Book Review: The Radical Disciple

For well over half a decade John Stott has been providing the Evangelical world with a lot to think about.  Many of Stott’s contributions have been invaluable (for instance the Cross of Christ), however some of his contributions have been less than helpful in my estimation (i.e. his view on hell).  Now, writing the book of his storied ministry, Stott has remained consistent with this pattern of providing the Evangelical world with a lot to think about–some good and some not so good.

The Radical Disciple is John Stott’s final book.  As He put it,

As I lay down my pen for the last time (literally, since I confess I am not computerized) at the age of eighty-eight, I venture to send this valedictory message to my readers.  I am grateful for your encouragement…. (136)

With this last message Stott has chosen to briefly write about matters of the Christian life which are important to him.  Specifically, Stott writes about 8 characteristics which form his “portrait of the radical disciple.”   Explaining how he chose these 8  characteristics Stott writes,

To be sure, I have been selective, and my selection has been somewhat arbitrary.  Yet there are other aspects of discipleship that I would like to see in every disciples of Jesus, and not the least in myself.  You will no doubt compile your own list.  Hopefully it will be clearly biblical, but still reflect your own culture and experience, and I wish you well as you do so.

The list of characteristics given by Stott is most valuable in that it calls all Christians to think deeply about their own commitment to Christ, and whether or not they are “Radical Christians.”  As Stott puts it,

Our common way of avoiding radical discipleship is to be selective: choosing those area in which commitment suits us and staying away from those areas in which it will be costly. (15)

This book is certainly helpful in thinking through what it means to be a radical disciples.

A couple of chapters that I had some issues with were the chapters on “Creation Care” & “Simplicity.”  In the chapter on Creation Care Stott argues that Christians must care for the creation essentially by reversing the effects of global warming.  I agree that Christians need to care for the creation, but I disagree with Stott’s diagnoses of the “environmental crisis.”  The chapter on simplicity encouraged Christians to do something about poverty in the world.  I have no problem with this, but there were a couple of statements that didn’t sit well with me.  For instance, quoting from another document Stott asserts that “pverty is an offense against the goodness of God.”  (71) To this I would ask who is the offending party?  Is it God because in His sovereignty He has allowed some to be poor?  Is is the poor person who is stuck in poverty?  Or, is the the wealthy for not being in poverty?  Stott doesn’t answer the question, so I don’t know who the offending party is.  However, the tone of the chapter made it seem as if the wealthy are to blame, and if they would just live a more simple life then everyone else would have more (which is something I don’t think would work in the real world).

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Stott’s Swan Song, and would recommend it to all you discerning readers out there.



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