Thursday, September 08, 2011

A different book

Late spring or early summer—I can't remember which—while we were returning the grandkids, someone or two suggested a book to me that looked interesting. So, I read the first 60 pages. It was fascinating and deadly accurate, so I asked if I could borrow it. They let me, and I set it on my desk at home.

Six weeks passed before I got back to it. By that time, I had forgotten the first 60 pages, so I started over again. I still found it fascinating and deadly accurate. The author hit the nail on the head, time after time. He was diagnosing what was wrong with the church in America—and he isn't a far-out on the limb house church or Emergent author either! In fact, he is a mega-church pastor.

I found myself devouring the book, hoping he would offer the cure to all the ills he was highlighting. When he got to the prescription, I found that his cure was as bad as the disease. Where was the power of the Holy Spirit? Where was the presence of God in your moment-by-moment life? Where was the vibrant life of the book of Acts? He recommended reading the Bible through in a year, making a financial sacrifice, going on a mission trip, and getting involved in a meaningful church relationship. Same old same old, just a different package :( Not that there is anything wrong with any of them, in and of themselves. But, when you remove the emphasis on the Holy Spirit as the motivating, living factor in your life, you end up with another program.

What was/is the book? Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Not that the book is all bad; as I said, his diagnosis is spot-on. So, I have decided I will extract the stuff that I found good from the book over the next so many days, but always link back to this caveat.

Feel free to show me where I misread him or where I am wrong; that's what the comments are for.


David Reimer said...

As ever, I appreciate not only the extracts you post, but also your reflections, errr, "idle musings" ;) on them. I'm sure this series will be no exception.

Reading this post reminded me of something else I encountered recently which struck a chord with me. I wonder what you would make of it:

An Open Letter to North American Churches (see the PDF linked there).

That's my 2 cents! said...

James, I have this book on my "to read" list, along with "Not A Fan", and a couple others of the same stripe. The best I've discovered so far is Matthew Barnett's, The Cause Within You. It's light weight stuff, and some of it smacks of warm fluffy self-help. But the premise of the book is sound, and the testimonies certainly show God's hand and power. You won't like everything, but I do believe you'll find some good in it.

Tyndale and Barna are the publishers, 2011.

jdarlack said...

I agree with you whole heartedly, Jim. My church is finishing a study of the book. I think you're right. His diagnosis is spot on, but the 'cure' is a bit short sighted. For much of the book, I felt that he did a good job of navigating between speaking prophetically and avoiding guilt-trips, but the last few chapters soured me a bit in that regard.

jps said...


I read the PDF; it is a sad commentary on the state of the church here. I fear he is correct.


Dale McIntire said...

Hi James,

I've read the book twice, and am preparing for the third reading. I have also read the subsequent work, "Radical Together." I find Platt's descriptions, as you have, deadly accurate. I also find his "solutions," eminently practical, a condition I read recently was devastating the church in our current culture.

We want everything to be practical, concrete, not necessarily theological, and very much about us and what we can do for God. There is an unspoken assumption that God is in the background of all faith-filled and holy activity, but I think your call to bring God to the forefront is much needed.

However, taking Paul's letter to Titus as a precedent setting example, I'll note the Titus is encouraged and instructed by the apostle to preach and teach, in fact, to "insist" on certain theological, Christocentric truths, "so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works." Paul mentions the Holy Spirit only once in the 46 verses, but mentions godliness or good works about a dozen times (or a few more, depending on whether you're counting words or ideas.) Spirit filled people, apparently, need to "learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful" more than they need to be reinstructed about the Holy Spirit and his role in their lives.

This leads me to think that some books needs to be specifically about the Holy Spirit and some books need to be about getting the work done, and no book necessarily needs to be exhaustive about both at the same time.