Radical - Review

David Platt's book "Radical - Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream" is a book I've heard a lot about in the past few weeks. Several people have recommended it to me, and with good reason. Platt's book is in many places a refreshing, no-holds-barred call for American Christians to start living an active faith rather than a passive one.

Platt calls out the Western tendency to remake Jesus in our own image, a Jesus who doesn't ask anything of us; needs us as much as we need Him; and whose greatest desire is for us to be comfort. In short, as the subtitle implies, David Platt argues that God's greatest concern is not for us to achieve financial independence, security, and material possessions to leave to our kids.

Platt's book is a call for Christians to reconsider the cost of discipleship, and to examine their lives in light of eternity. How many of the words we say on a regular basis have an eternal impact? How many of the dollars we spend will be seen as a good investment in a million years? Are our lives organized around the call of Christ or around the dreams of another god, namely the god of self?

"Radical" is a strong challenge for Christians to live differently; radically; and my life will be different as a result of reading it.


This book is hard for me to recommend for the same reason I have a hard time recommending "Crazy Love," another book in the same vein. These books are both a reaction against the dumbed-down, seeker-sensitive movement that has sissified the Christian life to the point that the Church is indistinguishable from the world, a reality that Platt and Chan are right to rail against. But, they've gone too far. Platt bases his argument for radical discipleship on our response to the Gospel, saying "[The] Gospel evokes unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to all that [Jesus] is." In the next paragraphs, Platt infers that if that kind of unconditional surrender is not a part of your current experience, you need to question whether or not you're headed to heaven when you die. The problem is: who could honestly say that it is?

He takes it a step further in chapter 6 where he admits that caring for the poor had been a "blind spot" in his own life for several years. But later in the chapter he says, "Indeed, caring for the poor (among other things) is evidence of our salvation. The faith in Christ that saves us from our sins involves an internal transformation that has external implications."

Dr. Platt's statement here goes way too far, not to mention the fact that it is inconsistent. If caring for the poor is evidence of salvation but was neglected by Dr. Platt for much of his life, are we to infer that Dr. Platt was not a believer for the first several years of his ministry? Nobody would say that. Certainly Dr. Platt would not say that.

Now, I absolutely believe that salvation should (and will) have external implications. But Dr. Platt's over-reach here is extremely dangerous because of its potential for causing believers to look to their behavior as the source of their security rather than the object of their faith.

Believers should care for the poor. We should be ashamed of ourselves for not caring for the poor. But we do not need to fear that our conversion was false because we haven't cared for the poor in our past.

The Radical life should be lived out of an overwhelming gratitude for the Gospel, not out of fear trying to prove that His grace has been applied to us. That's a critical distinction that unfortunately gets muddied in Dr. Platt's otherwise very good book.