?" He points out that Platt seems to really miss the reformed view of calling and vocation, whereby each of us has an occupation that (with the right attitude) is pleasing to God and necessary for society. I think he nails the problem the view expressed in Radical and elsewhere when he says "perhaps even more disturbing than our implicit ranking of vocations is how we have pushed the Holy Spirit out of the picture and instead taken it upon ourselves to tell people what they should be doing for God, or at the very least what they ought to do if they want their lives to really matter." Have we ignored the teaching by Paul in I Corinthians 7:17 - "Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them." Paul stresses that keeping God's commands with a right heart is what counts.

As fully devoted followers of Christ, we should live out a radical obedience, and we should be willing to do anything the Lord asks of us, even to lay down our lives. Yet this does not mean that He is calling us all in the same way, or that the suburban mom is any less devoted to the Lord than someone sharing the good news in a distant land.

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