Suspend your belief for a moment. I want to change your view of history.
In January 1703, shortly after graduating and failing an audition for an organist’s post at Sangerhausen in January 1703, didn’t take up his post as a court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst in Weimar…
But instead, while riding away from Sangerhausen, Bach felt a severe call on his life to travel to Tunisia to minster the gospel to the Arabs…
Summarily giving up his ambition to be a composer.
Revision of Van Gogh’s Little Life
Almost two hundred years later, succeeded in his early vocational aspiration to become a pastor and preached the gospel from 1879 until his death to a small mining town in Belgium…
And neglecting his elegant (but tortured) artistic output that resulted in intoxicating paintings like and ?
Naturally, even to conceive of such events means we have to revise history and do some heavy-duty speculating.
But here’s my point–what if every great Christian artist, writer, dramatist, composer or scholar simply shed their vocational ambitions to work strictly as a missionary, preacher, teacher or evangelist?
Would our culture be any less than it is without Bach’s sacred or the sublime chaos of van Gogh’s ?
The answer, or course, is “no.”
For one thing, conceiving of history without Bach the composer and his rich legacy of liturgical works or Van Gogh and his dreamy, sad impressionistic paintings is pure fiction.
It’s the stuff of revisionist history best left in the hands of novelists who like to entertain.
Here’s what I’m getting at.
The Tension the Great Commission Creates
I get a strong impression after reading David Platt’s Radical that he’d like to see us all abandon our political, social, academic or artistic pursuits and share the gospel.
That, my friends, is radical.
It’s an over-reading of his point, of course, even though he is a pastor and (I think) would be quiet happy if every one in his church–and all the readers of his book–would become evangelists or missionaries.
In fact, after you read the book there’s a small part of you wanders if you should liquidate your 401k and send it to World Vision…
Or sell your suburban home and move your family of four to a grass hut in Bangladesh…
Or scrap your dream of being a veterinarian and take the first flight to Ethiopia to save ten-year-old girls from sexual slavery.
David Platt and his book just might ruin your life in that way.
But Jesus and his great commission was anything but superficial.
Which brings us to the tension with our cultural mandate: God’s decree that we subdue the earth by building schools, running governments and crafting art.
Questions the Book Will Stir Up
No question: There are those who will read the book and go to the extreme. Who will give it all up and make radical changes to their lifestyle to fulfill the gospel.
David Platt’s got the testimonies to prove it.
For the rest of us, we at least re-think how we spend our money.
In reality, all Platt asks you to do is bear your heart before God and ask: What can I do? How can I give it all?
And what does that mean?
Does that mean I remain here in the suburban U. S. and churn out blog posts or novels or paintings or musical scores–for your glory?
Or do you have something more radical for me? Read Platt’s book and, in truth, you will ask yourself those questions. What do you say?
One Final Thought
Sometimes I wonder what Calvin would’ve written if he’d not had his conversion, but instead pursued his ambition to live a leisurely literary life.
I gamble he might have been a French .
To this literary nut job, that sounds appealing.
Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t trade that history if it meant we gave up the Institutes. I’m just saying: Maybe it’s not so bad to let your imagination wander on occasion.
Who knows: You might stumble upon a brilliant idea. An idea you can offer up to the glory of God.
But maybe that’s enough? We’ll never know, will we?