The Radical Disciple – the last book of John Stott

Britain’s got talent! I am amazed by the complex diversity of british intelectual heritage. In matter of faith, we have  extraordinary opposites: Chesterton and C. S. Lewis on one side, B. Shaw and B. Russell on the other side. I saw this paradox  when I spent two months in London (2008). In the heart of London, at one minute from bussy, secular and commercial Oxford Street, I enjoyed every sunday at All Souls Church, Lagham Place, an extraordinary spiritual oasis. The former leader/pastor of this church was John R. W. Stott, one of my favorites Christian author.

I read on Danut Manastireanu’s blog about John Stott’s latest book. The Radical Disciple seems to be a farewell book. And it is also a challenging book.

My concern in this book is that we who claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus will provoke him to say again: “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and do not what I say?” (Luke 6:46). For genuine discipleship is wholehearted discipleship, and this is where my next word come in.

(…) There are different levels of commitment in the Christian community. Jesus himself illustrated this in what happened to the seeds describes in the parable of the sower. The difference between the seeds lay in the kind of soil which received them. Of the seed sown on rocky soil Jesus said, “It had no root”.

Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective: choosing those areas in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. But because Jesus is Lord, we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority. (…)

So my purpose in this book is to consider eight characteristics of Christian discipleship that are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously.  (John Stott, The Radical Disciple. Some Neglected Aspects, InterVarsity Press, 2010, p. 13, 15-16)

This eight characteristics are:

  1. Nonconformity
  2. Christlikeness
  3. Maturity
  4. Creation Care
  5. Simplicity
  6. Balance
  7. Dependence
  8. Death

I read the first chapter. The first characteristic for a radical discipleship is nonconformity.

The church has a double responsibility in relation to the world around us. On the one hand we are to live, serve and witness in the world. On the other hand we are to avoid becoming contaminated by the world. So we are neither to seek to preserve our holiness by configuring to the world (John Stott, The Radical Disciple. Some Neglected Aspects, InterVarsity Press, 2010, p. 17)

Both escapism and conformism are forbidden to the believer. According to Lev. 11:45, 18:3-4, Ezekiel 11:12, Matthew 6:8, Romans 12:2, we are called to engage with our culture and its contemporary trends without compromise. Stott identifies four areas in which we need to refuse to conform: pluralism, ethical relativism, materialism, and narcissism.

We must learn to be like Christ, to grow not without depth, as we can see in a lot of modern churches, but in maturity (Col. 1:28-29). We must realize that we are the earth stewards, avoiding the two extremes: of deification of nature and exploitation of nature. We must be “dressed” in simplicity and have balance in our secular and devotional aspects of our life. Learning from Christ’s life, we must understand the dependence on others (God and neigbors) and  the paradox of Christianity that death is the road to life.

I found the last words of this book as a plea from a honest and remarkable servant of God:

We cannot conclude better that to hear and heed the words of Jesus in the upper room: ”You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). Basic to all discipleship is our resolve not only to address Jesus with polite titles but to follow his teaching and obey his commands (John Stott, The Radical Disciple. Some Neglected Aspects, InterVarsity Press, 2010, p.  134-135)

In simple, deep and warm words, this book is a good opportunity for a renewal of our devotion to Jesus Christ. Beside to “uncle John”, I hope that radical discipleship will be fully embraced by the next generation.

6 thoughts on “The Radical Disciple – the last book of John Stott

  1. sam

    I conformed and read, carefully in the beginning, your presentation. Saddly the song I was listening to while reading let my mind escape on the green pastures of careless thinking.
    Result: I couldn’t resist not to see in the pluralism, ethical relativism, materialism and narcissism the good side.

    Don’t know much abou’ geography though 🙂

    1. A synthesis could lead to misrepresentation. Look at this quote:

      Pluralism affirms that every “ism” has its own independent validity and an equal right to our respect. It therefore rejects Christian claims to finality and uniqueness, and condemns as sheer arrogance the attempt to convert anybody (let alone everybody) to what it sees as merely our opinions.
      How should we respond to the spirit of pluralism? With great humility, I hope, and with no hint of personal superiority. But we must continue to affirm the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. For he is unique in his incarnation (the one and only God-man), unique in his atonement (only he has died for the sins of the world), and unique in his resurrection (only he has conquered death) (John Stott, The Radical Disciple. Some Neglected Aspects, InterVarsity Press, 2010, p. 19-20)

  2. sam

    Very clearly and precisely put. I should expect it from an apologet-philosopher.

    I find the short definition of the pluralism a little forced to make it look worse than it actually is. I would rather not define it at all, as by giving it a “face” it would upset its other billion sides. I see pluralism as the result of an honest expression of what it actually exist out there, an expression of humble recognition of our incapacity of putting things, ideas, convictions together into one large all-encompassing vision, be it religious or whatever form it could take.

    At limit, accepting the value of pluralism is a strong proof of humility: that of seing ourselves as we are, different and incapable to be one, so the Spirit can find the way to our hearts and not only to our minds.

    As for the relation between hardcore apologetics and so-called religious liberalism I see that by giving to “Mens sana” too much space we can lose the “corpore sana” on the way

  3. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian

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