After blogging yesterday on the differences between the “over here” and the “over there,” I read the first chapter in the newest and the last (sadly) book from John Stott, a theologian from “over there” who’s got a lot to say to those of us living “over here.” The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling, is Stott’s farewell address to the church that he has loved and served for his entire life.
Stott states his purpose as this: “to consider eight characteristics of Christian discipleship that are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously.” For those who know and understand the challenges of living in today’s youth culture, his message is one our kids desperately need to hear and apply. But it’s not just the kids.
The first of Stott’s eight characteristics is listed simply and bluntly as “nonconformity.” This is the “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 escaping from the world nor to sacrifice our holiness by conforming to the world.” Those who have read Stott before know that this is an idea he’s been hammering home for years.
But what are the unique aspects and challenges associated with living a life of nonconformity in today’s world. Stott challenges readers to consider four contemporary trends (isms) that threaten to swallow us and our kids up if we aren’t consciously aware and resistant. Here they are. . .
The Challenge of Pluralism – “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 to what it sees as merely our opinions.”
The Challenge of Materialism – Hmmmm. We don’t have a leg to stand on if we want to argue that we aren’t obsessed and preoccupied with material things. Many of us want to have this disease. Just this last weekend I saw an 11-year-old wearing a shirt emblazoned with the credo, “Shopping Rules.” Stott warns that materialism can smother our spiritual lives. I like this too: “Life on earth is a brief pilgrimage between two moments of nakedness. So we would be wise to travel light. We shall take nothing with us.”
The Challenge of Ethical Relativism – With moral standards slipping, we wonder if there are any moral absolutes left. Stott says that relativism has not only permeated the culture, but it is seeping into the church. If Jesus Christ is truly Lord, why then do we not obey and conform to His standards?
The Challenge of Narcissism – Do we serve the one true God, or do we serve and love ourselves as the one true god? The evidence of Narcissism’s hold on our culture lives in our kids and in our mirrors.
If this is truly the way things are, what are we doing to understand these isms, evaluate how they’ve taken root in our lives, and chase them away as we embrace the life of the radical disciple?