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June 21, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include The Reign of Grace by Scotty Smith ($3.99) and Who Is Jesus? by Darrell Bock ($3.99). New from GLH Publishing is The Atonment by Francis Turretin ($0.99).

What I Can’t Know If I Don’t Know the Trinity

“It’s not only that a proper understanding of the Trinity is some sort of arid proposition we need to check off a list of ‘need to know’ facts to be ‘good Christians.’ Rather, it’s that without a knowledge of the Trinity, we are simply robbed of all of the chief comforts of Christian faith…”

From ‘Caustic’ to ‘Blinding’

Here’s a guy who travels far and wide to get stung by insects and report on which stings are the worst. Here’s his entry for the tarantula hawk: “Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath. A bolt out of the heavens. Lie down and scream.”

10 Things You Should Know About What the Roman Catholic Church Believes Regarding Mary

Sam Storms rounds them up.

The Sin of Retaliation

“When someone crosses us or makes demands on us our initial reaction is to respond in the same way. Why not? This is the way we’ve heard that the world works. Right? Retaliation is sinfully seductive and bitterly sweet.”

What Is an “Accurate” Translation?

Bill Mounce demonstrates what a difficult question this is. 

This Day in 1607 and 1579. 409 and 437 years ago today respectively, the first Anglican parish in America was founded, and the first Anglican service in the world was held. *

The Evolution of the Book

What makes a book a book? Is it just anything that stores and communicates information? Or does it have to do with paper, binding, font, ink, its weight in your hands, the smell of the pages? TED-Ed takes a look in this video.

Should Christians in America Fight for the Religious Liberty of Muslims?

David Prince provides an answer.

Flashback: God Does Not Owe Us a Happy Ending

We love stories and viral videos that have happy endings. Yet so often the stories in our own lives do not have such happy endings… 

Stetzer

Never value ability over character. Character eventually catches up. —Ed Stetzer

I Forbid You To Say These Things at My Funeral
June 20, 2016

YouTube told me I ought to watch a clip from a recent episode of America’s Got Talent. After all, who doesn’t like to see some unknown person make it or blow it on the big stage? In this case the young man did a tremendous job of imitating Frank Sinatra and, of course, received thunderous applause for his effort. When the cheering had subsided he was told by the judges that his dear grandmother must be looking down from heaven aglow with pride. Somehow that kind of clichéd syrupy sentimentality is just what people want to hear in those moments. It got me thinking about some of the absurd statements I’ve heard over the years, and especially the ones I’ve heard at funerals. Here are a few things I sincerely hope no one will say about me at my funeral or any time thereafter. In fact, I hereby forbid it.

He is looking down on you. The Bible gives us little reason to believe that the dead keep an eye on the living. And, frankly, I rather hope they don’t. When I am dead I will finally, blessedly be more alive than I’ve ever been because I will be free of sin and its consequences. I can’t help but think that the very last thing I’d want is to look down (or up or sideways or whatever direction earth is in relation to heaven) and have to witness more of sin and its effects. I love you all plenty, but I don’t particularly want to kick off forever by watching you sin. Not only that, but there’s no earthly or heavenly reason you’d want or need me to. Surely you aren’t indicating that God’s watchful eye is insufficient and that it somehow needs to be supplemented by mine, are you? No, I’m not looking at you. I’m looking at Jesus as he’s looking after you. You’ll be fine.

He’s with the angels now. This one gets me. Listen, I’m eager to meet some angels and to learn what they are all about. I’m especially eager to meet the angel who comforted Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. What I wouldn’t give to know what words he spoke in that moment! But here’s the thing: When I die I won’t be with the angels. I’ll be with Jesus. To say I’m with the angels is like watching a man walk into Buckingham Palace and saying, “He’s with the queen’s secretary now.” While that is strictly true, it’s also completely missing the point. He’s with the queen! And when I’m no longer with you, I’ll be with the king.

God needed another angel. Please don’t say this. Please don’t say this because if you know me you know that I’m no angel. But even more, don’t say this because it completely misrepresents both men and angels as if human beings aspire to evolve or transform into some kind of supernatural being. Angels and humans are completely different orders of being! Iguanas don’t die and become giraffes and men don’t die and become angels. I’m a human being now and will be a human being for the rest of eternity.

He was a good man. He is now, but he wasn’t always. He is good now that he’s in that place where he has been perfected by an instantaneous act of God. He is good now that God has transformed him to take away all desire for ungodliness and unholiness. He’s good now, but he wasn’t on this side of the grave. Frankly, he could be kind of a jerk at times. He could be moody and arrogant and self-centered. He was bad. But he was also forgiven and battling to kill his love of sin and desire for sin. He was learning and growing and displaying God’s grace. But he wasn’t good. Not like he is now. Not like God had created him to be.

He wouldn’t want you to cry. Go ahead and cry. You don’t need to cry for me, of course. But I wouldn’t tell you not to cry at all. Every funeral is an opportunity to consider the harsh reality of human mortality and the treasonous acts that made this mortality inevitable. There is no virtue in a stiff upper lip. There is no virtue in suppressing grief. There is no virtue in thinking that the joy of one man entering heaven ought to dispel the grief of those who are left behind. Funerals are a perfectly appropriate time to mourn—to mourn for the one who died, to mourn for others you miss, to mourn your own mortality, and to mourn the One who died so we could live.

We’re not having a funeral; we’re having a celebration. Why pit the two against one another as if only one can be true? We are having a funeral and it is a genuinely sad occasion. Yet we do not, can not, must not mourn as those who have no hope. A Christian funeral marks both a departure and an arrival; it provides an occasion for both grief and joy. As the poet says, “One short sleep past we wake eternally, and death shall be no more.” A sunset brings cold darkness but also the warm hope of dawn. Death brings the end of a very short life and the beginning of a never-ceasing one. It’s as wrong to refuse to mourn as it is to mourn without hope.

June 20, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include a selection from Crossway by Vern Poythress: Inerrancy and Worldview and Inerrancy and the Gospels ($2.99 each); Redeeming Science, Redeeming Sociology, Redeeming Philosophy ($4.99 each), and Redeeming Mathematics ($3.99). Also consider The ESV and the English Bible Legacy by Leland Ryken ($2.99) and Putting Jesus in His Place by Robert Bowman & J. Ed Komoszewski (free).

My Father

My good friend Sam writes movingly about fatherhood and fatherlessness. “I’ve come to accept that I am probably never going to meet my father. I know that I am probably never going to shake my father’s hand—or give him the most awkward hug in history. I am never going to get to ask him the questions I’ve been wanting to ask since I was old enough to have questions.”

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood

Ray Ortlund shares ten lessons on fatherhood he drew from his dad. “In no particular order, here are ten lessons on fatherhood I learned from watching him, each lesson living on in my life from memories of his care for me.”

Sexual Desire and the Single Girl

“Imagine keeping a lion in a small cat-carrier. For years. Day after day. Night after night. He roars. He eats. (A lot.) His energy is endless. And yet you keep him caged.” That’s how Colleen Chao describes sexual desire as a single girl.

Raising Christian Kids in a Public School

If your children are in public schools, you may appreciate Melissa’s thoughts on her family’s experience.

On Dancing and the Regulative Principle

Andrew Wilson and Jonathan Leeman are discussing dancing in worship services and whether it is wise or permissible. In this first article Leeman tells why he is not in favor.

This Day in 1974. 42 years ago today, Matt Chandler was born. Happy birthday Matt!

California on Fire

This is some amazing footage of wildfires in California.

Our Best Life Yet to Come

Randy Alcorn offers some encouragement: “Our perspective today is informed by the reality that resurrection awaits God’s children. This means we’ll never pass our peaks. The best is yet to come! No need for bucket lists, because the adventures awaiting us in the New Heavens and on the New Earth will far exceed the greatest thrills of this life.”

Flashback: 7 Marks of a False Teacher

False teachers have been present in every era of human history, they have always been a plague and have always been in the business of providing counterfeit truth. While their circumstances may change, their methods remain consistent. Here are seven marks of a false teacher.

Price

Christianity can been seen as a system of morality or ethics. In fact, it is the opposite, it is a declaration of moral and ethical failure. —Tom Price

June 19, 2016

It comes as no surprise that an article about my position on baptism generated quite a number of letters to the editor. What surprised and delighted me was that they came from all over the world. Not only that, but many of them added nicely to the conversation. Here are a few representative samples.

Comments on Why I Am Not Paedobaptist

I, too, have gone back and forth on this issue. I was raised in a credobaptist tradition and was baptized as a believer. A few years ago, I started attending a Lutheran church (although I do not hold to all of Lutheran doctrine, this was the only church in my area, that I could find, that preached the Gospel). I read and listened to various arguments for both positions (including the Sproul-MacArthur debate you mentioned). Both sides seemed to have a compelling argument, so I was undecided for awhile. A debate on baptism with Dr. James White and Gregg Strawbridge finally convinced me of the credobaptist view. Specifically, Dr. White argued that paedobaptists apply an Old Testament paradigm to a New Testament teaching. Essentially, circumcision applied to the biological descendants of Abraham, while baptism applies to his spiritual descendants. Since it is only by a profession of faith that we can know who are Abraham’s descendants, we cannot baptize infants.
—Gary G, Fontana, CA

Tim: I have watched some, though not all of that debate. I will keep watching it. I appreciate this kind of friendly, informative debate as a means to come to convictions, to deepen existing convictions, and to better understand alternative viewpoints.

***

I agree with most of what you say in your article, and understand the tentativeness you express in declaring your view “right” and the view of those—who are otherwise clearly evangelical and orthodox in their Christian beliefs—as “wrong.” However, I believe their is a much more significant harm introduced by the paedobaptist view than what you describe, and it is this: Despite verbal (and written) insistence that the act of baptism is not what “saves” the child (i.e., it is not what brings the child out of the kingdom of this world and into the kingdom of God), the act of baptizing that infant speaks an entirely different message to that child’s family, as well as to the congregation of that church and to non-believers who are present (or who are even aware of the church’s practice). Paedobaptism is unbiblical. We are not acting in truth (nor in love) when we do not clearly declare it to be so.
—Larry O, Grayson, GA

Tim: I would caution you to be careful when using the word “unbiblical” in this context. I know it is strictly true that one of the two positions is unbiblical, but we also need to acknowledge that both are within the bounds of orthodoxy and the gospel thrives under both beliefs. It is undoubtedly true that some streams of Protestantism fall into the trap of assuming that baptizing a child somehow saves him, but there are many others where the parents and church fully understand that baptism does not regenerate and that they still very much need to preach the gospel to their children and call on them to respond to it.

***

I appreciate your honesty and respectful tone in this article. I was baptised as a child and grew up in the church, but am now excluded from membership of my current church due to my not having received credobaptism. The situation is difficult because both positions make a strong case, and I do not want to a) get baptised just to become a member b) devalue or undermine the meaning of baptism c) (most importantly!) disobey Christ. Your article summarised the issues nicely, and helps frame my thinking as I read and pray about this issue further. Thanks.
—Greg D, Glasgow, Scotland

Tim: I’m glad to hear it, Greg. Baptist churches are like most others in that they will not welcome people into membership who have not been baptized. They do not recognize infant baptism as a valid baptism and, hence, require that each member first be baptized as a believer. There is a clear path of progress from professing faith to being baptized to becoming a member. While this is not universal among Baptists, it is the common practice.

***

Thank you for your brotherly love toward us who are paedobaptists. Often when I read a credobaptist’s description of paedobaptists, I feel mischaracterized as one who believes in baptismal regeneration or as one who feels good that my child is a member of the covenant with God and so is careless in bringing up my child in the training and discipline of the Lord. We had our children baptized because we were following our best understanding of God’s Word, and we did teach them and disciple them in the Christian faith as we continued to follow our best understanding of God’s Word.

I am grieved by the fact that while most Baptists will admit with you that we are within the bounds of orthodoxy and are Christian brothers and sisters, we are kept from joining in the family meal of the Lord’s supper in their churches. We are warned away just as if we are unbelievers or unrepentant adulators. The Lord knows how to make his commands perfectly clear, but he did not give specific requirements for baptism as concretely as he provided the directions for the making of the items used in worship in the tabernacle. I pray that one day all Christ’s visible church may meet at his table in all his congregations and proclaim together the Lord’s death until he comes again.
—Susan R, Allen, TX

Tim: I think there is another way of seeing this, and it’s to be thankful that churches are taking seriously the responsibility to fence the Lord’s table. I’d much rather be excluded from participating in Lord’s supper in a church where they are serious about purity than participate in one that opens the doors far too wide. I think most sound churches work hard to find the proper balance.

***

Thank you for your brief article. This is an issue that really tore my family up for a time. It was even suggested I was abusing a covenant child by not baptizing her. I maintained my view that both views were within orthodoxy and that obedience in this and bringing the child up in the nurture and admonition of the LORD was what was most important. It got ugly at times. We weathered it and it was dropped eventually. It still hurts at times though. I stay quiet about it as I think it could flare again and bring more discord when we have had much loss and pain over the past few years. I too have tried, being raised in the Presbyterian Church and from a family of pastors for centuries in the Presbyterian Church, which I was reminded of frequently, to find a way to be convinced. That never happened. Unity with those of differing convictions on this and other non-essential theological positions is my aim, and worship with a precious church family of mostly paedobaptists currently. We disagree but do not divide over it. I still celebrate with parents when they bring their child to be baptized. If we agree on the essentials then we can fellowship freely and in love as the Body of Christ.
—Colin F, Clarksville, TN

Tim: Unfortunately the beautiful doctrine of baptism has too often turned into a battleground. I am sure many convinced paedobaptists can tell how they’ve come under fire for making the alternate choice.

***

Thanks for your article on “Why I’m not a Paedobaptist.” As someone who has grown up in “reverse” to you - dedicated as a child in the Baptist Church and Baptised as a Believer in my teens, yet now a part of the Anglican Church - I found it stimulating. I’d like to ask about your thoughts on “baptism of membership.” In your article, you wrote a line regarding being baptised for membership into a church. “…in order to become a member, I had to be baptized as a believer.” As far as I can tell, there is no scriptural basis for a second (or even more!) baptism to indicate membership into a specific local church. Would you be able to elaborate?
—Tim B, Adelaide, Australia

Tim: Yes, I’m glad to elaborate. All I meant was that I had not yet been baptized as a believer and, therefore, according to Baptist doctrine, had not been baptized at all. In order to come into the membership of that church I first had to be baptized. I didn’t mention a more difficult issue—this church was only willing to accept baptism by immersion. Aileen had been baptized as an adult but not by immersion. She had to wrestle through the issue of whether or not she could in good conscience be “rebaptized,” this time by immersion.

***

Thank you for writing about this issue with grace and honesty. I grew up in a baptist church, and now I’m a member of one. There are virtually no Presbyterian churches in my area. The closest practice to baptizing children I’ve seen is the Roman Catholic Church, though I know their belief system is works-based, therefore, they do not baptize children out of the same orthodox convictions Presbyterians do. I’m a single Christian girl, and I also believe in credobaptism. Anyway, you mentioned in your article that though this is an important issue, it is not a critical one…which allows us to work together with those who are paedobaptists. My question is, how would you advise a single Paedobaptist and a single credobaptist who wish to marry each other? Are these opposing views a deal-breaker for marriage? Would love to hear your take on this. Thanks!
—Katherine B, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Tim: This is a difficult issue and one that probably needs to be taken case-by-case rather than in broad ways. It also demands more space than I can give it here. So very quickly, it is difficult to see how, if such a couple marries and has children, they will have unity in raising their children if one believes it will be disobedient to baptize children and the other believes it will be disobedient not to. One of them will have to violate convictions and conscience, something that is never wise nor safe. I might point you to Russell Moore’s thoughts on marriage with theological divisions. The context is different but the questions and concerns will be much the same. Either way, such a situation needs to be approached carefully, prayerfully, and with input from other mature Christians.

***

Hi Tim. While I would also associate myself with being a credo baptist, I earnestly try to understand why paedobaptists do hold to infant baptism. In some of my searching, I have heard those who do hold to it question why credo baptists practice baby dedications. What are your thoughts on baby dedications and do you see them as a similar practice to those who practice infant baptism?
—Kaleb P, Kitchener, ON

Tim: That, too, is a little outside what I can answer here. But let me say this: Our Baptist church does not practice baby dedications. We do not consider them unbiblical as much as a-biblical. The Bible neither commands nor forbids them which gives us freedom to practice them or not practice them. We have chosen not to. I will see if I can expand our reasons into an article and share it here in the future.

Comments on The Things You Think You Can Handle on Your Own

I appreciated this article’s call to pray for the things I don’t think to pray about, and it’s a worthy thing to consider—I intend to spend some time prayerfully thinking about in which areas I need to pray more. On the flip side, though, I do want to offer an attitude of prayer that perhaps was missing in the article. In the instances of daily provision and safety while traveling, I tend to see those as places where it is more faithful to depend on God as my Father to take care of me. A child fully expects there to be food at each meal, and has every confidence in his daddy’s expert driving skills; he doesn’t ask his father to be sure there will be lunch or to drive safely. So I find myself wondering if perhaps the best way to be prayerful about some things is to simply trust that God has already provided and is an expert in caring for those needs, and to thank Him for His provision.
—Jordan S, Lawrenceville, GA

June 18, 2016

The only new and notable Kindle deal I found is The Narnian by Alan Jacobs ($1.99). There is also a day-long sale on certain kids’ series, though I’m not familiar with the books. See here for the list.

Christian Audio

Christian Audio is holding their twice-yearly sale. This is a great time to try out their service. During this sale even brand new books are heavily discounted.

Why Sex Isn’t the Best Thing Ever

Lore Ferguson: “One of the best blessings to me in my singleness were friends who did not make marriage an ultimate thing in my eyes by only telling me the beautiful parts of their marriage, but who told me the difficulties of it as well. They also prayed for me actively to someday have the gift of marriage. I hope I am doing the same for my still single friends who desire the gift.”

A Swimming Pool in the ICU?

Here’s an interesting little story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The Two Words Fathers Should Say to Their Children

As theologian D.A. Carson says, “Do you ever say to a young Christian, ‘Do you want to know what Christianity is like? Watch me!’ If you never do, you are unbiblical.”

God Permits Evil, But Does Not Cause It

Sometimes the fine distinctions make a world of difference.

Tomorrow in 1939. 77 years ago tomorrow, pastor John MacArthur was born. Happy birthday, Dr. MacArthur!

It’s Going to be an Issue

“Biola University, located in Southern California and one of the country’s most well-known and prestigious evangelical colleges, now finds itself arguing for its right to be evangelical.”

The Death of Dawson Trotman

60 years ago today the founder of Navigators died while saving a girl’s life. Here’s what happened.

Flashback: Leading in Love

Wayne Grudem allows a little glimpse inside his marriage to see how complementarianism plays out in real life.

Give Me Your Heart

I’m thankful to Ligonier Ministries for sponsoring the blog with the article “Give Me Your Heart.”

Spurgeon

The more empty I am, the more room is there for my Master. The more I lack, the more He will give me. —C.H. Spurgeon

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
June 17, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is provided by Ligonier Ministries who also sponsored the blog this week. They are offering 5 prize packages that each include 3 of their great books:

  • Knights MapThe Knight’s Map by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover). "In this allegorical tale, theologian, pastor, and author Dr. R.C. Sproul continues his life’s work of making deep biblical truths clear and understandable to students of all ages. The Knight’s Map is the story of a knight who undertakes a perilous journey full of bad advice and wrong turns. In the end, he must decide whether or not he will trust the map provided by the King. Beautiful, full color illustrations by Richard Lawnes reveal this rich, textured world and discussion questions with Scripture references help parents guide their children into the deeper meaning of the story."
  • The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Steven Lawson (Hardcover). "From the pulpit at Westminster Chapel in London, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones set a new standard for faithful and passionate preaching, a standard that continues to be relevant today. Lloyd-Jones was a physician by training and had begun a promising career in medicine before sensing an irresistible call to preach. Surrounded by theological liberalism, he began a pulpit ministry that would exert profound influence on both sides of the Atlantic."
  • The Reformation Study Bible (ESV, Hardcover, White), "The Bible is not like any other book because its ultimate Author is God. As the psalmist prayed in Psalm 119:18, 'Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law,' the new Reformation Study Bible emphasizes the need for the grace of God to lead out of darkness and into the light of Scripture. The Reformation Study Bible is carefully crafted to offer an unparalleled reading, study, and discipleship experience for every age and stage of the Christian life."

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

The Bestsellers
June 17, 2016

In this ongoing series of articles I am taking a look at books that have won the Platinum or Diamond Sales Awards from the Evangelical Christian Booksellers Association. The Platinum Award recognizes books that have achieved one million sales while the Diamond Award recognizes the few that have surpassed the ten million mark. Today we turn our attention to the 2010 debut from David Platt.

Radical by David Platt

David Platt (born July 11, 1979) is one of America’s best-known young, evangelical leaders. Known today for his books and his preaching, he was first an academic, earning two undergraduate and three advanced degrees, including a Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Philosophy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. That same seminary employed him as a dean and assistant professor until, at just 28 years of age, he was called to serve as senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Already a megachurch, it grew steadily under his preaching and leadership until it swelled to nearly 5,000 attendees. In 2014, after 8 years in that position, he announced that he would step down to take up a new position as President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He continues in that role today. He is also a regular speaker at conferences, including the bi-annual Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Platt’s first book, released May 4, 2010, was Radical, a book about escaping the allure and the doldrums of the American dream. The American dream, one that is shared by all of the western world, calls us to a life of complacency, comfort, and ease. We live in big houses, drive nice cars, and worship in multi-million dollar buildings custom-built around all of our favorite programs. We give away bits of our wealth but rarely enough to impede our comfort. Occasionally we are stirred by images of starving children or by tales of God’s work in foreign lands, but we quickly forget and go on with our lives, growing our portfolios and filling our homes with stuff. “We have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel [Jesus] taught.”

It is in this context that Platt proposes something better, something more consistent with Scripture, something downright radical. “Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” Radical is, then, a call to radical Christian living. It is a call to put aside our complacency to instead embrace and pursue God’s mission in the world. According to the publisher, “David Platt invites you to encounter what Jesus actually said about being his disciple, and then obey what you have heard. He challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated a God-centered gospel to fit our human-centered preferences. With passionate storytelling and convicting biblical analysis, Platt calls into question a host of comfortable notions that are common among Christ’s followers today. Then he proposes a radical response: live the gospel in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world changing.”

Sales & Lasting Impact

Radical was an immediate success, quickly surging to the New York Times list of bestsellers where it remained for more than a year. By 2011 it had crossed the 500,000 mark and surpassed one million in 2013. All the while rumors circulated that Platt was practicing what he preached by giving away the substantial royalties that come from a bestseller and, indeed, his web site includes this notation: “All of the royalties from David’s published works go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.” Radical indeed.

But, inevitably, Radical received a number of critiques. In most cases these were offered with genuine affirmations of the book’s gospel focus and spiritual value. Kevin DeYoung’s review at The Gospel Coalition is representative. He affirms his friendship with Platt and his enjoyment of the book, then offers 5 critiques “with the book and with some elements of the larger ‘get radical, get crazy Christianity’ that is increasingly popular with younger evangelicals.” The foremost critique is that Platt did not sufficiently ground his call in the gospel. “In a book-length treatment of such an important topic I would have liked to have seen ‘all we need to do in obedience to God’ growing more manifestly out of ‘all God’s done for us.’” In other words, he is concerned that Platt’s call to sanctification does not adequately flow out of the Christian’s existing justification.

The second critique revolves around the concern that radical Christianity cannot be sustained over the entirety of the Christian life. “If the message of Jesus translates into ‘Give more away’ or ‘Sacrifice for the gospel’ or ‘Get more radical’ we will end up with burned out evangelicals. Even when Jesus said his hard sayings (and he said a lot of them) it was not his basic stump speech. His message was repent and believe in the gospel. … We need to find a way to attack the American dream while still allowing for differing vocations and that sort of ordinary Christian life that can plod along for fifty years.” He also expresses concern with the utilitarian ethic that pervades radical living, with an under-developed understanding of poverty and wealth, and with conclusions that are at times overstated. DeYoung’s critiques were gentle but substantial. They were echoed and expanded upon by a number of others, including Michael Horton. On a popular level Radical was a triumph. It currently has 1,436 reviews at Amazon and averages 4.5 stars.

Since the Award

Platt has since written a number of other books including Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God which addressed the thread of individualism in Radical that clashed with the Bible’s emphasis on church communities. Interestingly, and in a testament to the influence of Radical, we saw the publication of a significant number of works that provide an alternate perspective on the Christian life. They have titles such as Ordinary, Normal, Boring, and Mundane and are meant to highlight the reality that most people’s lives look very un-radical. They demonstrate that the New Testament is full of calls for Christians to simply dedicate their lives to working hard at very normal jobs, to serve in their very ordinary churches, and to be content to live in ways that may seem quite bland.

A Personal Perspective

I read Radical a year after it was published and rather enjoyed it. I was encouraged by Platt’s deep and biblical understanding of the gospel. I said “Before I began reading Radical I assumed it was just another of a long list of books that would build upon a shaky theological foundation. I was delighted to find that one of Radical’s great strengths is that it is firmly grounded in the gospel. Platt spends a good bit of time discussing the gospel, the real gospel, and calling the reader to embrace it and live as if it is true. And then, on the basis of that gospel, he calls the reader to do what is radical, to let go of the American dream, a dream that is as alive within the church as it is outside of it. It’s a powerful message that falls on eager ears.”

I saw this book as part of a whole crop of similar works featuring superlative titles calling us toward a life of bigger, higher, greater, and more radical Christian living. I expressed my concern that we first pursue radically Christian character and, from there, that we learn to be content with very obedient but mundane lives. Later I wrote a series of articles on being ordinary—articles that seemed to resonate with many readers.

As Platt has released further works, I have been pleased to see that he clearly heeded many of the critiques of his work. I was equally pleased to see that he has remained every bit as zealous. Such mature zeal is sadly lacking in the church today, but remains a powerful tool in God’s hand.