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Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream Paperback – May 4, 2010
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Responses to Radical
“In his compelling new book, Radical, David Platt delivers a powerful picture of the church in America today that, on key points, stands in sharp contrast to what the Bible shows us about the person and purpose of Jesus Christ. David challenges Christians to wake up, trade in false values rooted in the American dream, and embrace the notion that each of us is blessed by God for a global purpose—to make Christ’s glory known to all the nations! This is a must-read for every believer!”
—Wess Stafford, president and CEO, Compassion Intl.
“We have moved into a generation of young leaders who have a passion to surrender the American dream if necessary in order to embrace fully, compassionately, and wholeheartedly a bigger dream—the Great Commission. I have never been challenged by an author more than I have by David Platt. Read Radical, be blessed, and be changed.”
—Johnny Hunt, president, Southern Baptist Convention, and pastor, First Baptist Church of Woodstock
“Radical will cause you to bounce on a spectrum between two words: ouch and amen. Tough truths do that. They challenge us to examine our lives and then choose the lasting over the temporary. Read Radical if you’re ready to live differently.”
—Gregg Matte, senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Houston
“David Platt’s book will leave anyone who sincerely engages with his challenge dissatisfied—and faced with a decision: What will authentic faith look like in my life? This book has the potential to revitalize churches today to practice a radical, biblical lifestyle that can transform society and reach a lost world.”
—Jerry Rankin, president, International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention
“The church of the Lord Jesus has been seduced by a skilled seductress: the American dream. David Platt exposes this enemy of authentic Christianity and provides a way of escape through a radical faith that leads to a radical obedience. I am not the same after reading it. I trust that will also be true for you.”
—Daniel L. Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“It is almost impossible to keep the idols of our own culture from influencing us, whether we want it to happen or not. This is certainly true when it comes to the so-called American dream. We need our eyes opened! We need to be called out! In this challenging and thoughtful book, David Platt shows us the way to live for Someone and something bigger.”
—Darrin Patrick, founding pastor, The Journey, St. Louis
“Sometimes people will commend a book by saying, ‘You won’t want to put it down.’ I can’t say that about this book. You’ll want to put it down, many times. If you’re like me, as you read David Platt’s Radical, you’ll find yourself uncomfortably targeted by the Holy Spirit. You’ll see just how acclimated you are to the American dream. But you’ll find here another Way, one you know to be true, because you’ve heard it before in the words of the Lord Jesus, perhaps most forcefully in the simple call ‘Follow me.’”
—Russell D. Moore, dean, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Through solid examination of the Scriptures and compelling testimonies from believers enduring persecution, my friend David Platt pulls back the curtain on subtle dangers weakening the church in our Western culture. Radical is the urgent call we need to care more about the spiritually lost and physically impoverished people of the world.”
—Ed Stetzer, president, LifeWay Research
About the Author
Dr. David Platt, President of the International Mission Board, is deeply devoted to Christ and His Word. David’s first love in ministry is making disciples, sharing, showing, and teaching God’s Word in everyday life. He has traveled extensively to serve alongside church leaders throughout the United States and around the world.
A life-long learner, David has earned two undergraduate and three advanced degrees. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (A.B.J.) from the University of Georgia, and a Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Theology (Th.M) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously served at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as Dean of Chapel and Assistant Professor of Expository Preaching and Apologetics, Staff Evangelist at Edgewater Baptist Church in New Orleans, and eight years as the Senior Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL.
David founded Radical (Radical.net), a ministry devoted to serving churches and disseminating disciple-making resources toward the end that the gospel might be made known in all nations.
David and his wife Heather have four children, Caleb, Joshua, Mara Ruth, and Isaiah.
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However as I read "Radical," reflected on it's message, saw its impact on myself and my friends, and pondered the significance of this runaway best seller, my perspective changed completely and I was led to a deep conviction that God is working through this book in an unusual way. I subsequently volunteered to analyze and review the significance of "Radical" for "Mission Frontiers," a major mission strategy magazine. [Google "Mission Frontiers Radical" for a more detailed analysis than fits here.]
Before dismissing "Radical" based on nothing more than the plausibility of a negative review, I encourage you to use Amazon's "look inside" feature or read the first chapter, available free on-line [Google "Someone Worth Losing Everything For"]. Instead of an "outsider" criticizing the Church, you'll find a well-credentialed insider inviting you to join his struggle to understand and close the gap between what he reads in Scripture and how we have redefined Jesus to affirm the way we live.
A friend just read "Radical" and emailed me: "This book haunts me: `My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus' words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him.' - David Platt"
David Platt's book "Radical" reflects a wider move of God through which He is stirring His people to live radically for Him to finish discipling all nations (Mt. 24:14 and Mt 28:18-20).
"Radical" overlaps heavily with Francis Chan's Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God in urging God's people to live "all out" for Jesus, but puts forth a much clearer picture of the global purposes which God is working to accomplish through His people, and a more practical suggestion for how God's people can begin intentionally engaging together in obeying God and impacting His world.
In the first chapter Dr. Platt develops Dietrich Bonhoeffer's quote "[the first call every Christian experiences is] the call to abandon the attachments of this world." Throughout his book, Platt urges us to discover Jesus (not heaven) as our sole treasure, to lay aside everything that keeps us from pursuing Him above all else, and to realize that "It's Not About Me." [Google the free excerpt from "Radical" available on line at "Mission Frontiers Radical not about me".]
The final chapter of "Radical" opens:
"Throughout this book we have explored a variety of bold claims about our purpose in life that are contained in the gospel yet contradicted in the American dream. Claims such as these: Real success is found in radical sacrifice. Ultimate satisfaction is not found in making much of ourselves but in making much of God. The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. Meaning is found in community, not individualism; joy is found in generosity, not materialism; and truth is found in Christ, not universalism. Ultimately Jesus is a reward worth risking everything to know, experience and enjoy."
Having presented such a challenge, Dr. Platt then takes a surprising departure which seems to have thrown several other reviewers. Instead of calling for immediate dramatic change, as most "high commitment" books do, he suggests the starting point of a growth path which any group can embrace together to pursue greater passion for Jesus and obedience to His global purposes.
The "Radical Experiment" is not radical in where it starts, but in the direction it leads. It is much more like Jesus' initial call to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19--to follow Jesus and let Him change us into effective disciplers--than it is to the kind of radical Luke 14 challenge I and my missionary colleagues like to present.
Like some negative reviewers, I was initially misled into dismissing "Radical" by the low initial commitment required in the "Radical Experiment." "What," I asked myself, "is radical about reading through the Bible in a year, or giving 2% of your time or to a specific cause?" But such a dismissal misses the whole thrust of Dr. Platt's book.
"Radical" will challenge most readers in the healthiest of ways, not simply to agree with what is wrong with the Western Church, but to take practical steps to join others in living for God's global kingdom. As the Chinese proverb says, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
From the one out of eight reviews of "Radical" which are negative, it is apparent that:
- some will read "Radical" as a guilt trip or an appeal for wealth distribution,
- others will question Dr. Platt's motives, lifestyle or position, and
- those who love money will mock the idea of living sacrificially as the Pharisees did.
"The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus" (Lk 16:14 NIV).
But those reactions seem generally to be the result of existing bias or careless misreading of the book.
I find two major weaknesses in the book itself:
1. Extracted from the caring tone of Platt's audio presentations, some will experience the book as a guilt trip. For those with an oversensitivity toward personal guilt for the state of the church, I recommend the audio version Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, or the free original sermon series which I found much richer than the book itself. (Now, I think, found at "radical.net/series/radical-what-the-gospel-demands")
2. While Dr. Platt effectively develops God's intention for those He has blessed to join Him in caring for the poor, inexperienced Western Christians far too often translate this simplistically as "giving to the poor." And this creates more problems than it solves. Unfortunately the current edition of "Radical" does nothing to address this problem (a later edit may), but to his credit Dr. Platt asks that all of his small group leaders read Fikkert and Corbett's When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself.
In my experience, "Radical" is most suitable for three audiences:
- Those disillusioned with self-centered "Christianity Lite" will generally find "Radical" both challenging and refreshing.
- Those who have never considered Biblical obedience as an alternative to self-serving religion will find "Radical" a healthy challenge.
- Most real friends of the True King will find value in "Radical" and want to share it with others.
[Toward multiplying the circulation of "Radical," "Mission Frontiers" has arranged a bulk discount for its reader. Google "Mission Frontiers Radical not about me"]
"Radical" is NOT likely to be appreciated by those who
- are prone to feelings of guilt,
- want to justify their attachment to the things of this world, or
- are not prepared to give their lives to drawing close to Jesus and joining Him in His global purpose.
For a mature discussion of the danger of some experiencing "Radical" as a guilt trip, see the concerns of Kevin DeYoung and the response he invited from Dr. Platt, which you can find by googling "DeYoung Platt Root of Radical."
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE IMPACT OF "RADICAL":
The following edited story typifies the impact of Dr. Platt's message. [Find the original by googling "Platt foster care office"]:
Dr. Platt asked a foster care office in Birmingham how many families they would need to care for all the children. They laughed. He asked again. They said 150 families. Platt preached on orphan care from James 1 (v. 27 in particular), and 160 families signed up to serve as foster care families.
Today, 11/7/2010, I have moved the following items to a comment under today's date:
- my own transformation of perspective toward "Radical,"
- how God is using "Radical" like He has used "Crazy Love,"
- my unusual involvement in promoting "Radical," and
- related free resources to help you live radically for our King.
To see the kind of practical applications Radical is stirring, google "Waterbrook Multnomah Radical action plan."
DISCLAIMER: I did NOT receive a copy of "Radical" or any other compensation for this review or any other analysis or promotion of "Radical." All of my research and endorsement of this book is a free gift offered in service to my King.
NOTE: [...] Thanks!
Radical is Platt's first book and it has been a huge success. It has received glowing reviews and giant sales. Not all those who have read Radical have been as equally impressed. I encountered a fairly critical review in the latest issue of Modern Reformation magazine, and it made me reexamine the the text to see if there was any validity to the issues raised in the article. Let me say from the outset, there was, but I do not believe to the degree presented in the review. There is much to be praised in this great book so I wanted to lay out some of the blessings of this book and some of the more concerning parts that I encountered.
To begin with, the issues that the book tackles are prevalent and in incredible need of being addressed. Platt sets out to outline the American Dream and how it has become pervasive in American Christianity. The issues he raises: materialism, the business influence of church, the prosperity Gospel and the safety first mindset of Americans Christians are all issues that have been crippling to the ability of American Christianity to effect lasting, Gospel-centered change in our culture and beyond.
Platt first takes aim at his own pulpit, and those of mega-churches around the country suggesting that "satisfaction in our lives and success in the church are not found in what our culture deems most important but in radical abandonment to Jesus". He contrasts the culture of "successful" mega-churches to the culture of grass hut meeting places in the farthest parts of the world, and the Gospel success that is found there. In these places, the people understand the "success" is found, not in the size of the building or the salary of the pastor or the prestige of the congregation, but in the Gospel changed lives of believers who live a life of "radical abandonment" to Jesus.
To say this type of faith is lacking in much of American Christianity is an understatement. We enjoy so much freedom and so much access to public worship and God's Word that we take it for granted and despise it with our lack of fervency and affection.
Platt also hits on the sin of choice in America, materialism. Materialism is itself a form of idolatry, a type of what Paul described as worshiping the created as opposed to the Creator. We see no problem with it, because instead of recognizing our sin we have molded a God who approves of what we do. We have created a God who says we are to "have life and have it abundantly" and we have redefined "life abundantly" to mean a life of gluttonous, lustful materialism. Platt hits hard on the fact that while we so often live and spend(time and money) frivolously, over a billion people have yet to hear the Gospel.
One of the highlights of this book for me was the stories of people who are living/have lived "radically. George Mueller, Jim Elliot, John Paton, and many others who lived lives of radical abandonment to the cause of Christ. it was simultaneously encouraging and convicting to see all these stories of people who, for the cause of Christ, forsook all their earthly wants and pleasures to simply know Him more and make Him known.
This brings me to a couple of issues that I had with the book. Confusion of terminology may not seem to be an area of concern worth noting. However, sometimes nit-picking can be bud-nipping when it comes to confusion of thought. The pervasive use of terminology like "live the Gospel" and "be the Gospel" can lead people down a road that ends in a confusing place. I will not belabor this point here. My previous blog post was about this particular topic and said about all I am able to say about it. I do want to make clear that this terminology is not at all pervasive in Radical and when this type of language is used, the context will often flesh out the facts of what Platt is saying. However, terminology like "live the Gospel" is so prevalent in the minds of God-fearing, Gospel centered people that it is often used like jargon. The problem with jargon is not with the people who use it, they understand the nuanced thought behind the particular phrase. The problem is when jargon is heard by someone who does not understand fully what is being conveyed and the result is confusion. Now, I do not advocate abandoning Bible words that convey complex realities(repent, atonement, living sacrifice, redepmtion, etc) but I do advocate abandoning cultural jargon that, when read/heard at face value, contradict the teachings of Scripture. Clarity, especially in regards to the Gospel, should be paramount when presenting the truths of Scripture.
Another issue that concerned me had to do with the issue of suffering and poverty. One of the greatest plagues of American Christianity is the prosperity gospel The prosperity gospel says that if you have faith, God will give you health and wealth and success and anything less than that is because of your lack of faith. It is not a stretch to call this teaching Christian Karma, but if you were going to do that I would spell "Christian" with a "k" just for the sake of alliterations. Conservative Evangelicalism has, for the most part, seen the error of this false teaching but have been highly succeptible to its cousin, the comfort gospel. The comfort gospel says that the Christian life is all about living a comfortable life. It is not about being rich or never being sick, but it is about being "taken care of" A nice house, 2.5 kids, a dog, an SUV, a "safe" church with short sermons about how I can live my life better, no major diseases or tragedies, etc. The prosperity gospel is the American Dream on steroids, while the comfort gospel is simply the American Dream.
Throughout chapter eight, "Living When Dying is Gain", Platt is consistently calling for Christians to forsake a life of temporal peace and comfort and be ready to endure danger, hardship and persecution. To this I would agree wholeheartedly and I see the point he is making. At times, however, it seems as if Platt is saying that to be a real Christian we should seek out danger, poverty and persecution. To be honest, this is a struggle I have had for years and I very well may be projecting a bit into the text but I know, from personal experience, that a misunderstanding of this can cause a concerned Christian to begin manufacturing danger and persecution because they feel their Christian life is invalid without it. This, however, is simply not the truth. Solely living the Christian life will lead to enough persecution and following the Lord will lead to enough temporal danger, the need to manufacture trials and tribulations just does not exist. Platt may have made this point and I missed it, but I do wish he would have belabored it a bit more, if only for me and those who have had that same struggle.
Platt concludes the book with a chapter entitled, "The Radical Experiment". Platt leaves his reader with a yearlong challenge encompassing five aspects of radical Christian living:
1. Pray for the entire world,
2. Read through the entire Word,
3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose,
4. Spend time in another context, and
5. Commit your life to a multiplying community.
This is a challenge that I think all Christians should consider taking. It is a challenge, that I think is at the heart of living a life in light of the Gospel. To extend the circle of our prayers to include our brothers and sisters around the world and for those still in need of the Gospel, to search out God's awesome Word from cover to cover, to give sacrificially to a specific Gospel-centered purpose, to move out of our comfort zone in hopes of reaching people with the Gospel of Christ and to be a faithful member of a worship family---these are areas in which all Christians should purposefully be engaged.
My concern is with how Platt presents it, and how the majority of the book presents these types of challenges. I am left with a question as to the power behind our obedience. What fuels a person? What drives a person to take and complete this challenge? That question is never sufficiently answered in my opinion. The tone is Nike-esque, "Just Do It". Do not try, do not attempt, just get out there and do it! The implication seems to be centered on the efforts of the reader. Try harder. Do more. My question is this, where is the Gospel in this mentality? The Gospel does not tell me to try harder, or do more. The Gospel says that every effort I make,apart from the Grace of God, is destined for failure but I can rest in the fact that Christ has already succeeded. The Gospel says, "You try, but you inevitably fail. God tries, and He inevitably succeeds. In fact, He has already succeeded. In every aspect of the Christian life, Jesus Christ was victorious in His righteousness, His suffering, His sacrifice and His resurrection." Success is not ours to obtain, which we would inevitably boast about, but our successes have already been procured by Christ and we receive these by His grace through faith. This is why we can live a "radical" life, not because we trust God will make us succeed but that we have faith God has already succeeded for us. I know for certain this is what David Platt believes. I have heard him say similiar in numerous messages. In fact, he may have made this point. I just wish it were a bit more explicit that our success, our motivation, our obedience is not found in us but is found in Christ and the good news of His finished work on the cross.
This a good book. Apart from a few concerns I had, I thought this book was excellent and I would encourage everyone to read it. Read it carefully and read it knowing that the Gospel of Christ is the power that saves and the power that propels the Christian along and then begin to live a life as described in this text. The cause of the Gospel would be greatly aided if we all did.