As already discussed, Matthew Lee Anderson’s recent Christianity Today cover story on “radical Christianity” has been making waves. This week at The High Calling, Marcus Goodyear offers a healthy critique of one of Anderson’s key subjects, David Platt, aligning quite closely with Anderson’s analysis about the ultimate challenges such movements face when it comes to long-term cultural cultivation.
Focusing on Platt’s latest book, Follow Me, Goodyear notes that, despite Platt’s admirable efforts to get Christians “off their seats,” he often “emphasizes the great commission so much, it overshadows all other teachings of the Bible.”
Pointing to John Stott’s book, Christian Mission in the Modern World, Goodyear argues that we mustn’t neglect the rest:
[Platt’s] kind of thinking can lead us to forget that God is “the Creator who in the beginning gave man a ‘cultural mandate’ to subdue and rule the earth, who has instituted governing authorities as his ‘ministers’ to order society and maintain justice.”
According to Stott, Christians must take the original cultural mandate in Genesis as seriously as the great commission. Our approach to missions must view social justice and vocational good as more than a means to evangelism. We are called to share our faith. There is no question about that. But we are also called to more than words. We are called to work in the world today just as we were before the Fall.
Indeed, there is an unfortunate tendency in evangelicalism to prioritize short-term evangelism over long-term cultural engagement, whether in business, the arts, or even the family. Yet in addition to the negative impacts such an approach is bound to have on both our cultural impact and our evangelism, it all begins with a fundamental distortion of how we view our daily work in and of itself.
As Goodyear argues, Platt’s approach to the great commission “does not seem to allow for the intrinsic value of work”:
God placed Adam in the garden in order to work and steward it. When the job was too difficult, God created Eve to help. From the beginning of God’s story, work is more than a means to evangelism. The first thing we see God do is to create and work. The first commandment we hear God give is for us to create and work. In this way, work is intrinsic to God’s nature, and it is intrinsic to ours.
Work is not merely a means to evangelism. If we elevate evangelism above work, we recreate the sacred secular divide. Some Christian activities become a higher calling than others. Apart from a healthy view of work and the cultural mandate, the great commission becomes a message we deliver. We elevate the message of the gospel above and beyond the actions of the gospel…
…If we recognize God in our words but not in our work, we are only seeing part of God’s nature. If we evangelize others without a sense of the intrinsic value of work, we may be sharing an incomplete gospel.
Read the entire review here.
For more on restoring a proper view of Christian cultural engagement, see Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art.
For more on restoring a proper view of work and meaning, see Work: The Meaning of Your Life.