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A friend of mine asked me to comment on this video that she posted to Facebook. Watch the video first. My comments are below.
(After several attempts to get the video from You Tube to post, I have finally given up. After Google gobbled up You Tube, my experience with it has been sub par. But that is the experience I have come to expect from all things Google. Click here to watch the video.)
Let me start by saying that I have heard of David Platt. I know that he is an author and a pastor. And that is all I know about him. Given that, I am going to limit my comments to the content of the video, which is designed to get people to buy the book he is selling.
My first impression is that whoever produced the video has studied Rob Bell’s Nooma videos. It’s well produced, the music sets the tone well, the camera panning is good, the graphics are compelling. Bell is famous for not looking at the camera, but Platt does look directly at it.
Platt seems to care about the hearts and minds of people. He also seems to passionately care about their eternal destiny. He has a theology of heaven and hell. Not exactly sure what that theology is, but it is clearly not the same as Rob Bell’s theology.
Now to the first section of the content of the video, the story about his friend “John”. Based only on the facts Platt presents, there are some things that caught my attention. The first thing that got me was that the older man gave John no context for what John had experienced, what the Gospel is, what it does, why it matters. The older man seems more interested in just getting people to pray a prayer. Tag ‘em and bag ‘em evangelism. Just get people to chant out a prayer, and move on. No discipleship, no context, just chant after me and you’re good.
Given the facts shared, Platt asks 3 very legitimate questions “Is that true?” “Is that really what it means to be a disciple of Jesus?” “Is this really what it means to follow Him?” What makes this a great question is that it leads to a reexamination of the methodology of evangelism used, and a look at the beginnings of Christian evangelism and what it was designed to be.
Platt then goes on to say that when Jesus said “Follow Me” it wasn’t an invitation to pray a prayer, but “a summons for these men to lose their lives.” Platt is onto something here. I am reminded of the following that Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23:
Mat_16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Mar_8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Luk_9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Taking up a cross is not easy. It is hard. The use of the word “cross” implies suffering, something with which western Christianity, especially evangelicalism in the United States, knows little of. I also want to pull in something from James into this discussion in James 2:14 – 26:
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Let’s just say for simplicities sake that faith produces works as a proof of faith, and works are not meritorious, but evidence. And I would argue that the good works we do are not ours, but works that belong to Jesus, that He does through us, and somehow, we get credit. That is not to say that any good work we do has any merit for salvation, but they merit evidence of faith.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
In the second section of the video, Platt address cultural tides and church trends. Here I think may be setting up a home run point that I hope he addresses in the book. The last couple of hundred years for the western Church, specifically the Protestant expression of Christianity, are a mixed bag. Platt gives this a bit of a pass when he says that tides and trends changing the church have been done with good intentions. I only partly agree with this. Things like critical scholarship and the Jesus seminar from the left, and cold dead orthodusty from the right (a la Copenhagen, Denmark in the time of Soren Kierkegarrd) have not been good, and in at least some cases, intentional maliciousness has been a factor. That is not to say there is no hope, God has also raised up men like Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Piper, Packer, etc. etc. to hold the line, so to speak.
Platt is right that much of what passes for Biblical Christianity in the west is no longer believable anymore. Despite what most evangelical churches teach, Sola Bootstrapus is not actually one of the 5 Solas of the Reformation. Lone Rangerism is a plague on the church, with fewer and fewer believing it anymore. In many cases, people end up de-churching instead of rediscovering the Gospel. Christianese has also become problematic. There are certain words and phrases that we have used so much, that we have lost the wonder of words like “Gospel”, “salvation” and “grace” and hated concepts like “substitutionary atonement” and “sovereign”. I am not suggesting that we abandon those words and concepts, but it would be healthy to rediscover the wonder of those concepts that leads to Gospel astonishment.
In the third section, Platt seems to reveal the heart of a pastor that loves his congregation deeply. He seems to want the best for the flock he tends. He wants his flock to discover what Jesus calls us to. He seems to want his church, and the rest of us as well, to realize that when Jesus calls a man, He bids him to come and die.
In the fourth section, I start to have some trouble. Yes, the call to follow Jesus is important, and the implications for getting the Gospel wrong are deadly. What seems to come across though, is a fear that if we don’t get it right, we’re toast. That somehow, the eternal destination is up to us, not only what we believe, but what we do as well. There seems to be a fear that there will ultimately be more not in heaven that in heaven. That does not paint a picture of a victorious Christ to me.
Finally, he does ask a good question at the end. “Are we really, Biblically, personally, following Jesus?. Good question, and it is one that we should wrestle with, often.
The last statement is where I think Platt and I would disagree. Or at least from the content of the video, I think we would.
“Eternity is dependent on how we answer that question.”
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, a thousand times NO!!!!!!! Eternity is not dependent on how we answer, or don’t answer that question. My suspicion is that Platt identifies as an evangelical, and that is fine. I am not an evangelical, I sit in the Reformed camp, and so my perspective is going to be very different, especially on this issue.
Romans 9 starts with the apostle Paul longing for his countrymen, ethnic Israel, to see that Jesus is their long awaited, promised Messiah. He continues by going into a discussion about ethnic Israel vs. True Israel. Let me pick up in verse 8:
This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
The crux of what I want to focus on, as a response/disagreement with Platt’s last statement is verse 16:
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
On God’s mercy is what eternity depends on, and nothing else. Not human will, not human exertion, not human decisions, not human action, but on God’s mercy.
So, there are a couple of things in the delivery of this video that tweak me a bit. The last statement I think is poorly chosen, but that is me. But, there are many more things in the content of this video that intrigue me. I certainly think that there are questions he is asking in this video that are worth asking and answering. So, I would say, given all of that, read the book. My guess is that there is quite a bit worth wrestling with, studying, and examining. Even when we disagree with him and each other.