I was delighted to receive my copy of 'Radical Church', the second publication from John Caldwell of Dunblane Free Church. While, Caldwell's first publication, 'Christ, the Cross and the Concrete Jungle' movingly recounts his remarkable testimony and first steps in faith, 'Radical Church' by contrast, is the analytical work of a committed, experienced, mature evangelical leader.
The sub-title,'A Call to Rediscover the Radical Roots of the Christian Faith' sets out the author's intended direction of travel, and once started, the book makes compelling reading.
In his inimitable straight-talking style, Caldwell details the numerous challenges facing evangelical Christians in 21st century Scotland. These include the rise of militant secularism and humanism and the attendant changes in public behaviour and the law. He rightly asserts that many Christians now feel that they live in a hostile environment.
In explaining the rise the rise of anti-Christian sentiment, Caldwell pulls no punches.....the root cause, he asserts is sin with huge swathes of Scotland choosing to live in open and defiant rebellion against God.
The picture painted by Caldwell is bleak: “Religion has fast become an increasingly censored area within public spheres......God-talk seems to be the new social taboo..........Many (Christians) are afraid to be open about what they believe, and fear talking about their faith lest they commit social suicide......many believers are living dual lives....In many ways we have become living characters in an Orwellian dystopia”.
Now involved in ministry, following a career as a teacher of Religious Education, John Caldwell has been a witness of the church's capitulation to the spirit of the age. He argues convincingly that many evangelicals in Scotland and beyond have fatally compromised themselves in order to accommodate the contemporary cultural environment. This accommodation has seen the dilution and in some cases abandonment of core Gospel principles centring on the cross, sin and repentance and their replacement with the gospel of niceness, good works and self-improvement.
Similarly, many Christian ministries providing for the marginalised and homeless have seen their core motivation of the cross dumped in favour of the ethos, values and principles of the secular bodies who provide funding. Sadly the church's acts of mercy have become divorced from its core business: that of making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
'Radical Church' is however, no gloom and doom manifesto. Caldwell argues that there is real hope when the church returns to Biblical principles based on 'Sola Scriptura' or scripture alone. The real 'Radical Church', it is asserted, is comprised of authentic radical Christians who: “depend on the truth themselves; declare the truth and, are prepared to discuss and debate the truth with unbelievers”.
Caldwell concludes his argument with some heart searching questions. “ As the state increasingly seeks to define and politicise identity, morality, and religious practice; the church and Christians will find themselves in crisis. Who will we obey, the State or Jesus? When God's law for sexual activity says one thing, and the law of the land says another, who will the church listen to? When God's word says preach the Gospel to all people and call each one to repentance, and society interprets evangelism as a hate crime – who will the church obey? These questions are no longer hypothetical scenarios; they are already the issues that Christians are facing today.............As the world grows darker, the faithful church will shine brighter. As opposition to Christians grows more extreme, the faithful church will rediscover what it is to be the radical church.”
'Radical Church' is a hugely readable, and in many ways a prophetic work. John Caldwell pulls no punches in analysing the challenges facing the church in Scotland. The radical solutions he proposes are neither bland nor compromising. This has to be a 'must read' for all believers, pastors, elders, deacons, or ministry workers, indeed anyone who wishes to see the name Christ exalted in our land once more.