These words of Jesus about getting beyond mere lip service (Mt. 7:21) have always haunted me. Reading David Platt’s Radical only serves to stir the unrest. Here’s a sample–to give you a little taste of his message:
I am convinced that we as Christ followers in American churches have embraced values and ideas that are not only unbiblical but that actually contradict the gospel we claim to believe. And I am convinced we have a choice. You and I can choose to continue with business as usual in the Christian life and in the church as a whole, enjoying success based on the standards defined by the culture around us. Or we can take an honest look at the Jesus of the Bible and dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really believed him and really obeyed him… (p. 3)
…we are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream. (p. 13)
Yes, even as others out there have suggested, there’s a certain “shock jock” [my words] aura about Platt and his writing. Taken to extremes (which Platt seems to enjoy), the Gospel easily morphs into an enterprise of works righteousness: “if our lifestyle isn’t ‘radical’ enough [by Platt’s standards],” one is tempted to read, “then maybe I’m not as Christian as I thought”—as if our being Christian and right with God is grounded in our performance/works! (It’s not our works that make us right with God, I tell my folks at church, but our rightness with God that makes for our loving works!) (And here, it should be noted: Platt, to his credit, acknowledges this danger and does a fairly good job of addressing it! [cf, http://www.chosenforgrace.com/2010/05/kevin-deyoung-on-david-platts-radical.html])
In spite of legitimate criticisms like this, I still find myself grateful for Platt and Radical. In my mind, you see, if there’s a weakness or danger right now in American Christianity, it’s that serious living of the Gospel has been so neglected by the core—and thereby, relegated to the fanatical and fantastical extremes—that it has become a non-issue, if not a laughing matter, to unbelievers.
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting as much as it has been found difficult and hardly tried,” wrote G.K. Chesterton. And, hardly tried, I add, it is hardly experienced. And, hardly experienced it is not really witnessed to or by the world. No wonder Gandhi said, “I could be a Christian if it were not for the Christians I have met.”
In an American culture of “Christianity lite,” it seems to me there’s real room for Platt’s Radical—no matter how “shockish” it might be. Yes, here I am reminded: in dancing—as in navigating paradoxes, sometimes (and especially when you’re too close to the “edge”), you need to pushback pretty hard (and maybe with a little shock) to restore things to a proper and healthy center!