Is Radical Christianity A New Legalism?

Is the kind of “radical” Christianity advocated by the likes of Francis Chan and David Platt just another way for Christians to rely on and emphasize their own efforts over the grace of God? For Anthony Bradley at WORLD the answer may be yes. For those of you that are interested in the new wave of “taking Jesus seriously” I highly recommend reading the article.

Bradley offers two valid criticisms:

1)      There’s a lot of “shaming” going on around “radical” living. Some of the popular books can come across as a guilt trip. While I think this critique holds weight, I’d hate to see the Christian culture throw out what is of value in writings of Platt and Chan. Although these books are pretty reactionary (as the author notes) they do address what I perceive to be an issue for many Christians: an unwillingness to follow Jesus even when it means being unsafe.

In my own life I’ve been challenged by this thinking. If living in a “safe” neighborhood is outside my means, should I live there? If it is within my means, but would prohibit me from being able give generously to those that hungry in my community, should I live there? These are not questions with black-and-white answers, of course, but they are questions that need to be asked, and I’m afraid many Christians never ask them, much less consider the risky answer as viable. Books like Crazy Love remind us that our faith is not that is adverse to danger and sacrifice.

2)      The push to urban centers weakens the Church elsewhere. We need Christians in cities, no doubt, but I agree with the author that this shouldn’t mean we act as if this is a higher calling than rural or suburban Christian life.

The author talks about a possible solution to the pendulum swings between “comfy Christianity” and “radical Christianity” is a recovery of the doctrine of vocation. Learning about the Lutheran view of vocation was huge for me personally a few years ago, so I get where he’s coming from. I think it has to be part of a larger push toward renewed discipleship in the church at large, though. A doctrine of vocation won’t do it without understanding all of the teachings of Christ along with their implications for doctrine and community life.