A Review of "Radical" by David Platt

I'm typically skeptical of any Christian book that is currently popular in the bestseller lists. Much of what is popular reading in evangelical Christianity is fell-good fluff devoid of much theological or Biblical content. So when I first picked up Radical by David Platt earlier this summer, I was somewhat apprehensive. However, my impression was quickly changed by Platt's convicting presentation of Biblical truth.

David Platt, the senior pastor of Brooks Hills Church in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote Radical to expose what he sees as "blind spot" in American Evangelical Christianity. Platt's assault on our current watered-down "easy-believism" version of Christianity is both direct and accurate. Platt argues that American Christianity has been infiltrated by the materialistic philosophy of the American Dream, resulting in a version of Christianity that barely resembles the Biblical call to self-sacrificing discipleship. Radical calls readers to return to a "radical abandonment to Jesus Christ."

In these areas, I found Radical to be both helpful and convicting. Platt's analysis of our comfortable Christianity is spot on. His passionate call to sacrificial discipleship is timely. I have often felt that my Christian walk is far too cautious and comfortable when compared to Christ's calls to sacrificial obedience. I absolutely love Platt's basic argument that all we do in the Christian life should be done because Jesus Christ is our Treasure. Why should I take up a cross and follow? Because Christ is worth it. Why should I give up my own dreams and desires? Because Christ is worth it. In the big scheme of things, there really is no such thing as a sacrifice since the gain is infinitely greater the loss.

Another strong point in Radical is the emphasis it places on disciple-making. God's plan is for His people to make disciples of every nation. Far too often, we view the Great Commission as a command to make converts, when in reality it is a command to make disciples. Platt does well in emphasizing this truth.     

Nonetheless, I do have a few cautions regarding some elements in this book. I feel that the biggest danger is that the book unintentionally fuels misconceptions about the nature of a devoted life to Christ. What many readers will walk away with is that we as Christians need to move overseas and give our money to help the poor in Africa. While I appreciate Platt's emphasis on this often-neglected point of sacrificial giving, it would be quite easy to conclude that radical Christianity is little more than going on missions trips and giving to the poor. The reality is that often the radical abandonment Christ calls us to is not some glamorous sacrifice, but simple obedience in the gritty details of everyday life.

Another caution is this: in seeking to encourage us to see the needs of the world, Platt appeals to a sense of guilt to motivate sacrificial giving. While I most certainly do believe that we have an enormous responsibility that comes with our great wealth, we should not feel guilty when we purchase french fries. Some sections of book border on social gospel (i.e. let's fulfill the gospel by feeding the poor). Nonetheless, an important takeaway from the book is that each of us do have a responsibility to wisely use the resources that God has given us to meet both physical and spiritual needs.

My remaining caution regards what is left unsaid in the book. There ought to be no question of if we should give sacrificially, but there should be careful consideration of how we give. While Platt strongly preaches the importance of sacrificial giving to the needs of the world, he fails to explain the Biblical guidelines in doing so. Scripture teaches that the needs of fellow-believers take precedence over the needs of the world (Gal. 6:10). Furthermore, I Timothy 5:8 clearly states that the needs of our families are preeminent. We would be disobedient to Scripture if we were to sell all we owned to feed the poor of India while a family member or church member struggled. We should not be indiscriminate with our financial sacrifice; rather, we should seek to follow the Biblical parameters to meet needs as the Spirit guides us individually.

Overall, Radical is an engaging, practical, and convicting book. I would highly recommend it, as it will challenge you to greater devotion in your walk with Christ. Read it with discernment and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you and empower you to live in reckless abandonment to Jesus Christ.


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  2. Sam, I appreciate your comments. I read Radical as well and really enjoyed it. Here a couple of my thoughts.

    You stated, "What many readers will walk away with is that we as Christians need to move overseas and give our money to help the poor in Africa." Call me a compassionate conservative but I don't think that is a bad thing. :-) But more importantly I don't think Platt is encouraging sacrificial giving, rather he is espousing sacrificial living. In our self-centered, "felt-needs driven" evangelical world it is refreshing to read this perspective.

    With that said I too share your concern that Platt's sincere thesis could lead many in evangelicalism to make their priority to work for social justice rather than sharing God's saving grace. We are seeing some of that from Tim Keller's book "Generous Justice." I would be interested in reading your thoughts on that book.

    Excellent review! Keep up the good work!

  3. Great review! I look forward to more book reviews soon.

  4. Pastor Lands,
    Thanks for your input. While I agree with you that Platt's goal is to promote sacrificial living, I fear that the takeaway for many readers will be on aspects of the book promoting social activism. As I seek to point out in my review, Christian discipleship entails a lifestyle of following Christ in whatever context we are placed, not just giving to the poor or engaging in overseas evangelism.
    I'm not dismissing the importance of compassion (lest I be labeled a heartless fascist:)but rather promoting the importance of commitment to Christ, even when it doesn't seem to be glamorous.
    I hope that clarifies where I'm coming from. I appreciate the thoughts.

  5. I also read Platt's book and totally concur with your comments - especially: "the radical abandonment to Christ calls us to is not some glamorous sacrifice, but simple obedience in the gritty details of everyday life." (well put, sir!) In the beginning of my walk, my immaturity led me to believe I had to have a "big" ministry to really please God. Now, I know that what pleases Him is me submitting to His will for any given day He gives me breath. And His will could be for me to simply take loving care of my home and family, and be a "virtuous" woman in that. Another day He may give me the opportunity to share the Gospel with a neighbor, and is pleased when I obey, and then praise Him for being able to share in His "Kingdom" work. If we are not in His will, and move out to "serve" Him in the flesh - nothing will come of it that has any eternal profit - for us - or anyone else.


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