Book Review: Radical by David Platt

radical-platt

“Do we really believe [Jesus] is worth abandoning everything for?” asks pastor & author David Platt in his new book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. “Do you and I really believe that Jesus is so good, so satisfying, and so rewarding that we will leave all we have and all we own and all we are in order to find our fullness in him?” (pp. 18-19)

As Christians living in the very comfortable Western world, having “our best life now” is really appealing. After all, if God gives good gifts to those who love Him, wouldn’t it include a big house, a big backyard, a big state-of-the-art church facility, a big latte and maybe a lot of money in the bank account?

While none of this is inherently wrong, Plant wonders if we are “settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” And in Radical, he seeks to remind readers of the biblical gospel and that its implications mean the death of the American Dream—that we’re called to spend our lives on others, rather than merely spend our cash on ourselves.

There is much to enjoy about and be challenged by in Radical. Platt’s focus is less on showing readers a specific road to take (“here’s how you should do XYZ…”) and more about building a bigger vision for mission and reaching the nations for God’s glory.

In many ways, what Platt seeks to do is much the same as what John Piper has done in Let the Nations Be Glad and Don’t Waste Your Life—by providing Christians with a much-needed corrective to the overstated (and under-realized) notion that the days of overseas missions are over. That our focus can and should only be on local missions, if we have any sort of focus at all beyond a Christianized version of the American Dream.

As Platt notes, with over 2 billion people (as a conservative estimate) never having heard the gospel, one can hardly say that the days of overseas missions have passed us by.

At the same time, he doesn’t want to suggest that missions only happens overseas.

In Canada (where I live), generous estimates place the number of Christians in the population at around 8.5 percent. And as our population changes, there are more and more people who have never heard the gospel. The unreached are both at home and abroad. (It’s why missionaries are coming to Canada and the United States from countries which, two generations ago, we would have sent them to!)

What I especially appreciate about Platt’s book is this focus. That, even as he talks about poverty and how we in North America can be generous in caring for the poor, the goal is not alleviating poverty. The goal is seeing people meet Jesus. Platt writes,

The point is not simply to meet a temporary need or change a startling statistic; the point is to exalt the glory of Christ as we express the gospel of Christ through the radical generosity of our lives. (p. 135)

Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most about Radicalis the Radical Experiment—Platt’s challenge to put into practice what’s been learned through the book. As a pastor, he knows full well that unless there’s a way to apply knowledge, it will never move from the head to the heart. His one year challenge is shockingly simple, yet terribly complex:

  1. Pray for the entire world. Pray for specific needs among the nations.
  2. Read through the entire Word. Get through the entirety of Scripture in one year. Use a plan, read cover-to-cover… whatever you do, commit to doing this.
  3. Sacrifice money for a specific purpose. Research an organization that loves Jesus, that explicitly spreads His gospel, that serves His church and is trustworthy with finances.
  4. Spend time in another context. Whether it’s overseas for a short term missions trip or the soup kitchen downtown, go and be with people who aren’t like you.
  5. Commit our lives to multiplying communities. Be a part of a local church that is growing, making disciples and sending people out. Serve faithfully and pray fervently for it. And if you’re not in one, get into one.

This is a powerful challenge, one that I’m praying over how it would look in my life. I’m looking forward to what God shows me in response.

Perhaps the thing that struck me funny reading this book was something I found to be a bit of an oversimplification on Platt’s part. ON page 76, he writes:

But even if we were to do these things [helping the sick, feeding the hungry, strengthening the church in the neediest areas of the country] we would still be overlooking a foundational biblical truth when we say our hearts are for the United States. As we have seen all over Scripture, God’s heart is for the world. So when we say we have a heart for the Unites States, we are admitting that we have a meager 5 percent of God’s heart, and we ware proud of it. When we say we have a heart for the city we live in, we confess that we have less than 1 percent of God’s heart.

While I get what he’s trying to say, I can’t disagree strongly enough. While in some cases people can and do use the term of “having a heart for this city” as a cover for apathy (because their lives don’t reflect this heart), to say that if someone genuinely has a heart for the United States, New York State or San Francisco is ridiculous—and insulting. Such an oversimplification (while unintentional, I believe) runs the risk of devaluing one’s sense of calling and mission from God. Instead, it’s more likely that such a person has 100 percent of God’s heart for that city, state or country.

We need more men and women who have a genuine heart for their contexts, and it does nothing for their spirits to suggest that they somehow lack the fullness of God’s heart for the lost.

“Will we risk everything—our comfort, our possessions, our safety, our security, our very lives—to make the gospel known among unreached people?” This is the challenge that Platt puts to his readers (p. 160). What are we willing to sacrifice? What idols are holding us back? Will we give it up for the glory of Christ to be made known and to see more people reached with His gospel?

This is not an easy question to answer—but it’s one that I believe we need to wrestle with. And Radical forces us to do exactly that.

Read the book, be challenged and see how God might transform your life for His global purposes.


Title: Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
Author: David Platt
Publisher: Multnomah (2010)

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  • Bill

    I read this while on vacation……….totally ruined my beach time. :)

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      I know what you mean – while I was reading it, Emily started mentioning our need to be “dressed for service” (Luke 12:35). This has led us to prepare our house for sale. Ack!

  • http://joshscorner.wordpress.com axiom121

    I get the concept, that to live devoted to material wealth is not what a Christian should do. But what I want to know, is how much money has Mr Platt made off of this book? And is he planning to donate that money to a cause or church? And for the record, without the concept of the American dream, Mr. Platt would never have had the freedom to write and publish this book in the first place. The American Dream doesnt have to be the enemy of Christianity. In fact, the original dream that our founding fathers had is much more diverse and deep than Mr. Platt gives it credit for being (and more in line with Christianity). I feel that maybe he has confused the American Dream with the state of American Society today. I did enjoy your review though.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks for your feedback – not sure what Platt’s arrangement is on what he’s doing with the money with the book. I would guess that he’s going to practice what he preaches and give it away in the manner he prescribes. Then again, I could only speculate (which I don’t like to do).

      Glad you enjoyed the review.

    • KC-Christ follower

      The proceeds from Radical are being donated for the purpose of spreading the Gospel and making disciples throughout the world for Christ. Dr. Platt recognizes the blessing of being born in a country where he’s been free to worship, study, teach, and write, as well as the responsibilities that come with that freedom.

      The purpose of Radical is challenging American (and other nationalities) Christians to evaluate the object of their religion: is it for the compounding pleasures of self, or for the affections of their God? We were created to bring glory to God, and in doing so, make his name known to all peoples and nations. That may be in our workplace or neighborhood, with little or large incomes, stateside or abroad. Our faith is so much more than for ourselves. We have been given faith so that others may know the eternal hope of Christ, and have a personal relationship with him.

      Radical is showing us that Christianity is not about what we can get out of the relationship with God. Instead, Platt encourages us to prayerfully consider how we do life, see if it squares up biblically, and then be willing to put our lives on the table for Christ to use for his glory.

      I would encourage you to listen to any of Dr. Platt’s sermons for other teachings:http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/brook-hills-video/id319699836.

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