Radical Discipleship

This post isn’t at all what you think it is going to be, judging from the title. Or, coming from me, maybe it is exactly what you think.

I am reacting to this David Platt’s book ‘Radical’; Here is a trailer for his book:

Let me paraphrase. All of you American rich people suck. You do not get it at all. God hates you. I, David Platt, am driven to force you to understand this. I am God’s man, virtually alone in history, who makes these sacrifices. The rest of you lead pointless miserable self-serving lives, how can you think God is with you if you don’t go to Africa or India and serve the starving dying masses? You worship a false Jesus if you think for a moment that God somehow likes you in your present state. You are no disciple! How can you enjoy that french fry when you know millions and millions of children are starving to death this very moment? You enjoy life on the backs of the impoverished dying masses. God utterly despises you. Until you realize how worthless and pointless your life is, how much God despises you, how can you think of yourself as a Christian? The real Jesus is harsh and weird, and talks with a strange feverish quiver as He delivers the scalding and terrible words of condemnation. It feels good to make you squirm in your terrible conviction, I am a great preacher.

On the other hand, David Platt has said he believes in grace! Here are some other quotes from the same guy:

Over and above everything else, I want to convey a shared concern with Kevin for gospel-driven, grace-saturated, God-glorifying obedience. The last thing I want to do is to leave people living with low-level guilt, constantly wondering, “When am I going to be radical enough? What do I need to do, how do I need to give, or where do I need to go in order to do enough for God?” These are obviously unhealthy questions, for the gospel teaches us that Christ alone is able to do enough. He alone has been faithful enough, generous enough, compassionate enough, etc. The gospel beckons our sin-sick souls to simple trust in Christ, the only One who is truly radical enough. In him, we no longer live from a position of guilt, but from a position of righteousness.

All of this to say – comments in Radical like the assertion that over 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day (they struggle to find food, water, medical care, and shelter with the same amount we spend on french fries for lunch) or the reality that multitudes of our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering with malnourished bodies and deformed brains because they have no food or water are not intended to promote guilt-driven obedience. Instead, my goal is simply to help open our eyes to realities in the world that we would rather ignore and to call us to look at those realities through the eyes of the One who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; p. 113 in Radical). http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/05/25/getting-to-the-root-of-radical/

Can you say double-speak? Apparently low-level guilt is NOT the last thing he wants to leave people with. Nothing gets my blood boiling like these guilt-inducing radical discipleship guys. They will go on and on and on piling on the terrible levels of guilt and horror, you could never ever do enough to satisfy them. Then, they come back in the next breath and swear they believe in grace. Well, I call David Platt’s hand. This is noxious stuff, worse than the pharisees ever dreamed of. I can’t think of a better example of a wolf in sheep’s clothing than one of these guys talking about grace. He shares a concern for grace-saturated obedience, indeed! Notice how quickly he abandons his concern about grace! You can’t even eat a french fry without feeling guilty that someone somewhere is starving.

Does this mean that I don’t care about the poor? Does this mean that I am a heartless rich person that doesn’t care about the plight of the 3 billion starving helpless people? Of course not. I say, let’s help them, that’s great. But don’t say, “You are not worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Don’t eat that french fry! Don’t watch that movie! Don’t drive that car! If you do, you are an IDOLATOR!” So, the only people who can say they are truly Christians are the ones who determine to own nothing, to eat nothing, to have nothing? How are we supposed to live or breathe or even think? Can we get married? Can we enjoy anything at all? Are we allowed to have church buildings? Can I buy a Bible? Can anybody do anything unless all of the poor are made rich? How could this ever work?

Here is what is even worse. The whole world trumpets this message, they love it. His book is on the New York Times best seller list. Everyone wants a harsh idol! Try to find a negative review of this! All of these glowing reviews, and I would like to know, how many of these people have put down a single french fry, much less sold everything? Shouldn’t people be giving money to the starving masses instead of buying this book? Like the prodigal son who was reluctant to return home, like Adam and Eve hiding under the bush, everyone is quick to believe the worst about God. Hypocrites! They heap continual meaningless condemnation on the unsuspecting. No one could live under the weight of this noxious and horrid message.

Let’s get this straight. Jesus saves us from masturbating and pornography and drinking beer, or whatever, so we can live a life of feeling absolutely horrible about literally everything, so the entire weight of all the world’s poverty and hardship and evil can be laid squarely at our feet just for having a bit of enjoyment. Does that work for you? How is there grace in that? This is the true Jesus? If this is true faith, somebody save me from Christianity!

The temptation here is to run back and come up with a ‘me too’ justification for our position of grace, to say, “I believe in radical Christian discipleship too! I just believe in it in a ‘grace’ way! Me too!” Well, this whole way of looking at the scriptures, the teachings of Christ, and the world in general, are just warmed over death. The true Jesus loves us. It was from joy over it that He died for us. He applauded the woman for wasting expensive perfume on Him all at once while the poor suffered. He INSPIRED sacrifice, He didn’t simply demand it. He liked people. He likes me. He inspires me greatly to like other people, whether they are poor or not. Some of them are, and because I see them as HUMANS and not as objects of ministry to justify my existence, I enjoy helping them as I am able. I can freely say, I am not God, I am not responsible for all the suffering in the world. I do not bear the world’s burdens. That is God’s job. I think I am better at helping when I am doing it from honest love and compassion than some weird fake fiery crappy guilt-induced conviction. I reject this fake ‘grace’ which is stripped of all joy and contentment altogether. I choose to believe that He loves me, even when I DO eat that french fry, and that is what I want to share. Radical discipleship comes from joy over the treasure, not from guilt and horror and religious pressure.

Posted in Scandalous Grace and tagged , .

2 Comments

  1. I too was caught up initially with the whole ‘I’m not Radical enough’ aspect of the trailer for this book. I then got it from the library and quickly realized that according to David Platt, radical is equated to guilt. I didn’t get through a couple of chapters before I took the book back to the library.
    You like poking popular ‘Popular Christian Authors’ in the eye with a stick, don’t you Jim? First it was ‘A hole in the Gospel’ and now ‘Radical’, what’s next, Veggies Tales? 🙂

  2. I agree with your attitude on this; I haven’t read the book, but your description sounds very familiar.

    The problem I see with this kind of guilt induced motivation is that it can undermine a person’s whole perception of and relationship with God. You start out worrying about how you spend money: “Will God still love me if I buy that car, go to the movies or buy that brand of peanut butter?” Then it spreads to how you spend your time: “Will God still love me if I only read the Bible for an hour? Only five hours? Will He abandon me if I watch a TV show before bed? Sleep too much? Stay at work too long?” Then everything else: “Will God still love me if I talk to someone about their car, without trying to get them saved? If I don’t work overtime to get more money to give away? Do I enjoy a hobby too much? Or love my family too much?” “Will Jesus’ death still matter for me if I eat that french fry?” Pretty soon, everything becomes a sin and life feels like being forced at gunpoint to walk through a minefield. After awhile you just give up, feeling rejected and abandoned, because God’s love is like water through your fingers and you know that you’ll never be able to do enough to earn His love, the value of which deteriorates as your relationship with God becomes less like Father/child and more like Boss/ employee; not to mention the double-talk that makes even the words “love”, “grace”, “joy”, etc. meaningless. You read the Bible trying to find some hope that God cares for you, but everything good is easily dismissed as being for the people of value, who bring something to God and deserve to be loved, and all you’re left with is the hopelessness of condemnation. You spend your time and energy stressing out, not about pleasing God, but about staying out of trouble; to the point that everyone else’s problems are frankly too insignificant to get your attention and your really just too tired to care about others anyway. You hate being a Christian, though you won’t admit it because God would get mad, so you try to cover it up by either keeping busy or just not thinking about it and the more obvious sins in your life are dismissed because everything is a sin now, so they become larger and larger obstacles to God, because you need Him to help you, but you can’t trust Him if He’s abandoned you already. You don’t hate being a Christian because you have to be good, you hate it because you’re clawing your way up a mountain that grows faster than you can climb, it doesn’t get tired or discouraged, the devil is against you, the world is against you, your own nature is against you and probably even God is against you, which means you are effectively alone, depending on yourself, which you know is hopeless. Preachers will try to guilt you into sharing your faith with others, but you look at people who seem to have some measure of hope, peace, joy and a general interest in staying alive for another day, and you don’t have the heart to take all that away from them by breaking the “good news” that they are going to go to hell for eternity and all they can do to prevent it is take a free gift (that isn’t free) given by grace (which isn’t grace) apart from works (for now) by faith (which includes everything that was excluded, like works, and has nothing to do with what the words “faith” or “believe” actually mean) and then live in a constant state of dread over everything you do while you await what will probably be your doom; all this and you’re supposed to be happy about it, otherwise that’s yet another thing to feel guilty about.

    I much prefer grace.

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