I can usually get one whole book read on the to-and-from legs of a flight to the other side of the Rocky Mountains.  This particular trip I read David Platt’s Radical.  While I was lining up at the gate, waiting for my boarding group, I took his book out of my satchel and tucked it under my arm.  That way I could throw my satchel in the overhead and keep the book with me.  While I stood there, three different people came up to me and said, “I see you’re reading Radical.  It’s a good book.”  On the actual flight I saw another woman reading Radical.  I have not seen that with a Christian book since Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.  I expect it with Twilight garbage or Harry Potter escapism, but not Christian nonfiction.  So since everyone seems to be reading Platt, I thought I would throw in my observations about his book.

  • The Good Stuff:  The great thing about Radical is that the Good stuff is very, very good.  What Platt is able to do, and he is to be greatly commended for this, is speak in an evangelical language about social responsibility.  He quotes startling and sobering statistics about poverty, illness, social injustice, and oppression all over the world and in the United States and then he calls out Christ followers as being responsible for fixing the problem.  That is what he means by his use of the word radical.  It will take a radical obedience to Jesus’ concern for the world (note–the world is in scope here, as the book is primarily about global missions) in order to reverse the disgusting abuses of humanity.  Be warned, his words will make you squirm—or, as I did, write in the margins in red ink . . . “Ouch!”
  • The Bad Stuff:  There is very little in Radical that could be labeled “Bad,” but I do have a couple of things against Platt.  First, there are some places in the book where he tends to be standing up and shouting, “Look how great me and my church are.  You are a loser because you are not us.”  I kept expecting for one of his illustrative stories to begin, “One young couple in our church talked North Korea into giving up all its nuclear weapon plans.”  Second, and this is closely related to the first, Platt writes from a sense of “megachurch guilt,” but not all churches in North America are megachurches.  He probably is so insulated that he doesn’t realize how off-putting it is to read of his 50 million dollar building programs or of all the wealthy business people in his church.  Sure, I am glad they are doing great things for God, but to those of us in regular churches not in the deep southeast, it leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
  • The Arguing stuff:  You knew this was coming right?  I mean, I’ve never read a book I didn’t argue with.  At times Platt takes a very strong Calvinistic leaning, particularly in the opening chapters.  Indeed, his Calvinism is so strong that it almost detracts from the overall point he is making in the book—that point being each person’s responsibility for substituting the American way of life for the gospel way of life.  I wonder if he sees the irony.  I could also argue with Platt about the reality of how best to help the poor around the world.  His arguments for how to help are more emotional than perhaps, effective.  One more thing on the arguing scale; and it might not pertain, but in reading the book I admire David Platt, but I do not know if I would like him.  I bet he is a very hard person to get along with.

All in all, I highly recommend Radical as a read that will challenge a person to be a better Christ-follower.  If that is your goal, then read Radical.  If you are sensitive and don’t take someone meddling into your life very well, then by all means, do not read Radical.

3 Comments

  1. We did a Bible study on Radical a couple months ago at church. There was a lot of patting ourselves on the back for all the great stuff we do (to be fair, our church does a lot of great stuff 🙂 Except for one guy who kept encouraging us to go invite a homeless guy into our houses. Which led to some very heated arguing. Good stuff. Unfortunately, no one that I know of has yet invited any homeless guys in, yours truly included.
    Would you explain what you mean by the book’s calvanistic leaning?
    I’m glad you put a finger on this megachurch thing…I couldn’t quite figure out why I didn’t like big sections of the book even when I agreed with most of what it said. I just can’t quite take him seriously when he talks about radically caring for the poor, giving up materialism, and giving sacrificially, when he’s preaching out of a multi-million dollar building. But that’s not necessarily fair on my part, and I acknowledge that.

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    1. i think a church using radical as small group material is a great idea. for the record, though, i would never let a homeless guy into my home. there is also no reason not to pleased with your church, i am sure your’s is a great church. it just troubles me that platt wasn’t able to find any examples outside his own congregation and his limited experience to support his argument.
      now, as to calvinism. i began to feel this bent from the beginning, but i scribbled in my notes in chapter 2 that i saw it coming. he pushes the total depravity point of calvinism very hard, particularly on pages 30 and 31, “we are each born with an evil, God-hating heart.” the interesting thing is i feel like platt is actually less calvinistic in his worldview than he would ever admit, because so much of his book is about our responsibility.
      i think radical is a great book; but i’ve always got to find something to nitpick about.

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