“Radical” Christianity vs. regular Christianity

The latest thing in contemporary Christianity is “radical Christianity.”  From the Christian bestseller lists to programs in megachurches, Christians are being told that Jesus was “radical” and that they should give up their “middle class” “mediocrity” and start helping the poor.  But how is this different from just liberal mainline Protestantism?  And isn’t just another form of works-righteousness?  For all the talk of the “demands of the Gospel” (doesn’t that turn the Gospel into Law?), I don’t hear anything about the Gospel.  That is, Christ on the Cross atoning for sinners.  Some of these teachers are making valid criticisms of typical evangelicalism, it seems to me, but they are slipping into some of the same mistakes, just in a different key.  And it also reaches for the spectacular, minimizing ordinary life, a serious “theology of glory” rejection of vocation.  (After the jump, read an account from Christianity Today and give me your take on this.)

From Matthew Lee Anderson, “Here Comes the Radicals!” in Christianity Today:

At the heart of [David] Platt’s message is his claim that we mistakenly turn the “radical Jesus of the Bible … into the comfortable Jesus of 21st-century American culture.” He warns that the culture of “self-advancement, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency” and our “individualism, materialism, and universalism” have neutered American Christians’ witness and blinded us to widespread global poverty, an orphan crisis, and the massive number of those who still have never heard of Jesus. . . .

It’s really hard to read these books, one after another, and confidently declare yourself a Christian at the end.

Platt [author of Radical] isn’t the only one attempting to recover a more rigorous understanding of the gospel’s demands. Six years ago Shane Claiborne introduced “ordinary radicals” into the American Christian lexicon. His book The Irresistible Revolution offers a critique similar to that of Radical, albeit with a political focus that includes a more explicit repudiation of American nationalism (Platt’s own work has hints of this) and a pacifist critique of violence.

More recently, Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote Not a Fan after realizing he had made following Jesus “as appealing, comfortable, and convenient as possible.” Francis Chan caught the wave with Crazy Love, a book that tries to affirm our desire for “more God,” even if we are “surrounded by people who have ‘enough God.’” Steven Furtick, whose Elevation Church in North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing megachurches, added Greater to the mix, proposing that Christians are mired in miserable mediocrity and should open our “imagination to the possibility that God has a vision for [our] life that is greater” than what we’re experiencing. All of these have hit the Christian best-seller lists, and most are still on them.

In other words, the radical message has found an eager market. The books have their theological and pastoral differences, but the thrust of their rhetoric moves in the same direction. They have both incited and tapped into a widespread dissatisfaction with many Americans’ comfortable, middle-class way of life and the Christianity that so easily fits within it. These pastors may not be saying much new about the Bible or Jesus, but their message says enough about us.

Really. If there’s a word that sums up the radical movement, that’s it. Platt’s Radical opens with it, by describing what “radical abandonment to Jesus really means.” Idleman says he’s going to tell us “what it really means to follow Jesus.” Furtick says that “if we really believe God is an abundant God … we ought to be digging all kinds of ditches [for when he sends the rain, as Elisha did in 2 Kings 3:16-20].” Do those who lead mediocre, nonradical lives for Jesus really believe at all? . . .

These teachers want us to see that following Christ genuinely, truly, really, radically, sacrificially, inconveniently, and uncomfortably will cost us. Platt wants to safeguard the distinctness of God’s saving work over and against our effort. But his primary concern is for the “outflow of the gospel.” This means “putting everything in our lives on the table before God” and being “willing to sacrifice good things in the church in order to experience the great things of God.”

The reliance on intensifiers demonstrates the emptiness of American Christianity’s language. Previous generations were content singing “trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” Today we have to really trust and truly obey. The inflated rhetoric is a sign of how divorced our churches’ vocabulary is from the simple language of Scripture.

And the intensifiers don’t solve the problem. Replacing belief with commitment still places the burden of our formation on the sheer force of our will. As much as some of these radical pastors would say otherwise, their rhetoric still relies on listeners “making a decision.” There is almost no explicit consideration of how beliefs actually take root, or whether that process is as conscious as we presume.

Or as dramatic. The heroes of the radical movement are martyrs and missionaries whose stories truly inspire, along with families who make sacrifices to adopt children. Yet the radicals’ repeated portrait of faith underemphasizes the less spectacular, frequently boring, and overwhelmingly anonymous elements that make up much of the Christian life.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • tODD

    “…a more rigorous understanding of the gospel’s demands.” Ugh. In other words, if you’re looking for the actual Gospel, don’t ask these people. But they’ve got plenty of Law for you. Have you considered trying harder? If no, then try harder? If yes, then … um, try harder?

    At the heart of Platt’s message is his claim that we mistakenly turn the “radical Jesus of the Bible … into the comfortable Jesus of 21st-century American culture.”

    So instead Platt offers you a demanding, taskmaster Jesus of (left-wing) 21st-century American culture. One that bears little resemblance to the Jesus who died on the cross for … some reason or other.

    Not that these people’s message is completely irrelevant. Their Law is perhaps worth listening to. Indeed, it seems that’s all they really have to offer.

    Anyhow, I’m just piling on to an already (and appropriately) critical article. But when these people inevitably grow tired of trying harder, of proving their worthiness, we Lutherans need to be ready to tell them the Gospel they desperately need to hear, which has likely been sorely missing from all the “Jesus” talk they’ve been hearing.

  • Andy

    The simple acts of following Jesus, dying to self, surrendering every area of our life and all of our “possessions” to our Master’s will and direction are radical when compared to most of modern Western evangelical Christianity. The lie that “God has a wonderful plan for your life” is everywhere. Does he have a wonderful plan for your life? Or is it simply a wonderful plan (for His glory)? What is the object of his plan: us or his glory? Who among us is willing to come and die, to take up our cross every day and follow Him? The use of superlatives demonstrates a shift in modern culture and American-English usage. The Author seems to completely miss the irony of Platt’s using the word Radical do describe the simple acts of knowing Christ and doing what He says. The status-quo of half-surrendered, Western “Me-first” Christianity is far more damning than using words like radical, really, and total to decry a faith that pays lip-service to the Gospel but little else.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd and Andy (and the article itself) have hit upon the problem: “Radical” Christianity is still “self-absorbed” Christianity. It is nothing but repurposed Warren-style purpose-driven theology. If you listen to a Steven Furtick “sermon” you come away with very little Scripture, continual exhortations to be more “involved” (radical Christianity appears to play out in serving as a parking attendant or serving coffee or acting as an usher), and a whole lot about Steven Furtick. Jesus and the Good News? Not so much.

    With the understanding that I’m making some broad and sweeping generalizations (Grace – here’s your opening ;) ), the prevalence of these books is an indicator that modern expressions of evangelicalism have hit a wall. For so long they have gone out of their way to be “consumer friendly” that they have actually failed at making people actual converts. Instead they have become superficial Christians accustomed to being told how great they are and how great they can be if they just pray for God to give them the right plan for their life which is often curiously like God affirming whatever it is they are doing. Unless it isn’t, and that boring old life of Christian vocation in service to our neighbors starts wearing thin, so that we have to get radical, and get involved!

  • Dave

    I attend an “Evangelical Free” church and I worry that we are slowly slipping this direction. We still have the gospel preached, but there is a growing emphasis on doing stuff in the community, digging water wells in Africa, sponsoring children in Africa, etc. I haven’t heard anything like the “demands of the gospel” but it is a line that could be quietly crossed some day in the future.

  • reg

    Law, law, law, law, look at me, look at me, look at me, I am a better Christian than you, I am a better Christina than others, law, law, law…..ad infinitum.

  • Abby

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And this is beginning to creep into even some of our (LCMS) churches — we are reading the same books too.

    “The reliance on intensifiers demonstrates the emptiness of American Christianity’s language. Previous generations were content singing “trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” Today we have to really trust and truly obey. The inflated rhetoric is a sign of how divorced our churches’ vocabulary is from the simple language of Scripture.”

    “This is the temptation which constantly threatens to overwhelm evangelical Christianity in every generation. Therefore, we ought faithfully to listen to what that great cloud of witnesses, especially Hermann Sasse, has to teach us about this dread disease of Law-Gospel confusion which turns Jesus into a new Moses, obscures the importance of Gospel preaching and the Sacraments, and terrifies consciences so they find no certainty in this life; because the unconditional promise of forgiveness is yoked to the, “the obedience of faith, “ as Calvin liked to refer to it. A phrase used very rarely in the New Testament, and which by no means, writes Sasse, “exhausts the Biblical meaning of faith. . . If the Golden Rule constitutes the essential Gospel, and if the keeping of the Rule is Christianity, there is no longer any need for the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world. In fact, we no longer need Christ even as Lawgiver. For the Golden Rule is also known to the heathen:” http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=27348

    St. Paul had an easy answer: http://www.esvbible.org/search/1+Corinthians+2%3A1-5/

    “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
    (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV)

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I think the “radical” genre can provide a helpful diagnostic for some of the sins of modern American Christianity. However, this movement (or whatever you’d prefer to call it) seems strikingly similar to the long parade of restorationist movements we’ve seen over the last, oh, about 500 years.

    And who will restore the restorationists?

  • Abby

    This is Matt Chandler speaking at a Steven Furtick “conference” — telling Steven and his congregation that the Bible is “not about you!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-AYLH-MotM

  • http://thisweconfess.wordpress.com/ Lucas Woodford

    In making their call to be “Radical,” Platt and others wittingly or unwittingly reshape the core of the Gospel. In short, they change it from Jesus’ work “for you” to your work “for Jesus.” To be sure, Jesus does speak words of law, makes demands, and has something to say about care of the poor, serving your neighbor, and loving the lost, but that does not thereby change the core of what the Gospel is, namely, Jesus’ work for you.

    What is more, as Dr. Veith notes, there is with this call the devaluing of vocation. Normal routine mundane elements of life are made to be inferior. Stay at home moms are made to feel they don’t do enough, secretaries that they aren’t making a difference, and grocery store clerks that that they aren’t “radical” and true Christians if they don’t measure up to the observable behaviors Platt says are necessary. In fact, if I may be so bold, I have attempted to address these very concerns and trends in Christianity in a more formal and thorough manner in my book “Great Commission, Great Confusion, or Great Confession.” http://www.amazon.com/Great-Commission-Confusion-Confession-Christian/dp/1610978773/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363609351&sr=1-1&keywords=Great+Commission
    True, Platt aims to be calling his own evangelical community to reform, which in some respects might be helpful, but he seems to be saying that what ails the evangelical community (their theology and practice) uniformly ails all of North American theology and practice. I am simply not comfortable with his lack of clarity regarding the radical nature of what Jesus has done “for” us over against his emphasis on Jesus’ radical call to obedience.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    I’ll listen to one of these guys when I find them making six figures but living like they’re just above the poverty line because they give away so much money.

  • Tom Hering

    Neither my heart nor my mind are in the right place. And I’m not doing enough. So I need a savior. Will it be myself? Or was it Jesus? Who not only suffered and died for me, but lived perfectly for me too.

  • TE Schroeder

    Perhaps these books are trying to answer some questions that seemed to be coming up several times on the “Lent and Vocation” blog post from last week. It was argued that any work that does anybody any good is a good work and, it was also proposed, is pleasing to God.

    If that is true, then it cannot be lost on people that there really ends up being no difference between the good works of a Christian and the good works of a heathen. And if THAT is true, what makes a Christian any different at all? Now the answer: You must do your works really, totally, radically as believers in Jesus. See, NOW you are real Christians.

    By the way, with all of this “radical, totally, and really” verbiage, do any of them have Jesus calling his disciples, “Dude”?

  • Orianna Laun

    When the Gospel of Jesus having done all and paid all gets turned into Law again, one can easily revert to questioning salvation. Then it becomes a frenzy of proving one’s religious zeal. This is just another manifestation of the frenzy. Radical Christianity looks at where one is in life and does the best he or she can with what he or she has to serve his or her neighbor. Radical Christianity knows one cannot keep one, let alone ten commandments, and trusts that Jesus has paid it all. Radical Christianity knows there is a balance between Law and Gospel, saint and sinner, an ordinary life and an extreme life. We cannot all work with impoverished inner-city slum children in third world countries. We can love and serve our moms, dads, spouses, children, and the people who cross our paths at work and church. That’s radical.

  • Pete

    Everybody needs to get a copy of the book, “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” by J.D. Greear. The author addresses the problem of assurance of salvation – rather forthrightly acknowledging it to be an issue for modern evangelical Christianity Despite such an über-promising title, his solution is sadly just a modified version of the old “curving inward” schtick – John Piperisms and such. The whole “really” thing referred to above. He falls millimeters short of the correct answer which is to look for assurance to God and His means of grace rather than looking to myself. Don’t the theologians call it “extra nos”? A great reply to this book would be a collection of some of the passionate and articulate comments that have appeared on this blog over the years (larry comes to mind) from folks who have been fortunate enough to have emerged from this theological quagmire. Nevertheless, the title of the book put a little more bounce in my step. I recommend buying the book so that the title can be seen on your bookshelf; just tape it shut.

  • Abby

    Tom @11 “Or was it Jesus? Who not only suffered and died for me, but lived perfectly for me too.” I think sometimes we forget Jesus’ sinless life is part of the “salvation package” — without that, there would be no salvation. Jesus won over the Devil’s temptations — for us. His sinless life is imputed to us. Our Baptism washes us clean. When this breaks through to us, by itself, will we then be given the power to love and perform good works. And the works then will be called “good” by God.

    “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
    (Romans 5:10 ESV)

    http://www.esvbible.org/search/Romans+5%3A1-11/

  • Tom Hering

    Abby @ 15, yes. There’s nothing the Christian needs to do, or do better. Though the Christian will do good works anyways, even if those “not good enough” good works (which God prepared beforehand) don’t satisfy certain preachers, or the Christian himself (the conscience always accuses, no matter what or how much one does).

  • Pete

    Can anyone explain to me how Tom Hering can be such a total dufus on social-political issues, yet be so SPOT ON theologically? I just don’t get it. Some cat-borne ailment perhaps?

  • Abby

    Tom @16 “There’s nothing the Christian needs to do, or do better.” What is better than the freedom in Grace?

  • Abby

    Pete @17 “Can anyone explain to me how Tom Hering can be such a total dufus on social-political issues . .”

    It is a mystery!! :)

  • Kathy

    Yes, this living “radical” teaching is now making it’s way into our churches. I recently saw Pr. J. Fisk’s you tube regarding Platt; the following Sunday, I saw a David Platt DVD playing in one of our Adult Bible classes – LCMS church. The sad part of this…these Lutherans who were “eating-up” the Platt DVD have very little understanding of Lutheran teaching, Law vs Gospel, Grace, etc.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Regarding the question of what shall we do with our salvation, well, does not the Word tell us that we shall be known by our fruit? Does not James tell us that pure and undefiled religion is to help the widow and orphan?

    I understand and appreciate the concern about making our faith a contest to finally “do enough for the Lord.” Salvation is not by works, after all. That said, if there is no response to the work of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit–starting with (Galatians 5:22-3) our love and attitudes but not ignoring what we do from day to day (helping the widow and orphan-, rescuing baby girls from Roman dumps, etc..)–we do need to ask ourselves if the Counselor is really at home in us, no?

    Perhaps a way of resolving the tension is found in 2 Cor. 9:6, which notes that financial contributions are to be made cheerfully, and not reluctantly or under compulsion. If we only do things when we’re harangued or otherwise manipulated by our church’s leadership or others, then we can safely assume that the Holy Spirit is not at work. If our works are motivated from within by our own love, joy, peace, and so on, there’s a chance that it’s the Counselor, and not ourselves.

  • kerner

    I’m afraid that his theology is little more than a byproduct of American individualism. I’m a pretty big fan of individualism in the left-hand kingdom, but I don’t see much place for it in the right hand kingdom. There is nothing “radical” about a humble walk with the Lord. If anything, people who aspire to be “radically”, or ostentatiously Christian need to be mindfull of Christ’s admonition to say our prayers in secret lest we simply draw attention tlo ourselves. I guess every culturecreates a little heresy when it drags its cultural characteristics into the Church. Aspiring to not be a radical Christian must be what happens in America.

    This does not, however, mean that we should ignore the needs of the poor in Africa. Loving our neighbors in a concrete way is fine, as long as that cart isn’t put before the Gospel horse.

  • kerner

    I mean “aspiring to be a radical Christian…”

  • http://thinkingwithareformedmind.blogspot.com Steven Mitchell

    I sometimes agree with Tom on socio-political, sometimes disagree, but reading his posts on this thread, it does seems like a Jekyll and Hyde act. :-)

  • RobC

    This is the result of Evangelicals not having the doctrine of vocation.

    All these radical people are going to need to hear Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s “Gospel For Those Broken By The Church” when they realize they’re radical failures .

  • Tom Hering

    Pete, Pete, Pete. Why is it so hard for you to accept that God has chosen the foolish of this world?

  • Pete

    Tom – I’m looking forward to Heaven, where our votes will no longer cancel each other’s.

  • Tom Hering

    Cancel? Ha! You forget that we Democrats vote more than once. We even vote when we’re dead.

  • Steve Bauer

    I sometimes agree with Tom on socio-political, sometimes disagree, but reading his posts on this thread, it does seems like a Jekyll and Hyde act.

    Or, possibly, Jesus’ kingdom really “is not of this world”, and, if so, one can have both feet in it without any regard to political stance in the left hand kingdom.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    ‘Dipstick Christians’

    But mostly I’m more concerned about..you.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    Should have said.

    ‘More concerned about checking yours’

  • fjsteve

    Leave it to the Christians to be two steps behind the culture again. I remember probably a decade after MTV launched, TBN was just beginning to create Christian music videos with the rapidly moving and odd camera angles, splash screens with lots of neon, and everything was X-TREME, RADICAL, CRAZY!! Of course, the music was a watered down version of what was popular a few years before.

    As bad as they were, at least those things were in the same decade–more or less. Now, instead of stale music or stale fashion, this is a recycling of stale political theories from centuries ago! It reminds me of political parties that change their message to recruit new members–the purpose is gone and it’s just about getting votes. But what are we voting for? A tribe?

  • tODD

    Bubba said (@21):

    If there is no response to the work of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit…we do need to ask ourselves if the Counselor is really at home in us, no?

    I wonder if you’ve really thought that through.

    First of all, you seem to be encouraging us to question whether we’re really saved or not. Which means we should doubt whether Jesus really died for our sins in particular. How is that not a Satanic message? Honestly.

    But let’s work within your framework. So I’m someone at your church. And you come up to me and observe that I’m not doing enough of this or that, and ask me, “Todd, do you really have the Holy Spirit in you?” Now, there are two options. One is that I do have the Holy Spirit, the other is that I don’t. Now, if I don’t, I indeed have been faking it, and I’m not saved. But if I am unsaved, it doesn’t matter, because there’s nothing I can do in my body to gain the Holy Spirit. If, on the other hand, I am saved and do have the Holy Spirit, then your causing me to question this salvation is, again, Satanic.

    So of what value is this teaching of yours, Bubba? It either encourages the lost to flail even harder in their damnation, or it prompts the saved to question their salvation.

    If we only do things when we’re harangued or otherwise manipulated by our church’s leadership or others, then we can safely assume that the Holy Spirit is not at work.

    I see. So the Holy Spirit is definitely not at work when we hear exhortations from Scripture. Got it.

    If our works are motivated from within by our own love, joy, peace, and so on, there’s a chance that it’s the Counselor, and not ourselves.

    Yes, “there’s a chance”, but there’s also a chance that you’re still damned. You just never know. … Honestly, what do they teach at your church?

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    I don’t usually post here, but I do like to read the comments section. I learn a lot not just from the original posts, but from the subsequent posters. posters.

    Todd, in your response to Bubba, you wrote, “First of all, you seem to be encouraging us to question whether we’re really saved or not. Which means we should doubt whether Jesus really died for our sins in particular. ”

    Does 2 Corinthians 13:5 have anything to say here? Paul tells the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith. What does that mean for us?

  • tODD

    Jason (@34), fuller context, please. Does Paul merely leave the Corinthians with the suggestion that maybe they’re not actually saved?

    Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

  • fjsteve

    Could this actually be a backlash to American free-spirited individualism? I mean, people seem to be addicted to legalism and Americans, in particular, to pragmatic legalism. We want someone to give the rules, a formula, a “secret”, if you will. At the same time, these rules have to give us tangible results or it’s not worth it. That seems to be a reason that Seventh Day Adventism, for example, despite–or possibly because of–all of its legalism and dietary restrictions, is one of the fastest growing denominations. Adventists live longer that their non-Adventist neighbors, and we Americans are certainly obsessed with living longer, plus they’re yoga-friendly! What more can you ask?

    Yes, you will know us by our fruits. So, in order to be a Christian you have to be different, and you have to be making a tangible difference in your life or the lives of your neighbors. Right? So we fast-track it. We put the cart before the horse. Christians need to move, to do more, to be better that the culture; to have a secret that works better in order to be a good witness. The Gospel will catch up, if it’s relevant enough.

  • Robin

    As a teenager in the 90′s, the word “radical” was used non stop in my youth group culture. Then, I went to college and I discovered I wasn’t as radical as my roommate so, the college group I was a part of spent its time trying to convince us 18 year olds that we weren’t really saved. Maybe we weren’t but the gospel wasn’t given freely and if you weren’t being “sold out” or “radical” enough then maybe you weren’t elect/Christian. It makes me sick thinking about it. Neo Calvinism a la Piper was the main influence in this circle and in many cases their “radical” message did great harm. If the message is you have to be more radical all the time, there finally comes a time when you have reached your peak of “radicalness.” What is too follow? Either despair that forces you to jump ship or suicide. I jumped ship for some time but praise God for places like Dr. Veith’s blog, The White Horse Inn and other faithful, confessional churches/outlets.

  • Julian

    It’s been two decades since Pentecostal pop star Carman released the song ‘Radically Saved’. So I guess one of the great musical talents of the 20th century was ahead of all of us on this one.

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    Todd (@35) Yes, I think it is possible that Paul has left the Corinthians with the suggestion that they might not actually be saved. I think that is found in the words “unless, of course, you fail the test?”.

    I am primarily interested in the question of what does it mean when Paul encourages the Corinthian believers to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith. What does it mean to examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith? Does it mean they are to see whether they are keeping commands (whether OT or NT)? Does it mean that they are to see whether they are trusting fully in the finished work of Christ (I hope so!)? Does it mean something else? Later on in the passage, he tells them he is praying for their restoration. Why pray for their restoration if they are not in the faith?

    Please understand, I am not writing to be antagonistic. I am truly seeking to know what Paul means when he calls the Corinthians to examine themselves? He is asking them to see whether or not they are in the faith and presumably there is the possibility that they have failed the test, is there not?

  • Abby

    I think Todd @33 has a valid point. And the verse used by Jason of 2 Corinthians 13:5 is WAY too isolated from the surrounding text. Paul was coming to the Corinthians here to deal with some sin issues. (2 Cor 12:20-21) The “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. . .” seems to me to be dealing with unrepentant sin — not works. (13:9) “Your restoration is what we pray for.”

    http://www.esvbible.org/search/2Corinthians+12%3A19-13%3A10/

  • Julian

    It’s been two decades since Pentecostal pop star Carman released ‘Radically Saved’. So I guess one of the great musical talents of the 20th century was ahead of all of us on this one.

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    Abby (@40) I agree about isolating the passage. In all of 2 Cor 13, Paul seems to be admonishing the them pretty strongly. Verse 2 he talks about not sparing them (i.e., those who sinned before) should he come again. In verse 9, he tells them he is praying for their restoration. Verse 10, he is basically tells them he is exhorting them now so that he doesn’t need to be severe in his use of authority when he comes.

    Back to Todd’s original point (@33), regarding whether we are encouraged to question our salvation, if Paul was not encouraging them to examine whether they were saved, what does it mean in the context of all of 2 Cor 13 to tell them to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith?

  • Abby

    Here is how we do NOT fail the “test” : http://www.esvbible.org/search/1+Corinthians+1%3A27-2%3A5/
    and: http://www.esvbible.org/search/Romans+5%3A1-11/

    Unless Paul has to come to us as he had to to the Corinthians who were tolerating much sin in their midst and not dealing with it.

  • sg

    @1 Bravo

  • sg

    Christians are being told that Jesus was “radical” and that they should give up their “middle class” “mediocrity” and start helping the poor.

    Start?!

    Christians have been helping the poor since Jesus.

  • Abby

    I think (anyone please correct me) the problem in Bike’s post 21 is the line he drew between “fruit” of works and the indwelling of the “Counselor/Holy Spirit.” We have the Holy Spirit from Baptism. The Corinthians passage you site, Jason, is confrontation of unrepentant sin. As explained in Romans 6. http://www.esvbible.org/search/Romans+6/

    Paul is not coming to the Corinthians to judge their fruit of works but rather their fruit of sin. (Ro 6:21) The “test of faith” seems to have to do with their unrepentant sin. There might be another passage somewhere that would show a “test of faith” in regards to works, I just don’t think it is the 2 Cor. one.

  • Cincinnatus

    I haven’t read the whole thread, but, based on the first several comments, I think y’all–Todd, Andy, SK, et al.–are bit a tad unfair. Sure, there’s something to criticize here, as there are in most reform movements. In fact, the movement might be fatally flawed here.

    But there’s something that resonates in their critique. These are folks who grew up in upper-middle class evangelical households (seriously: have you ever set foot in a Dallas megachurch?!)–who heard their parents wax (vaguely) eloquent about Jesus while driving their Escalades between Whole Foods and the McMansion. When these folks–most of them young–left home, they learned that there are poor people in the world. They learned that, as a few of you have put it, God doesn’t have a “wonderful plan” for everyone that can be articulated by wordly standards. Perhaps they read the Gospels a bit more closely and discovered that the Sermon on the Mount bears little resemblance to what goes on at First Megachurch of the Transfiguration in their wealthy suburbs. Maybe they recognized that Jesus wasn’t a bourgeois American Republican. Maybe they did recognize that Christ calls us to a live of compassion, service, and poverty.

    Of course, there’s a danger of “works-based” salvation here. But more charitably conceived, I think what radical evangelicals want us to understand is that authentic grace results in an authentic change of life as well, not simply by abstaining from sin but by engaging affirmatively in charitable works. There’s nothing unorthodox about this. What good is Christianity and grace if it’s just about getting me to heaven?

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    FWIW, I thought Anderson’s article was brilliant. I think he said exactly what needed to be said. As I continue to work through understanding the radicality of grace, I want to have a deep, gospel understanding of what verses like 2 Cor 15 (and many others) mean to me as a Christian.

  • JonSLC

    A major difficulty in this whole area is that you can’t write a best-selling book that addresses every Christian’s spiritual needs. In any group of Christians, there will be some who are complacent in their faith and need a strong call to examine themselves. There will be others who are deeply aware of their sinfulness who need an extra measure of the gospel’s comfort. And all of them need a steady diet of “Christ for you,” because without that no one is saved. What’s needed is a proper application of the law and the gospel to individuals.

    This discussion ends up reminding me that person-to-person spiritual care in local congregations will always be necessary, till Jesus comes again.

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    Abby (@46), you wrote, “The “test of faith” seems to have to do with their unrepentant sin. There might be another passage somewhere that would show a “test of faith” in regards to works, I just don’t think it is the 2 Cor. one.” Is this distinction necessary? Todd’s original question (@33) was whether we should question whether we are saved or not. Even though Paul appears to be addressing unrepentant sin (I agree with you; I don’t think I ever mentioned anything about works in my posts), the question is whether he is encouraging them to question whether they are saved or not.

    Simply, should a person with unrepentant sin, as seemed to be the case in 2 Cor 13, question their salvation?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    What Cincinnatus said. Context is so important.

  • kempin04

    Yeah, ok everyone. This was a nice slow pitch right over the plate. It is good to see everyone piling on the obvious problems. Just a few related questions:

    -IS there such a thing as carnal security?

    -If so, is it an issue for you personally or for members of your church?

    -If such a thing does exist, and is an issue for people today, how does a faithful pastor approach it?

  • tODD

    Kempin (@52), that’s a new term for me, “carnal security”. I tried Googling it, but mainly found Mormons talking about whatever (and one old collection of Spurgeon quotes). So what do you mean?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD, Abby, all, does the Scripture really tell a person who is living for the flesh per Galatians 5:20-1 that they’re OK with Christ, or does it tell them that those who persist in such behavior will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

    Personally, I know a number of people from many denominations who have walked away from what seemed to be their childhood faith and are now walking in the world’s way, and I am not going to help damn them by telling them that praying a prayer, or baptism, or Communion, or whatever is going to save them. It’s simply not what the Scripture says. Rather, we are known by our fruit, and the Scripture gives us lists of what should, and should not be, on that vine of faith.

    And I concede that hyper-pietism–perhaps most infamously the lists of the Holy Rollers and such–makes a hideous caricature of this, both in creating extra-Biblical lists and in enforcing them not with honest preaching of the Word, but in manipulation and emotional tactics.

    That does not change the fact, however, that Scripture gives us lists of behaviors that are contrary to the Gospel and lists of attitudes and behaviors that flow from the Gospel. No amount of mockery (ahem, tODD) changes that, and the fact that God tells us through Paul to examine ourselves–2 Cor. 13:5. Not outside the context of Christ dying for us sinners, but we are to examine ourselves.

  • kempin04

    Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 2, (On Original Sin) 11 . . .

    “yet of these, Scripture everywhere admonishes us, and the prophets constantly complain ( as the 13th Psalm, and some other psalms say, Ps. 14:1-3,5:9,140:3,36:1 ), namely, of carnal security, of the contempt of God, of hatred toward God, and of similar faults born with us. [For Scripture clearly says that all these things are not blown at us, but born with us.]”

    Carnal security, from the king james language in 1 corinthians 3, is worldly security. It is, to my understanding and use of the term, the the worldly lethargy from which individual christians must occasionally be roused by means of the law.

  • Abby

    Jason @50 “Simply, should a person with unrepentant sin, as seemed to be the case in 2 Cor 13, question their salvation?”

    It seems like Paul is saying, yes, you need to question your salvation in regards to unrepentant and ongoing sin. Especially in light of Romans 6. Paul nowhere says it is “ok” to sin, know that you are sinning, and keep right on deliberately sinning. He would say, “you have a problem. We need to talk about it. And if you don’t want to give it up there might be another problem.” Excommunication is always for restoration of the sinner, if possible.

    “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”
    (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)

  • JonSLC

    Thanks for the Apology reference, Kempin. Along those lines, I recall a professor commenting that the German word “Sicherheit” (security) was used in Lutheran literature almost exclusively in a negative sense. That is, “security” referred to being secure/comfortable in sin.

    My point @49 was that there certainly are Christians who need warnings of the law about carnal security. However, it’s difficult to broadcast such warnings to a large population of Christians, as many well-meaning books attempt to do. These warnings can be more accurately targeted by pastors who know their members (as Paul did many of the Corinthians) or by Christian friends.

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    Thank you, Abby. That was the point I have been trying to get to all along, albeit in an apparently muddle-headed fashion.

  • kempin04

    Bike, #54,

    You are right in saying that the carnally secure should not have the gospel preached to them, and if a person is carnally secure, it should also be preached in that case that their baptism will not save them. That is the heart of law preaching, and that is the time for it.

    On the other hand, you are utterly wrong to direct a person to the fruits for the assurance of salvation, for that, too, is law. A carnal sinner can very easily find “fruit” of a sort to salve the salutary fear of the law, but the truly penitent will only find a treadmill of demands that will end in despair.

    The carnal heart must hear the law, and only the law, with nothing held back. But the soul that turns toward God should not receive his love in the stingy and suspicious way that we would tend to give it. That soul should be assured that no one who puts their hope in him will ever be put to shame. Fruits are important, but their place is not the evidence or reassurance of salvation.

  • Abby

    @52

    -”IS there such a thing as carnal security?” “. . .the worldly lethargy from which individual christians must occasionally be roused by means of the law.” Worldly lethargy — oh, yes. We all get comfortable in it. Sometimes it’s so familiar we don’t even notice.

    -”If so, is it an issue for you personally or for members of your church?” Yes. But how is it known unless the Pastor/people know each other quite intimately?

    -”If such a thing does exist, and is an issue for people today, how does a faithful pastor approach it”? If something/sin becomes known somehow isn’t the first place to start Matthew 18? Also, our use of the Confession and Absolution every week resolves it for me. However, if I am plagued with a sin and I can’t resolve it in my heart, I need to go speak to the Pastor.

    I recently read a paper titled, “All of Life is Repentance.” If that is happening, I would think it would be safe to say that Christ resides in you and the Holy Spirit is doing His regenerating work.

  • Abby

    @59 “The carnal heart must hear the law, and only the law, with nothing held back. But the soul that turns toward God should not receive his love in the stingy and suspicious way that we would tend to give it. That soul should be assured that no one who puts their hope in him will ever be put to shame. Fruits are important, but their place is not the evidence or reassurance of salvation.”

    Now that sounds like a good Pastor!

  • Grace

    kempin04 @54

    -IS there such a thing as carnal security?

    Yes there is, among a number of denominations.

    CARNAL SECURITY

    A term used to describe “eternal security” but never stated as such – There is nothing a Believer can do, once they have had faith, to lose their salvation.

    Calvin believed in Eternal Security, and so do many Baptists, and for that matter so do Lutherans. Martin Luther believed “No sin can separate us from Him” When clearly the Bible states otherwise.

    19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
    20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
    21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like:
    of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
    23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
    24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
    Galatians 5

  • Abby

    Jason @58 Don’t think of yourself as “muddle-headed!” Search and struggle is a good thing!

  • kempin04

    Grace, #64,

    Thank you for the comment, though I was referring to the peculiar way in which that term is used in lutheranism, particularly in terms of determining whether a person needs to hear law or gospel from the Word of God.

  • Grace

    kempin04

    I wasn’t sure how you meant it – What concerns me most, is the way “eternal security” is taught, but is hidden within “carnal security” – Very serious indeed.

    I believe you brought up a very IMPORTANT POINT!

  • Steve Bauer

    Yes, the lack of fruit is a problem. I am dead in my trespasses and sins. But telling a dead (or bad) tree it got to start producing better fruit does not give it the ability to actually do so. And even if I manage what outwardly is a good fruit, it did not spring from a pure spring of love, “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Yet I am alive in Christ. My only comfort is to cease from my labors and rest in Jesus Christ. To stake my relationship with God on His promises. At that point is the only assurance of the Spirit and the presence of divine power.

    Yes, Abby, it’s all about repentance. Carnal security is having no fruit (or thinking we have fruit that meets God’s expectations) and not being concerned about it. The Christian life consists of being poised on the knife edge of continous Doubt and Certainty. “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
    ” (Rom. 7:24-25)

  • R. Hall

    Cincinnatus @ 47, thank you. I think Matthew Lee Anderson’s conclusions might address a real problem, but I can’t conclude that the problem stems from charitable readings of all these books.

    I should say I haven’t read any of them. I’ve seen the good fruit of them, however, in thoughtful friends of mine who were also, and still are, walking faithfully in the mundane.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Kempino, I never said that I was assuming that the fruit is a sufficient check of one’s salvation. In fact, by rejecting hyper-pietism, I explicitly rejected that contention no less than twice in this thread.

    Rather, what I’m getting at is that these criteria are a good diagnostic. Per the original inspiration for this post, there is a problem at the church if no attempt is being made in certain areas.

    I would hope that we could agree that this kind of diagnostic is indeed important without assuming that it means a “try harder” theology. It is not the diagnostic, but the response, that summarizes the theology involved.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Here’s a take on Francis Chan, who is also pushing the “Protestant monasticism” of Platt and others: http://www.drcone.com/2012/04/11/can-i-be-spiritual-if-i-still-have-my-own-teeth-a-review-of-francis-chans-crazy-love/

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Grace @ 62,
    I understand your point, but be careful that you’re not pushing perfectionism/works-righteousness by the same token.

  • Grace

    J Dean @ 70

    Carnal Security, amounts to Eternal Security, just as I posted @62. It doesn’t have anything to do with “perfectionism” – James 2 14-26, lays this out very nicely.

    1 Peter 1, makes it very clear.

    16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

    17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

    It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God –

    24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

    25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

    26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

    27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

    28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

    29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

    30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

    31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
    Hebrews 10

  • SKPeterson

    Grace @ 71 – Your denoting the use of carnal security in relation to eternal security is interesting. Do you have any references for how that connection might have been made etymologically? As kempin noted (and you followed up) there appears to be two somewhat distinct uses of the phrase “carnal security.” In fact, what is interesting is that in their uses they take on almost completely opposite meanings. We have your association of carnal security as a part of eternal security contrasted with a historic Lutheran use that is more a piece with the notions of the incurvatus se and the Pauline use often translated as “flesh”. In this context, carnal security is the ultimate in self deception and self justification in which one places one’s faith (in error) on one’s works, or in dismissing sin altogether – anything other than faith and security found in the justifying grace of Christ – the true eternal security. I wonder how and when the definition you brought up came about and how, when, and where it might first have been used. Any sources or direction on that?

  • RobC

    We all live in sin… willful, repetitive, ongoing sin. I’ve heard it said that even our confession and repentance is half-assed, so where does that leave us? As beggars holding out a tin cup to receive the mercy and grace of God.

  • Grace

    SKP @ 72

    ” I wonder how and when the definition you brought up came about and how, when, and where it might first have been used. Any sources or direction on that?”

    SKP, I have long written and spoken of “‘eternal security” it’s pitfalls, of giving a false idea/sense of “security” – so often times those who are Christians, believe they can commit the same sins, over and over again, without fear of judgment, or loss of Eternal Life. It is a most serious subject.

    I see “carnal security” as stated above as a direct form of “eternal security” based on my remarks below:

    Sin is “carnal” – we can make the connection with a few illustrations, such as abortion, fornication, living with someone you aren’t married to, lying, homosexuality, etc. These aren’t sins that will make an individual subject to laws, and punishment within society, but it does fall right into the sins cited in the Bible, such as Galatians and Ephesians 5 Romans 1, and James 1, and other areas of Scripture, which make plain the loss of Eternal Life.

    We all sin, however “willfully sinning as mentioned in post 71. Yes, people sin, we all do – but when we realize the error of our ways, we can come to the LORD for forgiveness. That doesn’t mean we live a life of willfully, repeating the same sins over and over again.

    It is my idea, to make the connection between “carnal security” and “eternal security” –

    I want to be clear, I am not an Arminian.

  • kempin04

    Bike, #68,

    Fair enough. It sounded to me (#54) as though you were pitting works against baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

  • Grace

    Bike @ 54

    “tODD, Abby, all, does the Scripture really tell a person who is living for the flesh per Galatians 5:20-1 that they’re OK with Christ, or does it tell them that those who persist in such behavior will not inherit the Kingdom of God?”

    I missed your post – GOOD ONE! Epeshians 5, and James 1 state it as well.

  • Grace

    Spelling error at 76

    Should be Ephesians

  • tODD

    Cincinnatus (@47), in case you forgot where I grew up, yes, I have set foot in a Dallas megachurch. More than once.

    But I still believe that Jesus died for wealthy suburbanites, too, no matter how repugnant I personally find that culture to be. Quite frankly, I don’t get that from either your comment or (the summary of) these “radical” preachers.

    Maybe they did recognize that Christ calls us to a live of compassion, service, and poverty.

    Jesus certainly warns of the temptations of wealth, but I’m wondering what passage(s) you have in mind in which he “calls us to a life of poverty”. You’re starting to sound a wee bit monastic, there.

    I think what radical evangelicals want us to understand is that authentic grace results in an authentic change of life as well, not simply by abstaining from sin but by engaging affirmatively in charitable works.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen the idea of “abstaining from sin” prepended with the adverb “simply” before. Oh, abstaining from sin … is that all? Also, I can’t help but call out your resorting to their language: “authentic grace”. You know, not the fake stuff you so often see. But the real stuff. The stuff that counts.

    What good is Christianity and grace if it’s just about getting me to heaven?

    To which I would counter with: what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? Put differently, you can feed a poor man all his life and still do his soul no good. Heck, an atheist can feed that same man all his life just as well. So what good is Christianity?

  • tODD

    Kempin, following the order of your questions (@52)…

    Yes (according to your definition, not Grace’s).

    Yes, both.

    An unrelenting preaching of the Law, of course. And, as I already said (@1), the one thing we may take from these “radical” types is their understanding of Law — which appears to be all they really get.

    What I object to, again, is their referring to (i.e., confusing) this Law as “Gospel”.

  • tODD

    Bubba (@54) said:

    I know a number of people from many denominations who have walked away from what seemed to be their childhood faith and are now walking in the world’s way, and I am not going to help damn them by telling them that praying a prayer, or baptism, or Communion, or whatever is going to save them. It’s simply not what the Scripture says. Rather, we are known by our fruit, and the Scripture gives us lists of what should, and should not be, on that vine of faith.

    So, if I understand correctly, what you would tell these people who have walked away from their faith is that they need to start doing the things on these lists? Is that right?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Grace @ 71,
    I think you missed my point. I was agreeing with you that wallowing in sin is not a good thing, but was also explaining that the alternative to eternal security (and to be fair, there are GOOD Christians who hold to this view and don’t use it as an excuse to live in sin) is not teaching a perfectionistic Wesleyan holiness.

  • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com Nathan

    Hello all,

    Interesting conversation here. I will play the devil’s advocate a bit.

    Check out this *short* video for Platt’s first best-selling book “Radical”:

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoicm4wnQ4c&w=560&h=315

    What can we say about it? Emotionally over the top? Definitely. Theologically suspect? Yes – what comes to mind is that Jesus told the unbelieving rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor because the man clearly did not see his sin and need for Jesus’ forgiveness (tried to justify himself). We have no Scriptural evidence He ever demanded believers do this.

    That said, there is much that He says there that strikes me as very true (think if “glory of God” in terms of the cross). At the same time, it is likely much “too strong” for some persons newer in the faith and is also not as personally applicable for those who are simply struggling to make ends meet for their own families.

    Second, for all the extremity in this video (what I would call “extreme law” preaching), Platt does know how to preach an extreme Gospel as well (I mean in the “narrow sense” – Christ’s death for our sins). I looked at the very short follow-up book he did, Radical Together, and on one page he puts together a pretty nice Gospel presentation. (here it is: http://books.google.com/books?id=9wT1D2U1NlkC&pg=PA27&dq=%22Based+on+nothing+you+have+done+and+everything+Jesus+has+done+-+by+grace+alone+through+faith+alone+-+God+will+declare+you+right+before+him%22%22+intitle:radical+intitle:together+inauthor:platt&hl=en&sa=X&ei=a1hIUbW5DMLIyAHMu4GABQ&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22Based%20on%20nothing%20you%20have%20done%20and%20everything%20Jesus%20has%20done%20-%20by%20grace%20alone%20through%20faith%20alone%20-%20God%20will%20declare%20you%20right%20before%20him%22%22%20intitle%3Aradical%20intitle%3Atogether%20inauthor%3Aplatt&f=false)

    He even talks about how he gets frightened when he thinks about his book Radical in some person’s hands… they need the Gospel!

    So, in one sense, he seems to want to be loyal both to the preaching of the Law and the Gospel and to rightly distinguish them…

    But then, in his new book, he makes things worse I think. In it, he speaks about “unconverted believers” and wants them to “slay themselves”. Pastor Fisk did a very nice job of responding to his video trailer and I did a follow-up post on it as well, which you can read here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/broken-jonathan-fisk-versus-christ-following-david-platt-reformation-vs-rome/

    One of the things I noted in the post is that Luther clearly was concerned about “unconverted believers” as well, but his approach here seems to be a bit different than Platt’s.

    In any case, we should pay attention to this. Many persons in the LC-MS for example, find themselves very drawn to Platt, who incidently, I hear lives a very humble and simple lifestyle (like the new Pope).

    +Nathan

  • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com Nathan

    Nathan says:
    March 19, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Hello all,

    Interesting conversation here. I will play the devil’s advocate a bit.

    Check out this *short* video for Platt’s first best-selling book “Radical”:

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoicm4wnQ4c&w=560&h=315

    What can we say about it? Emotionally over the top? Definitely. Theologically suspect? Yes – what comes to mind is that Jesus told the unbelieving rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor because the man clearly did not see his sin and need for Jesus’ forgiveness (tried to justify himself). We have no Scriptural evidence He ever demanded believers do this.

    That said, there is much that He says there that strikes me as very true (think if “glory of God” in terms of the cross). At the same time, it is likely much “too strong” for some persons newer in the faith and is also not as personally applicable for those who are simply struggling to make ends meet for their own families.

    Second, for all the extremity in this video (what I would call “extreme law” preaching), Platt does know how to preach an extreme Gospel as well (I mean in the “narrow sense” – Christ’s death for our sins). I looked at the very short follow-up book he did, Radical Together, and on one page he puts together a pretty nice Gospel presentation (pp. 26 and 27)

    He even talks about how he gets frightened when he thinks about his book Radical in some person’s hands… they need the Gospel!

    So, in one sense, he seems to want to be loyal both to the preaching of the Law and the Gospel and to rightly distinguish them…

    But then, in his new book, he makes things worse I think. In it, he speaks about “unconverted believers” and wants them to “slay themselves”. Pastor Fisk did a very nice job of responding to his video trailer and I did a follow-up post on it as well, which you can read here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/broken-jonathan-fisk-versus-christ-following-david-platt-reformation-vs-rome/

    One of the things I noted in the post is that Luther clearly was concerned about “unconverted believers” as well, but his approach here seems to be a bit different than Platt’s.

    In any case, we should pay attention to this. Many persons in the LC-MS for example, find themselves very drawn to Platt, who incidently, I hear lives a very humble and simple lifestyle (like the new Pope).

    +Nathan

  • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com Nathan

    From this interview with Platt:

    “We now realize that to be a Christian is to be loved, pursued, and found by God. We realize that in our sin we were separated from his presence, deserving nothing but his wrath. Yet despite our darkness and deadness, his light shone on us and his voice spoke to us, summoning us to follow him. His majesty captivated our soul and his mercy covered our sin, and by his death he brought us to life. We ultimately became his children not because of any good we did—any prayers we prayed, steps we took, or boxes we checked—but solely because of his lavish grace. We realize every single moment of the Christian life—from normal spiritual discipline to radical biblical devotion—is fueled by the God who not only pursued us by grace in the past but also empowers us by grace in the present and emboldens us with an unshakeable guarantee of grace in the future.”

    Not bad stuff, even if he certainly would believe in eternal security…

    “Jesus came into a world where everything revolves around self—protect yourself, promote yourself, preserve yourself, entertain yourself, comfort yourself, take care of yourself—and his message was clear: “Slay yourself.” The moment of salvation involves not only confession of sin but death to self—death to our every self-indulgent attempt to find life apart from God and every self-righteous attempt to find life by earning his favor. We die to ourselves and trust in Christ, identifying with the One who lived the life we couldn’t live, died the death we deserve to die, and conquered the enemy (death itself) we couldn’t conquer. When this happens, we identify with Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live” (Gal. 2:20). In other words, “I’ve died.””

    Again, great stuff. We’d of course identify this with baptism though.

    “I’m zealous to war against the spectator mentality that sees the Great Commission as a cozy call to come, get baptized, and sit in one location instead of going, baptizing, and teaching in all nations. I’m convinced biblical disciple-making demands the intersection of biblical community and biblical mission. Our churches, then, must have an outlet for such disciple-making in a way that both nurtures community and promotes mission.”

    Have to say “Amen” to that also.

    So Platt can say stuff that all kinds of orthodox Christians can get really excited about. But again, his video for “Follow Me”, taken by itself, is quite different. Hence Fisk’s “take down” which I think was very appropriate (Fisk’s critique actually mirrors those of the one Dr. Veith quoted in his original post).

    +Nathan

  • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com Nathan
  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    tODD, what I’d tell the person who falls on the wrong side of the New Testament’s gut checks is that they need to repent and turn to Christ, just the same as I’d hope you’d do. Just the same as I’d assume Chan, Platt, Piper, and others are trying to do. I’ll agree with you and the CT writer that the megachurch is an odd place at best to do this, but they’re simply responding to the gut checks we all ought to be using.

    Really, one weakness I see in you is that you’re assuming that when a pastor (or other person) talks about the fruit that ought to accompany salvation, you’re automatically assuming that it means “try harder” theology. Now it can mean that in many circles, as I’ve acknowledged, but it’s not automatic, and as such, your response should not be automatic, either.

  • Abby

    “Christians are being told that Jesus was “radical” and that they should give up their “middle class” “mediocrity” and start helping the poor. But how is this different from just liberal mainline Protestantism? And isn’t just another form of works-righteousness? For all the talk of the “demands of the Gospel” (doesn’t that turn the Gospel into Law?), I don’t hear anything about the Gospel. That is, Christ on the Cross atoning for sinners.”

    My question is, how does one bear fruit? How do we know we are doing it? Do we make ourselves do it somehow?–when you think of a fruit-bearing plant, does it do anything other than by its own nature? It needs the right conditions and care – who does that? The tree itself? How in the world do we know? How can another person judge my fruit ? if I can’t even judge it myself. My questions could go on and on.

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. . . , but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, . . . These things I command you, so that you will love one another. ” http://www.esvbible.org/search/John+15%3A1-17/

    And also, “. . . you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. . . now we are released from the law, . . . we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” http://www.esvbible.org/search/Romans+7%3A4-6/

    We serve in the new way of the Spirit, we are released from the Law . . . “my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you.”

    It seems to me that if we abide in Christ, the Father takes care of what we should do? And this also seems to be a very natural process. Unhindered from me having to figure it out? However, we will be known by our fruit.

    As Steve said in #66: “Yes, the lack of fruit is a problem. I am dead in my trespasses and sins. But telling a dead (or bad) tree it has to start producing better fruit does not give it the ability to actually do so. And even if I manage what outwardly is a good fruit, it did not spring from a pure spring of love . . .”

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Abby, thanks for the reminder of what started this. Differences I see between Piper, Chan, Platt, and the like and liberal mainline Protestantism:

    1. Platt, Chan, et al are calling on personal action and church action, not government action.
    2. They’re at least portraying it as what ought to be a natural response to Christ dying for sinners, not as a replacement of the blood atonement. In other words, they preserve the fundamentals in their charity.

    Regarding whether it ought to be natural; yes, in a church taught the Gospel properly and edified in the consistent application of the Word, it ought to be natural. On the other hand, if too many churches and believers remain spiritually shallow after decades in the faith….

  • Cincinnatus

    Todd@78,
    1) First of all, I’m not attempting to defend or define the finer points of so-called “radical evangelicalism.” It’s not a movement with which I affiliate, and having heard Francis Chan, among others, speak (in person), I can commend his theatrics, but don’t know enough to judge whatever else he brings to the table. I only wish to contextualize the movement. Currently, you Lutherans are hacking repeatedly at the low-hanging fruit–it’s dead already! We get it! There are potential problems with the theological roots–or proclivities–of the movement! But these problems are, as I understand it, only potential, and they don’t preclude other admitted goods which everyone is pointedly ignoring. American Christianity could use a good kick in the pants. Are these folks the ones to give it? Not necessarily, but they provide some insight into the kind of movement/group/church that should.

    2) Of course, no where did I so much as imply that Jesus didn’t die for wealthy suburbanites–or anyone else. But what you, I, and the radical evangelicals seem to agree about is that, as a general rule, the lifestyle of wealthy suburbanites is not a particularly Christ-like life. It could be, perhaps, and surely some do exhibit the transformative power of the Gospel in their lives. But I suspect, as Christ himself suggested, that the poor trailer-parkers among whom I was raised probably find it easier to exemplify the Beatitudes than the stereotypical bleach-blonde socialite from Dallas. I’m not judging individual cases, of course; merely suggesting general rules.

    3) Which leads to the more important point. Surely you would agree that Christianity involves “dying to self”–and to sin. Grace brings sanctification, which presumably involves a battle against sin. But grace isn’t merely an escape from something; it’s also a salvation toward something. Remember the context: these are folks who grew up in fundamentalist evangelical churches, having had beaten into their souls since birth a rigorous message of repentance and righteousness and, often, legalism. I grew up around Fundamentalist churches: the focus is on sin and avoiding it. Is that all Christianity is about? Is that all grace is for? Surely not. Radical evangelicals are seeking to recover this message for younger folks who have been alienated by the church altogether by legalism. They could very well be overcorrecting, but (ahem) so did the Lutherans.

    4) I don’t understand your aversion to anything that smells like monasticism. I mean, I understand it in the Lutheran sense if by monastacism the idea that some have vocations–namely, monastic vocations–that are normatively superior to others. But that’s not what I see happening here. Radical evangelicals are just calling for a “dying to self,” which involves rejecting the materialism they’ve seen in a) their families and b) their church cultures. And guess what? You would be hard pressed to argue that Christ doesn’t call us in this direction himself. Hey, Mr. Megachurcher, maybe Christ would have spent the premium you paid for the Escalade on something else! Just maybe!

    tl;dr: Consider the context, and be charitable. Radical evangelicalism may ultimately be severely flawed. But it isn’t totally flawed.

  • Abby

    Bike @88 “On the other hand, if too many churches and believers remain spiritually shallow after decades in the faith….” And we, regrettably, see this all the time don’t we? Then the Father will take care of it? He will cut the branch and discard it if He has to and prune for more fruit. He is the caretaker?

    This is how Boenhoeffer talks about “Who” builds the Church: “In 1933 in Berlin, Pr. Bonhoeffer preached a homily entitled “Church Election Sermon”, text St. Matthew 16: 13-18. “…No human being builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever intends to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess-he builds. We must proclaim—he builds. We must pray to him–that he may build. We do not know his plan. ‘We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that from a human point of view great times for the church are actually times of demolition. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church: you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my province. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions, don’t ask for judgments, don’t always be calculating what will happen, don’t always be on the lookout for another refuge! Let the church remain the church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord, from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.”

    “If the Church has the pure doctrine, it does not become a false church when sins and offenses are committed. If a church is really Christ’s Church, nothing else is possible but that many sins and offenses appear. The purer the teaching is, the more hostile Satan is, and the more effort he puts forth to cover her with shame. Whenever souls are rescued from sin and brought to peace with God through the preaching of Christ, Satan angrily rushes in and tries to makes it appear that sin and misery rule in the Church. Wherever true unity of faith is, there Satan causes such a commotion that it seems as if there were nothing but discord, quarrels, and strife. Wherever the devil is in control, he is quiet; but wherever his authority is taken away by the Word and Sacrament he storms and rages with all the might of a prince of darkness. In short, wherever Christ sows His good seed, Satan will also sow his tares. Of that we can be certain.” From a sermon by Dr. C.F.W. Walther

    Again, though, how can we judge what we see? We may see wonderful works happening, but they may all be from a wrong heart and motivation. We may not see the “quiet” works done by very humble servants. That’s what I am having trouble with the most — the motivation of actions — and the judging of them by others. I just don’t believe we can “see” properly on either side. A pastor can “motivate” to get almost anything he may want. But I say, we may not really know what we are looking at. Christ simply says, “Abide in me.” Then the tree will bear the fruit. And that is very hard! Especially the part about — we have nothing to do with it! This whole thing about our salvation and life is that it is completely *outside of us*. It is God’s work.

    “They’re at least portraying it as what ought to be a natural response to Christ dying for sinners, not as a replacement of the blood atonement.” I am glad they are doing this. But it needs to be first — and loud and clear. I hope then they do not teach “cooperation” — that these acts will do anything to “add to” the complete work of Christ. Unfortunately, no one can control what a person hears and how he reacts to the message. Anyone can hear the truth, and then proceed to go about it all the wrong way. And then the body of Christ needs to do its job of trying to reel that person “back in.” Just like Paul had to do when he went to visit the Corinthians. He had to deal with their sin. In order to bring them back. That is the very hard work of the Church.

  • Kathy

    I could be bringing up a point already stated…the problem with teaching a radical Christian lifestyle is that this can hurt people’s faith. While everyone commenting on here may feel comfortable in their faith, some people are, for various reasons, very fragile. Teaching fragile people that they need to live a certain way can be very damaging. That’s why preaching must always, always be law and gospel based, knowing the severity of our sin and the sweetness of the cross. Teaching on the place of works in the Christian life needs to be done very carefully, pointing out that works are necessary, but not necessary for salvation.

  • Cincinnatus

    Kathy@91:

    On the one hand, I sympathize with your point. Any religion can be intimidating to curious outsiders, and that can be a bad thing if taken to an extreme.

    On the other hand, I strongly disagree. Just because the liturgy seems “complicated” and alienating to outsiders–as it does–doesn’t mean we should abandon it or dumb it down. Just because the finer points of theology can seem alienating to neophytes doesn’t mean we should stop catechizing. And just because the sort of life demanded by Christ (oh no! Christ demanding something?! Cue the Lutherans!) is, well, demanding doesn’t mean it should be softened to attract converts and “fragile” people.

    “Go and sin no more,” commanded Christ. “Sell all your goods and give the proceeds to the poor,” said Christ. “Leave your father and mother”–indeed, hate them!–”and follow me,” said Christ. These messages are neither particularly bourgeois nor particularly American–nor particularly easy. And no, I don’t live up to them. Not in the least. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for the sake of thy dear Son Jesus Christ!

  • tODD

    Spurred on by Kathy’s comment (@91), what continues to gall me here is, as we Lutherans might say, the improper division and/or application of Law and Gospel. For one thing, the Law is clearly, though erroneously, labeled as Gospel. That’s not going to help anyone.

    It’s not actually a Lutheran saying, much less a Christian one, in origin, but nor do I think it’s completely foreign to refer to the saying, “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted”. The point of the Law is to afflict the comfortable (to take them out of their carnal security, as Kempin used the term), and the point of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted.

    If someone is questioning whether they’re saved, if someone fears the torments of Hell they rightly deserve, the last thing they need to hear is, “Well, check your works — are they good enough? Have you considered that Jesus didn’t pay for your sins?”

    And, once again, this “radical” message isn’t completely worthless — it would seem to do a good job of afflicting the comfortable. That’s Law, and that’s what they’ve got in spades. As do Catholics, Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, and a whole bunch of other groups I can’t really recommend for anyone’s soul (though we can likely agree they are very effective in their earthly activities).

  • Kathy

    Cincinnatus@92
    Thanks for your sympathy and disagreement. I speak from experience…we all think differently and I know extremely intelligent people who, while knowing and believing the law and gospel, still suffer from feelings of inadequacy. These are not outsiders, but committed Christians. I also have a family member with religious OCD. A lot of people have this condition, in milder forms, and teaching a radical lifestyle message is damaging to people who think like this.

    I think your last statement is where we all need to stand, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

  • SKPeterson

    Kathy @ 94 – I always go with “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!”

  • Kathy

    Thanks, SKPeterson @95.

    I’m thinking that, our fragile brothers need to hear the gospel. Likewise, those Christians, who are half or wholly caught up in the American dream…they don’t need to be told to do good works either. They need to know the severity of their sin, so they can then understand the sweetness of the cross. The question is….does preaching like Platt’s lead one to know the greatness of his sin? Or, does it lead him to focus on himself and his works, and thus think he is doing good?

  • SKPeterson

    Kathy @ 96 – That brings us back to the notion of carnal security. If I focus on my works, i.e., I am in self-justifying mode, and I am wallowing in carnal security. My focus becomes on what I am doing for Jesus, rather than what Jesus has done for me. I suppose its the realization that I’ve got nothing. The only thing I can offer to Jesus, the only things I can point to that I’m bringing to the table, are my sins. That is the extent of my “work”.

  • https://infanttheology.wordpress.com Nathan

    SK Peterson, Kathy,

    Interestingly, Platt talks about all of this in his book Radical Together. He makes explicit this conflict people in the church hearing his preaching are sure to have.

    +Nathan

  • Kathy

    Nathan,

    I’m curious how Platt reconciles the conflict. I have found that “whatever” you preach becomes your gospel. Even though I’ve heard it a hundred times, my soul still grave the true gospel.

  • Andy

    I hope my comment was seen as a critique of the original article to say that using words like radical and really and total are far less an indictment on the Western Church than the me-first attitude of much of modern Evangelicalism. I think there may be issues generational transfer of leadership (style, context, content, language) in the wider church.

  • kempin04

    Abby, #90,

    Thank you for those wonderful, wonderful quotes.

  • Abby

    @101 Thank you. I appreciate the hard work of Pastors so much. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2013/03/radical-christianity-vs-regular-christianity/#comment-259439)

    For us, they put themselves between God and the devil. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Guido_Reni_031.jpg

  • Abby

    “The heroes of the radical movement are martyrs and missionaries whose stories truly inspire, along with families who make sacrifices to adopt children. Yet the radicals’ repeated portrait of faith underemphasizes the less spectacular, frequently boring, and overwhelmingly anonymous elements that make up much of the Christian life.”

    This is “motivation” by Gospel/Law. Kathy @94 “I know extremely intelligent people who, while knowing and believing the law and gospel, still suffer from feelings of inadequacy. These are not outsiders, but committed Christians.”

    I remember being called by the pastor one Saturday to do a task that someone else couldn’t do. He said, “You call a busy person to get thngs done.” My husband and I were so “busy” for the church that I was nearly ready to crash and burn. And the church has no qualms about “piling on” for more. Yes, I was doing it all “for Jesus.” But, really? It was not until I really did crash and burn that I found the true meaning of Grace from Jesus. And we have it! In Word and Sacraments. And then, yes, we can perform deeds of love that are done in an unfrantic way.

    (The difference between grace on paper and grace in practice.) “Grace on paper only is not half right. Grace on paper creates churches where people beat each other up because their doctrine is “right.” But that’s wrong. — ‘The world does not need more “victorious Christians” who drive their neighbors to distraction by their cheerful indulgence in undiscerned carnality.’ — In too many of our churches, confessing sin is the last thing a smart person will do . . .” Ray Ortland, Liberate 2013

    Here is the rest of his message. The impetus to do truly good works comes through Christ. That is what will change the church.

    http://vimeo.com/61196423

  • Russ

    “Such cleansing is a gift from God not based at all upon our merit, but altogether upon God’s mercy. In the words of Paul, “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth.” The clear message of the Bible is that there is nothing we can do to make our hearts clean before a holy God. We can work constantly, pray fervently, give extravagantly, and love sacrificially, but our hearts will still be stained by sin”. ~David Pltt, “Follow Me”

  • Abby

    Jonathan Fisk on the promo video for Platt’s book:

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