"Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)—so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged."
Robert Browning in his poem Andrea Del Sarto Called “The Faultless Painter”
"Less is more." and "God is in the details."
A couple weeks ago our friend Todd Wilhelm wrote a post about the plethora of books being published by the "Evangelical Industrial Complex (EIC)".
Todd is a voracious reader; however, he is beginning to take issue with some of the EIC books that regurgitate ideas already put forth in the marketplace of ideas. He theorizes that a forthcoming book entitled Ordinary by Michael Horton is eerily similar to a book written by a friend of TWW – Matt Redmond.
The title of Matt's book is The God of the Mundane. He sent us a copy when the book was released, and Dee reviewed it in January 2013. You can read her post here.
We are grateful to Todd for allowing us to feature the following post.
By: Todd Wilhelm
“But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.”
Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a “next-best-thing,” if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be “ordinary.”
Yet pastor and author Michael Horton believes that our attempts to measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, constantly seeking after the next big breakthrough, have left many Christians disillusioned and disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with an energetic faith; the danger is that we can burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. What’s needed is not another program or a fresh approach to spiritual growth; it’s a renewed appreciation for the commonplace.
Far from a call to low expectations and passivity, Horton invites readers to recover their sense of joy in the ordinary. He provides a guide to a sustainable discipleship that happens over the long haul—not a quick fix that leaves readers empty with unfulfilled promises. Convicting and ultimately empowering, Ordinary is not a call to do less; it’s an invitation to experience the elusive joy of the ordinary Christian life.
I agree with the sentiments expressed above.
This may be foolish to admit, but I have not read “Ordinary” by Michael Horton, nor is it likely I will in the future. The book is scheduled to be released to the public in about three weeks.
My problem exists with what some have labeled the “Evangelical Industrial Complex.” I believe this book is another example of the “EIC” in action. There are many Christian leaders who must be under contract with their publishers to pump out 3 or 4 books a year. For some authors these books serve at least two purposes. The books bring in money and they also keep the author’s name in front of the Christian public, an important aspect for future book sales. The public has a short attention span. A book’s success depends on large part to name recognition. If a famous author wrote the book, chances are it will have good sales. With the exception of a few very well known superstar authors, name recognition is basically dependent on keeping your name “out there” in public. This is done by keeping a steady stream of new books flowing into the marketplace.
I don’t much care about who writes what, but there are so many new Christian books written these days that it’s hard to keep up with them all. I simply ask the Christian authors to forsake the fame, riches and numbers game and ask themselves a few simple questions prior to commencing the task of authoring another book to add to the glut.
First, has the subject matter already been covered by other books? If so, will the book you plan on writing add some vitally needed insight to the subject matter? Will the book you plan on writing be better than anything already out there, or has the subject matter been covered better and deeper than anything you could write? Will the book you intend to write make a significant impact on the Christian world, will it have staying power or simply be forgotten two years after it is released? Obviously this can’t always be predicted, but make your best guess. If somebody has already written a better book on the subject I would suggest you refrain from adding yours to the marketplace.
That said, and admitting that I have not read the book, my guess is that Michael Horton’s book covers a lot of the same ground that Matthew B. Redmond covered in his book below. When Redmond’s book was published what he wrote needed to be stated. He stated it beautifully and, as far as I am concerned, nothing more need be said. I would also wager that Horton does not say it as well as Redmond said it. Redmond has a gift for writing that few can match. He is one author that I wish would write more books.
Check out his website to get a feel for Redmond’s gift.
Some good advice on book reading from C.S. Lewis:
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books…. [Students are directed not to Plato but to books on Plato]— all about ‘isms’ and inﬂuences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said…. But if he only knew,the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator….
Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light….
It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones….
We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. . . .
We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness…. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.”
Lydia's Corner: Malachi 3:1-4:6 Revelation 22:1-21 Psalm 150:1-6 Proverbs 31:25-31
A few days ago someone posted a comment on FB pushing Horton's book. Right away I recognized the similarity in title and content to Matt Redmond's book which I read and liked. I immediately commented that Horton's book seemed to have already been written a few years ago by Matt R. 🙂
I had the same reaction when I read the title of Horton's book.
That advice by C.S. Lewis is timeless! I especially liked these:
@ Dave A A: 😆
Matt Redmond truly does have a gift for writing. He will never be promoted by the gospel Glitterati because he refuses to smile winsomely and go along with them so that everyone can "flourish."
Todd's points remind me of the phenomenon of regulatory capture where an agency of government which should regulate for the greater good of the public is captured by the industry it should regulate and regulates instead for the good of the industry (ed.). ISTM that those who should be regulating the "Christian" publishing and product industry–Christian leaders–have been captured by that industry and have sold themselves to the publishers for their own good rather than the good of those whom they should be serving.
But credit where it is due, David Platt used his "radical" concept to write a book and guilt-trip prosperous suburbanites in Birmingham. Then he used that success to propel himself into a gig as the head of the SBC International Mission Board. Was there really no one else at the IMB with more executive or foreign mission experience than Platt? Or was it a case of cronyism? I say it was cronyism because Platt is an excellent promoter of Platt and Platt's purported passion for missions as well as a successful promoter of the established SBC Calvinist/Complementarian "orthodoxy." And as a bonus he also has a speaking style that is eerily similar to C.J. Mahaney's.
Should be industry.
Speaking of the EIC, and anything but “ordinary” (in any sense of the word… meet Mark Driscoll II: http://www.vocativ.com/culture/religion/heath-mooneyham-ignite/?page=all
Oh, BTW, language warning on that link. The guy is a piece of work, and it shows.
(Thought the Ecclesiastes verse was fake – like maybe there were only 11 chapters in the book or something. Looked it up. ‘Twas real. Lo siento for doubting you)
In many cases the writers would do well to write a 20-50 page book when their important ideas are best conveyed in that length. Maybe not the most convenient for the publishers, but better for readers and easier to write too.
@ Nick Bulbeck:
In fact, I’m left wondering what exactly an anustry is.
Several things suggest themselves, but I’m leaving well alone.
Thanks for the kindness.
Here is my prediction for the not to distant future. Blogs are challenging the status quo in evangelicalism.
Today I read an article that the most researched(via Google) universities are those that offer online degrees.
I believe that Ebooks/self publishing will challenge the tightly controlled publishing world. Even now, I recently was looking for a particular type of book on Amazon and found a self published book that was garnering great reviews. I bought it.
Also, let me add the little known “trick” of frequent book writers. Some of them publish a longish book and then, a hear or two later, publish a shorter book which is merely just a couple of chapters of the former book. About a year ago, their was a dustup over a John Piper book which did just that and people were complaining on Amazon. I will try to find the name of the book before the end of the day.
This is what Driscoll spawned.
They aren’t being kind. They are simply stating truth, buddy. 🙂 Matt Redmond wrote:
I took a few minutes to do a quick audit of John Piper’s Amazon listings; because I love Amazon. I didn’t look at all 101 pages, but in the first dozen or so I found three books that are described as “extensions” of chapters of larger books. Desiring God thusly spawned The Dangerous Duty of Delight. Don’t Waste Your Life produced Risk is Right. When I Don’t Desire God, the love child of Desiring God, produced in turn When Darkness Will Not Lift.
In addition, I found revised editions of at least four books: Desiring God , Future Grace (which I read at first publication and found helpful,) Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, and the ironically titled Brothers, We Are Not Professionals
But best of all was this actual publisher’s description, “This revision of the follow-up to the popular A Godward Life…
Btw, buddy Heath just stepped down for a year of counseling, sobriety and discipline because he was arrested for DUI the preceding week. I had heard a few of his messages and alwYs thought he was speaking with half a cheeseburger in his mouth while chugging beer. seems like he was. @ E.G.:
Yes! In posing as the tough guy showing the way to be a grown up, he may have reduced the # of perpetual adolescent males in the church. Sadly, he coaxed them into becoming egotistical, boorish bullies who celebrate their “manhood” in every revolting way imaginable. And, I like men. Just not that pork-rind-MMA-loving flavor. @ dee:
We talking another Driscoll Incident, or just unconscious bandwagon parallelism?
You know what this reminds me of?
SEQUELITIS, whether Hollywood or Bad Fanfic whose Wordsmiths(TM) just don’t know when to stop. (Including rewriting their original fic over and over and over with different POVs; that’s what finally killed the Sparkling Hawt Vampire franchise.)
As some online movie review described “this summer’s latest blockbuster”:
“A sequel of a sequel of a sequel of a reboot of a sequel of a sequel of a comic book.”
Mo money, mo money, mo money!
If we’re talking about who I think you’re talking, maybe he was just trying to Top Driscoll? MORE CUSSING! MORE BEER! MORE JOCK-SCRATCHING! MORE CAGE FIGHTING!
Like Glenn Beck trying to out-Rush Rush Limbaugh. CAN YOU TOP THIS?
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
“Several things” as in Driscoll’s fascination with the ends of the alimentary canal and “Loophole” (NSFW!) by Garfunkel & Oates?
As a church librarian, I’ve noticed the phenomenon of books continually being written about the same subjects. Looking through a Christian book catalog, you start to wonder, another book on marriage, child raising, suffering? There are so many DVD curricula out now too, that seem to come with every new book by a famous author. I agree with C.S. Lewis about reading older stuff – for one thing, you discover that the same problems and controversies existed years ago (except maybe with the internet). There’s not much new to be said on a lot of topics if we’re sticking to Scripture, so each author puts their particular spin on a topic, and because people want to hear their opinion, you get another book. No doubt there are some future classics among current books, but they’ll be few and far between.
Evangelicals do love to jump on trends and start copy-catting each other. If it’s a Christian trend, they hop on it relatively quickly, within weeks to months. Concerning secular trends, they are usually ten to fifteen years behind.
Not only do the Christian book topics sometime mirror each other, but they start showing up in sermons and blogs, too.
After Rick Warren wrote the “Purpose Driven Life” book, I started seeing a lot of preachers sermonize about ‘finding your purpose.’ Variations on that included the word “vision” and “dream.”
One other recent trend is emphasizing the subject of grace. I think Joseph Prince started the emphasis on grace years ago. He’s a preacher based in Singapore but has TV shows on American Christian networks, and he’s published books.
After Prince’s show and books caught on here, where he sermonizes on grace all the time, I started seeing a focus upon that topic on more and more Christian books, blogs, and TV shows. (Tullian Tchividjian wrote a book about the grace of God in the last year and talks about grace a lot lately.)
I often see preachers on TV shows pushing their books or DVDs. Most of these guys claim to believe in sola scriptura. I don’t understand why they think I need their books (about religious stuff, or how to succeed at job/ marriage/ whatever) if I already have a copy of the Bible (which I do).
The Word of Faith guys on TV will usually have a guest on who claims he received special revelation from God on how to achieve healing, financial success, or how to get your prayers answered. If you want all his answers, you have to buy the book.
I would think all I need is the Bible to learn that stuff, but, if these guys really care about other people, wouldn’t they be willing to give their answers to the public for free?
And don’t forget aspects of Christian book publishing like this:
Is Perry Noble’s Latest Book ‘Overwhelmed’ Dishonest and Dangerous?
In interviews, Noble said he found healing from depression through medication and doctors, but in the book, (according to reviews), he neglects to mention that, but only discusses using faith and prayers.
Books about depression by preachers are also fairly constant. The nouthetic counseling guys keep publishing more and more books about things like depression, too.
My mother had clinical depression, and as far back as the 1970s and 1980s, I remember her purchasing books and long, pamphlet-like booklets about depression by Christian authors, some of whom were psychiatrists, some preachers.
My mom continued to buy the occasional book about depression by Christians in the 1990s and beyond, and I bought one or two similar works.
I think Christians have more than enough books on “How to have a groovy marriage.” I don’t think any more of those are necessary.
Oh yeah, there are lots of books about marriage.
The one topic Christian authors neglect is adult singleness/celibacy. There are hardly any books by Christians about how to live life if you have never married and over 30 years of age.
There’s only a small smattering of books for adult singles about adult singleness. I was reading one such book, and the authors (a duo of Christian ladies), commented on that, too.
They said when they go into Christian book stores, they observe that there are many, many books about marriage, making marriage work, how to remarry after divorce, how to spice up married sex, but hardly any on adult singleness or celibacy.
The only books they find for singles are a small number of how to prepare yourself for marriage, and the authors of those books usually assume the reader will marry by age 25.
The ladies who wrote this book were in their late 30s at the time they wrote it, had never married, and said they could not find any Christian books that addressed being single at their age and life stage.
It’s the same with content on the internet, as well. There are many Christian, online magazines and blogs about marriage, but hardly any about being single into your adulthood.
So singleness is probably one of the few topics that Christians actually have not beaten into the ground in books or blogs.
To our readers: Read this comment by Phoenix regarding the ridiculous nature of “new” books by famous celebrities.
Bill Kinnon wrote:
Darn straight, Bill!
Bill Kinnon wrote:
The two aren’t mutually exclusive, you know…
Ecclesiastes 12:12 KJV
And further, by these, my son, be admonished:
of making **many books** there is no end;
and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 KJV
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God, and keep his commandments:
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgment,
with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
I’m waiting for CJ Mahaney to publish “Don’t Waste Your Blackmail” followed by “Don’t Waste Your Narcissism” :-p
Then Mark Driscoll can publish about “Don’t Waste Your Plagiarism” or “Don’t Waste Your Penis Home”
I agree with Wilhelm’s thesis, but I find it unfortunate that he chose a book by Horton to illustrate it, and one that he hasn’t read. It’s a little as if, years ago, a TV reviewer chose “Seinfeld” as an example of the sameness of TV sitcoms. I’m stretching the point, but I think the point remains valid.
First of all, though Horton is a Calvinist, he is far from the bastardization of it employed by the Calvinistas and their ilk. He’s the real thing – which I realize is not exactly a plus for many readers here. He’s a genuine scholar and a gifted writer. I have not read Redmond’s book, but I have read several of his blog entries, and I agree that he is also a talented writer.
Knowing Horton’s work, I will be very surprised if there is much overlap between his book and Redmond’s besides the inevitable ones that will occur because of the virtually identical subject matter. Horton has his own way of seeing things, and his own style. And nuances can count for much. I won’t even try to guess how many books have been written about, say, “Hamlet,” but I’m reasonably sure that, except for possible plagiarism here and there, no two have the exact same point-of-view. And Christianity is at least as rich a subject as “Hamlet.”
One more thing: In 2011, Horton published a systematic theology entitled “The Christian Faith,” which I bought. It was 1000+ pages and quite difficult. I have enjoyed some long, difficult books, but I knew that I would not plow through this one. So I was grateful that, two years later, he wrote another book called “Pilgrim Theology.” I found it’s description accurate: “[The book] is based – in part – on the much longer ‘The Christian Faith,’ although it is no simple abridgement; rather, Michael Horton has sought to write for an entirely new and wider audience….” So their sometimes can be a valid place for a new book being related to an older one by the same author.
Oy. It should be “its” and “there.”
Next Botkin post is up:
Unrelated but of possible interest to TWW afficianados of secular psychiatry:
An online form is now available to file complaints against psychiatrists.
You can find it here: http://www.psychsearch.net/complaints
This makes it easy for anyone in the entire country to file a complaint
against any psychiatrist anywhere in the U.S.
There is another reason Matt Redmond's book resonated with so many like me: he was working a job in the real world. He wrote about being a Christian living an everyday life and how we can minister to people wherever we are. After the shallow world of evangelicalism and surrounded by the celebs and their wannabes…..his book made me weep with gratitude.
yes, there’s nothing quite like having a day job in the real world to slow down some of the possibilities for writing.
I couldn’t even finish that story you posted to (same old same old, eh?). At first I wondered if it was a spoof site. Unfortunately, no.
My son just started youth group this fall. I am having serious doubts about it, he loves it, but this is where our special “youth culture” group members end up – looking to be entertained and made to feel edgy and better than any other Christian group. I think I need to go talk to the youth pastor this fall. Gah.
It would be better for Christians to learn how to be the church, fellowshiping with people of different ages and races, not joining a club – be it fight club (Driscoll), gun club ( this wannabe), (bad) theology passed off as so good you can’t criticize it club (Piper, Mahaney, Dever, Challis, Wilson, Chandler etc.), hipster club, liberal club, mega conservative club, pole dancing club (some church I read about on the internet somewhere). I wish that Joplin Tornado had smacked this church, maybe we all need to pray harder? – Seattle is due for an earthquake too. So sick of this fake church concept. The poor should be front and centre in any church plant. Somehow I don’t think handing out guns on father’s day constitutes “Feeding the poor” since every bunny and deer in a 100km radius is probably already shot by these yahoos with grocery-bought meat already stacked in their freezer. Since all men need to prove their manliness, they will soon be reduced to hunting house cats – because that will prove something, yeah.
@ JeffB: I think the question comes down to whether Horton is generating his own content through his studies, or whether he is under a publisher's gun to squeeze them out? I don't know him or his writing history, so I am just throwing this out.
I think NT Write sounds similar to Horton, and not in any way connected to TGC. NT Write researches and researches his content, it is certainly self-generated and not "borrowed" from the latest trend in Christian Lit. NT Write has the benefit of being a New Testament scholar thoroughly fluent in ancient greek and has been pouring over the Dead Sea Scroll fragments (the stuff that was found with the earliest fragments of our modern Old Testament). He has become somewhat of an expert on Second Temple Judaism, the Jews in the time of Jesus, and relooks at the New Testament in general in light of his research. Although the scrolls were found about 60 years ago, the new discovery is now coming to light and throwing a wrench in many things that were supposed about the Pharisees, Second temple views on law and grace and so on. So, his research has been groundbreaking (and upsets Piper, an added bonus IMO) and not a rehashing of any one else's writing.
Writing about "ordinary" well, I'd read Brother Lawrence before anyone else here, simply because Brother Lawrence took vows and chose to live a life of service, forsaking wealth and position. Brother Lawrence would give a better perspective because his boring work/life was part of doing great things for the people his group ministered to. When we are board with our lives and feeling ordinary, who are we impacting? Perhaps ordinariness is dangerous if it not at least attached to something good. Washing dishes is likely always boring, but washing dishes so they can be reused to feed people who would otherwise starve makes the boring job purposeful and therefore bearable. Anyways, I hope Horton got around to that in his book, if not, I'll stick with Brother Lawrence.
I don’t believe it. I have frittered away my time these last few years, on perfectly ordinary, normal things, and not one, but two other people have written the book I vowed to write. My small group from church read and discussed Radical when it first came out, because one of our members was in a lather to devour and apply the wisdom that she was convinced must surely lie within. As the self appointed cynic of the group–every group has one–I kept asking how the ideas were practical for ordinary people. People like us. People who went to jobs every day and had to save deliberately for small vacations, put aside money for the new roof our ordinary homes would need in a few years, consider how to afford college for our children when the scholarships wouldn’t cover all of it, and plan for a modest retirement in our distant future, a future which was closer than it appeared. We are people who keep an eye on our neighbors, take meals to a family or individual when there’s an illness or other need. We teach Sunday School, work at VBS, and take nursery duty shifts. We help our neighbors when a storm takes out a tree in the yard and a chain saw and extra arms are needed. Our members volunteer–not because we have to, but because we want to–at a soup kitchen, a crisis pregnancy center, an after school program for low income children. Different ones of us have coached community soccer and basketball teams, led a scout troop, organized a Moms in Touch community prayer group, and many other things. One family has been foster parents for a time, which they conceded was a wonderful thing for the children they helped and enriching for them and their children, but time consuming and emotionally draining. And Platt motivated his church to volunteer to foster! Some of us home school our children, others sacrifice to afford Christian school, and others are very involved in their children’s public school. At several points during our discussion sessions, I’d declare that I had heard enough about being”radical for God”! I was going to write a book called “Ordinary” and encourage people like us that what we did on a day to day basis, not because we were guilted into doing it by some book or some pastor or motivational speaker, but because we wanted to live like we do, and we are just as valuable and pleasing and loved by God as anyone, even if no one notices. We make a difference for those we are with.
But there, now! I am spared from taking time out of my ordinary life to write a NYTimes best seller, which would have to painfully climb there the old fashioned way, because it’s done for me! Relief! Writing a book is not an ordinary activity for most of us, so I would have lost my claim to ordinariness by becoming an author!
I may well be wrong and when I was in the corporation I often was told that, but I always found most family run franchises within the industry to be against the Teachings of Jesus. Granted that is a vile filthy sin and I should burn in hell for thinking that thought. My job as a cog in the Evangelical Machine is to Pray well not really important outside of public sight, obey which was cardinal, and the most important was pay, always and twice on Sunday.
I was thinking about the Smith family lawsuit. Now my earthly family being the utter vile heathens we all are would never sue each other, of course we did not have much money, which was another family sin. This entire product driven gospel makes me sick and I cant imagine why these people involved in it can look in the mirror. Maybe they can write a book denouncing it.
Love your comment! What you have expressed likely describes many of us here at TWW.
I'm looking forward to following Platt's career and seeing whether he walks the walk or just talks the talk.
As a resident of the same city where Platt was a Pastor, I heard stories of people who were guilted into mission trips only sit around with nothing to do. Other families sold their homes in well-to-do neighborhoods so they could move to the areas of town where gunshot was heard at night, then decided it wasn’t worth it and quietly moved to other less crime-prone areas or out of town all together. And the adoptions? My husband and I called them “competitive adoptions” because it seemed as if the church staff were each trying to adopt more than anyone else on the staff.
We visited The Church at Brookhills (Platt’s church) for a few months and decided we needed something a little more low key or maybe a LOT more low key! In fact, it was one of the last churches we attended before we became one of the “nones”.
One Sunday morning, Platt called all the people who were going on a mission trip to come to the front so he could pray for them. Instead of remaining on the platform, he went into the audience and had the “missionaries” stand facing the audience and him. He talked about what a sacrifice they are making, they are doing something extra ordinary and radical…blah, blah, blah. Platt was standing in the aisle next to my husband who was sitting on the end of the row. Hubby said it took great restraint to not stand up and tell him the truly extra ordinary and radical people are still sitting in the pews. They are living everyday, ordinary lives and that in itself takes great faith. We probably would have been escorted from the building but come to think of it, it was one of the last times we were there anyway.
By way of a disclaimer, mission trips and adoptions are wonderful, when they are your own idea. To be guilted into them is an entirely different matter. I think I’m preaching to the choir on that one, but just wanted to make sure!
Yep. Amen to that. And I speak as one who spent a significant amount of time on a “mission trip” / period of discernment and value it highly–for me. And I speak of one with two adopted grandkids living with me (and their mom) and into whom I have poured lots of time, money and TLC. I think adoption is right at the top of my list of good things–for our family. But both of these are very personal and no way are for everybody. Yes, missions is everybody’s business, but mission trips are not remotely some requirement for anybody. And yes, care of the proverbial widows and orphans is everybody’s business, but adoption is no way everybody’s cup of tea. A lot of damage can be done when people are “guilted” into something which is not right for them. There is always write a check to the mission board, bring food for the collection center, encourage those who do thus and such, all well and good. But hands on can be so wrong for those who are not suited for it as well as for the children who have to live life then as somebody’s mission project instead of somebody’s dearly loved child. We have a textbook local case of this that we know and it is both pathetic and shameful.
And getting distracted and tied down with mission trips (which are expensive) and adoptions can leave no time or resources for other things which might be far more appropriate for somebody’s abilities and opportunities. Platt can just get over himself, in my thinking.
Thanks for sharing your experience at David Platt's church. Do you know if there were other members who felt the same as you with regarding to a feeling of being guilted into missions or adoptions?
It will be interesting to see whether the focus at the Church at Brook Hills will change after Platt moves to Nashville to head the IMB.
N.T. Wright, like Horton, is certainly a respected scholar, but I think it is misleading to say that his content is “self-generated and not ‘borrowed’ from the latest trend in Christian Lit.” The New Perspective On Paul, to which you allude, pretty much began with a book by E.P. Sanders in 1977, and continued with J.D.G. Dunn, who named the “perspective” in 1982. Wright has made original contributions to it, but he stands on the work of those who preceded him, as do practically all scholars to one degree or another.
We did not get so involved as to know what people were “really” thinking. However, I remember the look on the people’s faces as they looked out over the audience; some expressions were proud, but many looked sheepish and embarrassed.
I agree, it will be interesting to watch the focus of Brook Hills. A congregation can get burned out with such great emphasis on emotion, whether it be positive or negative. Maybe that’s one reason Platt is leaving, but that’s just conjecture on my part. Like many churches, the people who buy into the “radical” mindset have many different motives; some truly want to please God, others are looking for an emotional high and some do it to be seen of men.
There would be some Sundays when Platt was preaching for a long time and people would begin to stir as if it was time to wrap up the service. Platt would admonish the congregation for not staying attentive until the end of the sermon. The people who sat around us didn’t seem to listen to what he said. They still got ready to go.
Another thing I remember about Brook Hills, once the service was over, there was a mad rush to the parking lot. No one stayed around to visit and get to know each other. People sure were in a hurry to get out of there.
…the truly extra ordinary and radical people sit in the pews. Amen! They are the ones living everyday, ordinary lives and that in itself surely takes great faith!
They pay for da pastor’s house, and his closet full of shoes.
…but come to think of it, now they are da NONES.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen?
Da pastor will wear out his trendy shoes,
But I have prayed for da NONES, that their faith in Jesus would continue,
N’ 4 da ones who continue to attend Christian church services, dat the 501(c)3 proverbial pernicious pastoral wolves would not ‘eat’ them.
hum, hum, hum…thy loving kindness is better den da pastoral staff…
Comic relief: “No Tribble at all?”
Bonus: notez- “Making An Informed Choice?” : 🙂
For/Against Calvinism – Michael Horton & Roger Olson
An important question to ask about “mission trips” (or whatever they are called in one’s particular neck of the Christian woods) is: at whose behest are the putative missionaries making the trip? Put another way: for whom, in practice, will they be working once there?
The principle I’m alluding to here was stated by Jesus himself: the worker is worthy of his wages. If I’m truly working for God – and I am quite satisfied that this is quite possible – then not only can I trust God to provide all my needs, but I can also look to God for all the major strategic direction and instruction I need. This will be because it was actually God himself who sent me in the first place.
By contrast, I’ve known of church movements that make a certain amount of effort to recruit “missionaries” who are, to all intents and purposes, simply free labour – unpaid staff resourcing the personal vision of the church CEO or, perhaps, of a small elite church leadership. The missionary must “submit to leadership” for direction – but he must “believe God” for his daily bread. So what happens when I say to them, Sorry, I understand you want me working on x, but the God who is providing my needs is clearly telling me to work on y today ?
To my mind, leaders who believe God has delegated material authority to them over other believers, without any corresponding material responsibility, should not be recruiting missionaries.
I’d be tempted to read Horton’s book. Matt Redmond just doesn’t resonate for me. Horton’s book “Christless Christianity” was a literal life changer for me.
I’d say, write on, folks, write on. Up to the reader to discipline themselves as to how much, when, who etc they read.
Thank you for sharing some of your first hand observations. During the time my group read Radical, I looked for any information I could find of congregants sharing their own experiences in their own words. All I found at the time was one comment on a site by someone who said she was the person in Platt’s book who had felt motivated to scour their house for clothing, electronics, video game system, drive down to the “housing projects” and give away their stuff to the needy. She indicated that it was exhausting, trying to keep up with what radical act they should engage in next week.
It was interesting that she said it was a “keeping up with” kind of thing and that her scenario was one we had really thought about. Mr. Tree and I had especially been amused at Platt’s praise of the couple who gave stuff they didn’t really need to a family they apparently just drove up to. We mentioned that “needy” is a relative concept. We lack for nothing, but we would appear “needy” compared to the affluence that the majority of the Platt congregants were pictured (in his book) as enjoying. If strangers just came to our house and started giving us their stuff that they didn’t need because The Lord (or The Pastor) had told them we needed it and they had to do it to prove their radical obedience, we might feel a skosh offended that we were a “project” that they could go back and report. And we would probably donate their stuff to Goodwill or a clothing closet, where people who had specific needs could come look for what they actually needed instead of stuff they were “blessed with” and couldn’t use. Whoops! My cynicism is showing again! Dear me. I’ll never be a motivational author at this rate.
Becoming a Radical Christian becomes a competition and exhibition just like every other legalistic system, complete with loopholes. The loopholes or dispensations in any of these systems are necessary because the systems are exhausting, as noted above, and impossible to sustain.
Platt provides a romantic and epic version of Christianity which provides an escape from the dailiness of the Christian walk. He sweeps people off their feet and into an unthinking emotional high which makes them feel significant by showing how insignificant and unworthy they are. Prosperous suburbanites are relieved of their prosperity guilt. It is also incredibly man-centered in that we are called to do something great *for* God. As if.
I don’t think it is coincidental that Platt’s speaking style and distinctive cadence is the same as Mahaney’s, since his pitch is basically a variation on the theme of a theology rooted in shame rather than in God’s grace and our response of loving gratitude.
“Puffed Up or Built Up, Your Move? ”
Now concerning food offered to brainy brains: we know that all of us possess some knowledge. Yet, this knowledge tends to be puff-pastry, but love builds up.
If anyone ‘imagines’ that they know something, do they really, really know what they aught?
Better to ‘know’ Jesus and live!
“I need to pursue love (God) rather than simply accumulating knowledge. I need to seek to be ‘built up’ rather than ‘puffed up’, to find true substance in my life; to know God and be known by him.”
“Jesus I want know you more. I want to know your love and mercy and grace. I want to be known by you. I want to be built up by that love and not puffed up by mere knowledge. I want a life-changing relationship you Jesus.”
Snobbishly left behind, perhaps?
…did someone say: “Old Books”?
Todd, you might consider catching up. Forget da Puritan Hardrive, some of us already have several thousand ‘old’ theology books on out iPads alone…
Connaissance gonfle, cependant, l’amour édifie, hein ?
…whistle while ya worship Jesus?
hum, hum, hum…toot!
da Lord’s ‘plowboy’,
‘Dr.’ Le Sopy 🙂
Inspirational relief: “R U Stepp’in Out In Faith?”
iBonus: Luca Sestak – “Slow Blues ”
R U Making an ‘informed’ choice? :
Puritan Hard Drive
Hamlet has been dissected and re-dissected more times than a Middle School frog in formaldehyde. No disrespect to the Bard, but the pantheon of English Literature has many other volumes worthy of discussion written long after him.
There is quite a bit of hypocrisy in Platt taking the International Mission Board job. His church was not involved in the cooperative program. Yet his position is dependent on churches that do give to the cooperative program. In other words he was not a leader in that endeavor before he got this high paying job. This leads me to believe he got this job because of his star (ed.) attraction.
Oops…..his star attraction.
The difference could be that NT Wright references the other scholars quite a bit and their differeneces.
Thanks for bringing this up. For our readers not familiar with the track record of David Platt’s church regarding its CP contributions, here is a post the shares the details, along with some other troubling factors.
I listened to a few clips of Platt, and I have to say that his voice inflections are Mahaney-esque.
I heard a really thought-provoking talk loosely on the topic of “radical” vs “ordinary” a few years ago. The speaker described various kinds of “encounters with God”, as we might call them, in terms of where they sit on different types of spectrum:
UNMEDIATED…………………………….prayed for by others
FROM PAIN……………………………….from relative comfort
There are probably many others you could think of, but you get the idea. The speaker’s point was this: consider someone living a chaotic and tormented life who suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, hears a dramatic call from God right out of the blue. Their story is likely to attract attention and sell books. Whereas the far more common experience, of a person steadily discovering their talents and putting them to God’s service by benefiting others, attracts less attention and sells fewer books.
I beg to assert that Should Christian lives be ordinary or extraordinary? is yet another of those either/or questions to which the answer is Yes. If all that c**p about Jesus rising from the dead and sending his Spirit to live within us is true, it must make some kind of difference to something somehow. It must, in other words, be possible to be a nurse, a teacher, a bus-driver or anything else under the sun, and when encountering the daily stresses of life in those roles, draw on God’s strength in a way that those around you cannot. To succeed in doing that would be extraordinary.
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
I really really really needed to hear that today. I feel both ordinary and odd at the same time. I have been pretty eccentric with my abilities, talents, and interests, but I don’t have the extreme success of those “sudden” people with their splashy stories.
You have helped me to see the double whammy that I have experienced in church. I am not ordinary enough to be trusted to do something somewhere, and yet I have not reached the peak of my spiritual journey yet, to be a featured speaker somewhere.
Funny how that works in Mainstream Christianity, no? I don’t “play the game” well and suck up to people, but I am still not the flashy successful person that folks seem to crave reading about.
This just cracked me up. Thank you so much.
Brook Hills did/does a lot of independent missions work. IOW what happens depends on what Brook Hills wants and not what theoretically the SBC as a whole wants. Making him head of IMB, in spite of Brook Hills’ non-cooperation, looks a lot like some other phenomena discussed here. Acts29 taking over churches, 9Marks/Founders taking over churches, for example.
A small but determined group is intent on seizing the resources of the much larger group, and they are patient when necessary. That is my hypothesis for why a man who has demonstrated he is not interested in the Cooperative Program suddenly is appointed head of one of the largest, if not the largest, Cooperative Program’s agencies. Cooperative giving and submission is for the little people.
Did you ever read John Frames’s review of Horton’s Christless Christianity? Amazing. It opened my eyes as to how Horton operates. Search for Frame-Poythress and then Frame’s reviews.
The same thing was said about the Communists during the Cold War, citing the First Russian Revolution and post-WW2 seizure of Eastern Europe as type examples.
And I’ve personally seen a sociopath set up his plan piece by piece, chess move by chess move, third-party grooming by third-party grooming, for literally years before finally springing it on his target.
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
Well put Nick. And it’s a good illustration of why Redmond’s book stands in stark contrast to the escapist fare offered by Christendom’s snake oil salesmen.
I don’t know how I could’ve forgotten to mention this before, but, speaking of trends in Christian books and copy-catting…
Bible prophecy, and related topics, is a popular one. These subjects get run into the ground.
Once one author publishes a new way of looking at end of the world stuff, or supposed impending judgment on America, the rest of the preachers start churning out books and sermons copying it.
About a year or two ago, John Hagee (preacher of a mega church in San Antonio who has a daily TV show) wrote a book about Four Blood Moons.
Around that same time, an older guy with a beard and glasses (I forget his name, maybe it’s Mark Biltz?) wrote a book about Four Blood Moons, and, over a year or so, he was a recurring guest on the Christian Jim Bakker show to promote his blood moon book.
Around that time, Rabbi Cahn wrote a book called the The Harbinger. (He may have also discussed or written about Four Blood Moons, I don’t remember.)
Today while channel surfing, I saw K. Copeland ministries on TV, the lady host said they are selling a packet containing stuff about Four Blood Moons.
The latest thing, as of a few months ago, is the topic of the Shemitah. Cahn wrote a new book about the Shemitah that was released a few months ago.
Around the same time as Cahn was promoting the Shemitah book on Christian TV shows, Mr. Beard And Glasses (mentioned above) also wrote a book about the Shemitah, and he’s been on the Christian TV show rounds discussing his book.
Yes, that was “Risk is Right”. They took a chapter out of Don’t Waste Your Life and published as a stand alone book, with forward by none other than David Platt.
I can just hear the discussion around the table at Crossway publishing and Desiring God Ministries: “Hey – this Platt guy made a mint on Radical. How can we cash in on this momentum? I know, we can reprint something of Piper’s and tie it to Platt. We’ll get Platt to write the forward. And the best part is, nobody has to do any extra work! Heh, heh, there’s good money in fleecing the flock.”
As much as I hate to dump on Shane Claiborne and his tribe, there’s a similar dynamic (devaluing the ordinary) going on with the various “radical” Christianity movements.
I’m currently writing up award citations for various honorees at the college where I work. What I’m struck by is how extraordinary the “ordinary” contributions of some of these people are–accomplishments in the “faithful presence” category. Eternity will reveal these people to be far more influential than now appears.
Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf a Moravian reformer in the 1700’s. Two of my favorite quotes of his are:
“Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten. ”
“We will work simply and quietly. Even if we never see wonders with our own eyes or hear them with our ears, we are planting the kingdom of heaven into the nations and will look for the fruit which grows from it.”
Not exactly the same “be radical” message we get from Christian celebs. Perhaps they should read some of Zinzendorf’s sermons.
@ M. Joy:
Love this! Had never heard of Zinzendorf. Thanks for sharing.
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
And a computer geek?
And an unemployed son of a steelworker?
And a gamer?
And a brony?
Holiness in everyday routine —
The “Little Way” of St Therese of Lisieux.
@ Muff Potter:
Maugham’s Of Human Bondage comes to mind. In the distant past I had an English Prof. who assigned works for explication in term paper form. She had slips of paper in a large Majolica vase from which you drew. I got Maugham.
@ M. Joy:
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
Chapter 4 of “Quiet Revolution” by Ernest Reisinger had a similar strategy for the SBC.
There is a city hereabouts called “Winston-Salem.” Salem was originally a Moravian settlement. There are still right many Moviarians around and their denomination is holding its own. John Wesley ran into the Moravians at one time. Anyhow there is Salem Academy and Salem College, both previously all female schools. The Moravians had pioneered not only pedagogical techniques but also education for females. Anyhow, the story goes that pioneer families heading west at one time would leave their daughters at the Moravian boarding school until they could establish themselves on the frontier and then return and get the daughter(s). Sarah Polk was educated at Salem Academy I believe. Anyhow there is a restoration called “Old Salem” which is interesting. (My daughter got her masters in teaching at Salem College.) Good school and good people, IMO. I have been to their worship services from time to time. Any old school baptist or methodist would be comfortable among them. They also retain the old country emphasis on the brass band, and the Moravian easter sunrise service at the cemetery is awesome (and crowded).
My husband and I bought annual passes to Old Salem this year. We’ve been there twice so far. Love Winkler’s Bakery!
In a strange way, I have quite an affinity for the clinically insane. In their own little world, it all makes sense.
Seneca “j” Griggs. wrote:
Wow Nancy. I had no idea that peoples from Central Europe (in enough numbers to impact the culture over time) settled below the Mason-Dixon line. I had always assumed that it was almost exclusively Scots, Irish, and English (both yeomen and aristocrat) who did so.
Muff Potter wrote:
Well, my French ancestors in Louisville settled on the French side of the creek across from the Germans in what is now Germantown (just a neighborhood in the city now.) The only church (catholic) was on the German side I think and the French settlers had to cross the creek to get to church. Of course there were the French in LA and the Spanish in Florida and Germans scattered about including in the Appalachian Mtns. My other ancestors were Irish, German and English–all in the same area in KY. Where I am now a prominent segment of the population is Greek, as I have talked about before.
I think the ideas that people have of the history and culture of the South has been influenced by Hollywood, and let’s face it some cultures are more colorful than others. Not better or worse, but easier to write a novel about or make a movie about.
Story goes like this. When they got to the mountains the first thing the English did was build a house. The first thing the Germans did was build a barn. The first things the Scots-Irish did was build a still. So if you were writing a novel, how exciting is it to build a barn compared to running illegal whiskey?
Seneca “j” Griggs. wrote:
Just wondering how this particular insight came to you.
@ Muff Potter:
In my lines, there are German Lutherans and Swiss Anabaptists who settled in North Carolina in the 18th century. In one case, a Lutheran ancestor built a church that was shared by other denominations. I believe this was in the greater Charlotte area.
@ Muff Potter:
You would be surprised how many French Huguenots emigrated to the South. That is my maternal grandmothers ancestry. The geneology was very interesting concerning their emigration patterns.
…and were slaughtered by the Spanish Catholics in NE Florida. Very sad.
@ Nancy, Gram3, & Lydia
Thanks to you all. And as Nancy has pointed out, it’s sometimes a bit too easy for Northerners to put a little too much stock into popular folklore about the South.
Godith–Yes, I’m familiar with Horton’s critics. It doesn’t change the fact that I resonate with his book. Endless do more try harder sheep beating really does harm. Only realizing what Christ has already done, finished, for us can free us from the treadmill.
I disagree with the critique of “how he operates.” While I am closer to Anabaptist in theology, I agree with him that “how they operate” in the Lordship Salvation movement is nothing short of abusive.
We do not all have to see things the same way.
Let all write as they wish, and try for publication. Let us all read what we wish, or not read certain authors, as we wish.
Last thing we need is some sort of discernment group telling us who we can read and who needs to stop writing.
Seems rather strange for authors (.even of blogs) to call for authors not to write.
You haven’t asked how it came to me.
sulk sulk sulk
@ Nick Bulbeck:
Why don’t you write a book about it? …
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
That was precisely the person that I was thinking of when I read that blurb about Horton’s new book.
M. Joy wrote:
While I may disagree with Zinzendorf on theology/dogma, the quotes of his that you posted here are spot on. Absolutely crackingly good! 🙂
NOJOY™ : “Steel Trap Christianity, Perhaps?”
There is nothing wrong with your television set…
Michael Horton apparently wishes to provides “a guide” to a ‘sustainable christian discipleship’ that happens over da long haul…
Judging by past experience, His answer is ultimately, “rote”;
[As In ] the ‘disciple’ is [catechized] in the ways of ‘his brainless form’ of sixteenth century Calvinism.
Static, arrested growth, marching to the expeditious beat of a sterile systemized [religion] that condones spiritual abuse, possibly pedophilia as well, sometimes stalking its members to other churches?
Seeing is believing?
In many Christian churches today, successive waves of neo-Calvinism have whipped kind folk up into a frenzy, only to leave them extremely exhausted, sadly disillusioned, and certainly suffering from a judicious loss of joy.
“I came that they might have life, and that life more abundantly…” ~ Jesus
Da kingdom of God is righteousness, peace,and Joy, in the Holy Ghost?
March, March, March, March…
(Could have fool’d me)
Time ta change da frik’in channel?
“Come unto me all you kind folk who are heavy laden, and I shall give you rest! ” ~ Jesus
hum, hum, hum…all right now, baby its all right now,
all right now,
baby its all right now,
all right now,
baby its all right now…
Intermission: Rachel Flowers – “Pictures at an Exhibition Pt. 1 ”
Bonus: Rachel Flowers – “Hearing Is Believing”
Rachel Flowers on the Modular Moog – intro by Keith Emerson
I’ve read neither Matt Redmond’s nor Michael Horton’s book; they may both be excellent as far as I know. but the sentence above from (presumably) the back cover of Horton’s is a very important one, and on both sides of the semicolon.
The elusive joy of the ordinary Christian life is (if you’ll forgive me releasing a rehashed edition of an earlier comment 😉 ) one of the most extraordinary things on earth. But the other point – that it’s not a call to do less – resonates just as much with me. A lot of what I’ve read, or heard discussed, about the notion of “God in the ordinary” doesn’t elevate the ordinary, it just reduces God. To the effect that the Christian praying isn’t really doing anything the hippy meditating isn’t doing. (That being the case, who needs Jesus?)
For myself, the collision of “ordinary” and “extraordinary” is no mere theological quibble. I’m an unemployed 46-year-old, and it is rapidly becoming harder and harder in the UK for those who fall off the labour market “bus” to get back into it (especially past the age of 24). For me to be in reliable and adequately-paid full time employment at 50 would take almost as extraordinary a miracle as for me no longer to be diabetic at 50. And as there is a growing population of work-excluded people, I can’t just do it for myself – that would be like escaping the Titanic on my private lifeboat and leaving everyone else to drown. So the mission (whether I choose to accept it or not) is to discover God in the ordinary, and thereby do something extraordinary.
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
This is for me: “Discover God in the ordinary, and thereby do something extraordinary.”
It’s also what I have tried to convey to my friends who are guilt riddled that they aren’t doing anything “radical”. I listened to one of those friends just tonight as she tried to sift through how to encourage someone else, and in so doing, also encouraged me and another friend. “Radical” ministry happens in ordinary life and we don’t even realize it because it was unplanned on our part. Now that’s extraordinary.
Note that my type examples are one of the bloodiest-handed dictatorships of the 20th Century (outdoing ol’ Adolf two/three-to-one on body count) and a RL sociopath plotting and conniving to lay a trap for his victim.
I am a Puritan…I do not live a joy-less life…I only read old (meaning more than 50 years old) and when it comes to “theology” I spend the money and buy really really old books.
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
It turns out they’ve worked out a way of producing beta cells (Giant Leap to type 1 diabetes cure). If they can work out a way of mass-producing human beta cells and protecting them from the diabetic immune response in the next 3 and a bit years, then you never know!