Strange … in politics, the word “radical” is a derogatory term. It’s bad to be radical.

If you’re a politician, you can abide being called progressive, extreme, or just about anything else. But you don’t want to be labeled “radical.”

Yet the word comes from the Latin radix, which means “root.”

The word radical really means going to or proceeding from the root.

As a Christian, it’s good to be radical. It means you’re going to the root of the matter instead dealing with and living on the surface.

If you are a radical ecclesiologist, it means you view church life as coming out of the root, which is God’s life. And as far as solutions go, you don’t settle for patch-work or Band-Aid jobs. You know that the only hope for change is to dig deep down to the roots and deal with them on the foundational level.

Some years back Arthur Wallis wrote a prophetic book called The Radical Christian. In it, Wallis redeemed the word “radical” for Christians.

To be radical means to return to the way God would have things.

The prophets in the Old Testament were radical. Their whole occupation was to return to the roots. The “ancient paths,” as it were.

John the Baptist declared that the time had come for the axe to be laid to the root.

John was a radical.

I find it interesting, however, that many who are considered to be radical in the political sense are ultra conservative in the ecclesiological sense. They not only accept the ecclesiastical status quo — but they fiercely defend it, even if it has no roots in Jesus, the apostles, or the New Testament.

In addition, some pop-Christian leaders are using the word “radical” to resurrect a discipleship movement from the 1970s that was tried and found wanting. There seems to be no knowledge about the seeds of destruction that were present in that movement and some of those seeds are present in the contemporary analog. Regrettably, the people I’ve spoken to who are enthralled with the current movement (mostly 20-somethings) are completely ignorant of the past movement. So history is repeating itself.

Let’s reserve the word “radical” for what truly goes to the root. Just sayin . . .

Looking for More? See the Radical Ecclesiology series.

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About Frank Viola

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