Radical | Book Review May 31, 2015

Radical Book Review - Book Cover
Radical; David Platt; 2010; Multnomah Books; 240

Radical is David Platt's first entry in the world of publishing. Adding to what is now four published books to his resume is his very first title which was released back in 2010. Four years later to actually come across it, it is a 'New York Times Best Seller'. It is hard to miss this book on shelves with it's bold orange cover. With the sub-title, "Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream" it makes a strong suggestion as to what we can expect from this book. I am embarrassed to say that it took me a long time to figure out that the logo was actually an upside down house, cleverly suggesting a completely different way of living. The title is to suggest how Jesus commands us to live, which is completely different and opposite from how our culture normally lives; if we embrace it.

So who is David Platt? Well on the back of his book, he is described as the pastor of a 4000 member congregation called The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. He holds two undergraduate and three advanced degrees, including a doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His connection with the Baptist church does not surprise me considering 5 of his 8 responses within his book have a Baptist church connection.

Radical is about helping Christians understand how much we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. We have bought into the American Dream of living our lives in comfort, security, money, and putting a nice little Christian spin or label on it. The reality is that we have forgotten how Jesus commanded us to live completely different from the American dream. He commanded us to make disciples of ALL nations.

Platt is well educated and well traveled. He has been involved in underground churches in some of the most hostile countries against Christianity. He uses stories from his life, his travels, along with stories from members within the church he pastors to share the differences between living for the American Dream and living a radical life based on what Jesus taught in scripture. His stories, most of which have a serious tone, does have some glimmer of humour in them, but are meaningful enough to make people think and open their eyes. Radical contains 9 chapters, but what I appreciate is that Platt has mini chapters within those chapters. These mini separately titled chapters are found every 2-3 pages. The purpose of these mini chapters are to provide some of those stories that Platt shares. He uses scripture in nearly all his reference notes throughout his writing to support his claims without taking them out of context which I greatly respect. He takes his book a step further than most other Christian Living books in which his last chapter actually challenges the reader to live out what they just read through a one year 'Radical Experiment'. This experiment is an initiative that follows up on the two questions he posed at the beginning of his book: Will we believe Jesus? Will we obey Jesus?I appreciate this because it really makes the reader accountable rather than just reading the book and doing nothing about it.

"This is the question that often haunts me when I stand before a crowd of thousands of people in the church I pastor. What if we took away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would his Word still be enough for his people to come together?" - page 27

"The gospel reveals eternal realities about God that we would sometimes rather not face. We prefer to sit back and enjoy our cliches, and picture God as a Father who might help us, all the while ignoring God as a Judge who might damn us. Maybe this is why we fill our lives with the constant drivel of entertainment in our cultureand in the church. We are afraid that if we stop and really look at God in his Word, we might discover that he evokes greater awe and demands deeper worship than we are ready to give him." - page 29

"The modern day gospel says, 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.' Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, 'You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.' The former sells books and draws crowds. The latter saves souls. Which is more important?" - page 32

"The message of biblical Christianity is not 'God loves me, period,' as if we were the object of our own faith. The message of biblical Christianity is 'God loves me so that I might make himhis ways, his salvation, his glory, and his greatnessknown among all nations." - page 70/71

"The reward of the American dream is safety, security, and success found in more comfort, better stuff, greater prosperity. But the reward of Christ trumps all these things and beckons us to live for an eternal safety, security, and satisfaction that far outweigh everything this world has to offer." - page 171/172

Platt uses the infamous moment of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16) where Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give to the poor. Platt is certainly not the first author that quotes this passage and places it in their book. It's one thing to do that, but it is another thing to write how it is lived out today in our culture. Platt to his credit does provide some examples from his life and from others. The problem is that those examples only showed the selling of some possessions; not ALL possessions. I did not come across a modern day example of someone literally selling all they had and gave to the poor. I do not find fault in Radical for sharing Jesus' message, but what does that look like in our culture today if the book does not provide a radical example? Even Platt humbly admits he wrestles with similar questions. Questions like mine are not easy and he does not presume to have all the answers. At the same time, Platt does say, "this should not stop us from asking the questions and letting these questions drive us to Christ."

So does Radical lives up to its title? Does it help Christians take back their faith from the American Dream? While I am not entirely sure if this book shows Christians HOW to do that, it most certainly shows Christians WHY they should. It shows the desperate need to revisit the words of Jesus. It provides a blueprint or a glimpse of what taking back their faith could look like.

Radical is not going to appeal to many audiences; not even those that call themselves 'Christians'. Based on what Platt shares, I have a feeling very few will enjoy his message. It is like Russell D. Moore's response when he basically says how most people don't want to put a book down; but this one, you will want to put it down. Platt shares several of Jesus' teachings which most of our world does not like, does not accept, tries to rationalize, water down, or even ignore. I liked this book because it was true. I also did not like this book because it was true. I personally did not enjoy some of the messages he wrote in his book. Not because they offended me. It is because they are true, and the truth hurts.

Overall I would believe that those who are comfortable living for the American Dream and its temporary riches should find Radical very uncomfortable to read. Some may actually just think nothing of it and brush it off as being ludicrous. Those who have already abandoned the American Dream to live fully devoted to Jesus should find these messages refreshing with a deep sense of affirmation and encouragement. There will most likely be all kinds of reaction to this book. Your reaction will really just depend with what you believe in and how much are you living devotedly to what you believe in.

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