Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Thoughts About the "New Legalism"

A few days ago an article appeared on World Magazine entitled “The New Legalism”. This article, by Anthony Bradley, addresses his concern with the idea of being “missional”, or “radical”, as David Platt, pastor and author of Radical, suggests.

I’m not opposed to questioning or thinking through ideas, theology, or philosophies that Christians are promoting. It can be very beneficial and edifying. However, I believe some of the arguments Anthony Bradley brings up are simply misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the teaching of David Platt. For the purpose of this post, I will not attempt to address the other people Anthony Bradley may have mentioned or be referring to, but will specifically compare some things in regards to David Platt and Anthony Bradley.

Ordinary Lives

“For too many millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about.” 
Anthony Bradley

This may be a concern for people, but it is not due to the teaching coming from David Platt. I’d highly encourage you to listen and read more of David Platt to gain a fuller understanding of his heart and teaching. There is nothing wrong with working a 9-5 job in America, but we need to take risks. (1 Cor. 9:15-17) If God has placed you here, how does He want to use you to talk to others about Him, to point people to Christ, and to weave the gospel into conversations without fear? How can you take risks by giving sacrificially? Radical giving and living can take place wherever you are.This is what David Platt means when he speaks of living "radical".

David Platt frequently speaks of laying a “blank check” before God, completely surrendering all our desires and dreams to do whatever God would require us to do. For some, that could be sharing the gospel with a hardened neighbor or co-worker. For others, it may mean living on lower income to give more to the church and missions. For another, it may mean going overseas. Is it wrong to wrestle over those things? We need more people that are serious about the spread of the gospel and who don’t want to live life for themselves.

Living in Love

Mr. Bradley comments that teaching like David Platt’s is: “a well-intentioned attempt to address lukewarm Christians in the suburbs, but because it is primarily reactionary and does not provide a positive construction for the good life from God’s perspective, it misses “radical” ideas in Jesus’ own teachings like “love.”

Again, Mr. Bradley questions, “Why is Christ’s command to love God and neighbor not enough for these leaders?” Sharing the gospel with others is part of our command to love. It is more than living as a nice, moral person in your neighborhood. The gospel requires words. And because it requires words, it necessitates risk on some level. We must take risks to share the gospel! (Acts 4:18-20) If we truly love God and others, we will desire to share the gospel with the lost. (Acts 20:24) The problem is that many professing Christians don’t share the gospel. So are they showing the fruit of love? David Platt teaches that “saved people this side of heaven owe the gospel to lost people this side of hell.” That is love.

Spurred by the glory of God

Every time I've listened to David Platt, I've always been turned worship the great God that I serve. So often, David Platt will paint beautiful pictures of God and who He is and then exhort you to obey and work hard and take risks. When David Platt speaks of being radical, he’s not talking about doing crazy things for the sake of doing them, or so we can boast about what we’re doing. That’s selfish ambition. Instead, it's the idea that we need to intentionally give up things for the sake of the gospel: our comfort, our time, our resources, or whatever else God leads us to do. (John 12:25)

“The price is certainly high for people who don’t know Christ and who live in a world where Christians shrink back from self-denying faith and settle into self-indulging faith. While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the Gospel remain in the dark.” Radical, David Platt

Simple Lives of Virtue

“What if youth and young adults were simply encouraged live in pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, education, wonder, beauty, glory, creativity, and worship in a world marred by sin…” Anthony Bradley

Virtue and character are good, and God commends godly behavior (1 Tim. 6:11, Micah 6:8), but it is never apart from a relationship with Him (Isaiah 58:2-5, John 15:5). We can have a country of nice, moral people who are still headed to hell (Isaiah 29:13). Mr. Bradley appears to promote moralism and good living, but leaves out the important message of the gospel. There is a deep need for our Christianity to be more risk-taking in how we speak of God, our relationship with Him, and how we share the gospel. We only have one life to live, do we want to be the ones that reach the throne of God simply saying, “I enjoyed my life on earth, I loved people and lived a good life and tried to do what’s right”? Don’t we want to be like Paul, who saw everything as loss compared to Christ (Phil. 3:8), who was content with nothing (Phil. 4:11), and who saw the difficulties and hardships as ways to advance the gospel (Phil. 1:12)? Shouldn’t we be eager to see how we can bring God the most glory and how we can point the most people to Him?

Can we truly be changed by Christ and not have a desire to see the gospel spread? Can we really be so callous and hard-hearted that we think that by living virtuous lives people are going to see the difference and just be saved? Do we think that God will do the work so that we can enjoy our lives now? God has called us to something greater than happy lives here-and-now.


Mr. Bradley accuses David Platt of legalism, but his alternative seems to suggest we live “quiet lives” without an emphasis on the gospel. Giving your life for the sake of the spread of the gospel and for the glory of God is not legalism. (1 Peter 2:9)

My question is: how is Mr. Bradley encouraging the spread of the gospel through his article? In the end, he accuses someone of promoting legalism who is encouraging people to give their lives for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel to all peoples. I hope and pray that more people from my generation would be willing to take risks like that, because Christ is worthy!


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