Book Review- “Radical” by David Platt
Following blogs and the general “word” on the ‘Net around the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, I kept hearing one surprising piece of information that didn’t involve convention motions or politics. The general buzz concerned a sermon at the Pastor’s Conference by a pastor from Alabama named David Platt. After opening his sermon with quotations from the Psalms calling for praise, Platt challenged those present (and who would later listen or watch electronically) that we as churches and as a convention had the choice to “die in our devotion [to Christ and his kingdom] or die in our religion.”
Dr. David Platt has gone on to preach more sermons at his church (the Church at Brook Hills) and across the country challenging people to take seriously the radical demands of Jesus. The book Radical is his attempt to issue that challenge in a succinct and shareable format.
Southern Seminary’s Russell Moore describes the book well in one of the blurbs: “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.” Just like his preaching, David Platt’s writing does not pull punches nor offers easy alternatives for those put off by its “radical” confrontation of our cultural idols. The book is aptly subtitled, “Taking back your faith from the American dream,” pushing Christians in America to consider whether we have built our lifestyles around the teachings of the New Testament or what is popular in our society.
The book is written well and at a level that will be accessible to both pastors and laypersons alike. The chapters are evenly spaced and represent complete thoughts in themselves. (If you’ve ever used a book for a weekly study at church, you’ll immediately understand why this is important!)
The best thing about this book is that Platt is not content just to preach being “Radical” and watching for a response. Much of the content stems from insights gained from his meeting other Christians around the world and his own struggles with being a pastor and follower of Christ in a culture that consistently exalts self rather than the Savior, even in the church world. At the same time, Platt is careful to allow these other Christians, not himself, to shine front and center in his examples.
I appreciate the fact that Platt’s work centers heavily on God’s global purpose of exalting his glory among the nations of the world. This is a book pastors should buy the members of their missions committees. He spends an entire chapter dealing with what he calls our tendency “towards either intellectual or practical universalism.” The former is the shared ideology of a tolerant and pluralistic society; the latter happens when professing believers “live their Christianity in silence, as if people around them in the world will indeed be okay in the end without Christ.” As that chapter’s title reminds us, “there is no Plan B.”
Those who have read Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper or Crazy Love by Francis Chan will notice a lot of similarities in much of what Platt says here. But there are enough differing examples and subject matter here that I would still recommend it to readers of those books. It is written a little more accessibly than Piper’s work and contains an evangelistic emphasis that Chan’s book lacks.
Radical by David Platt is a challenging book. He lays the Biblical foundations for living a devoted life to Jesus centered on seeing God’s glory spread to the nations. It is not a how-to book, but a why-to. And, it seems, exposing the Biblical “why-to” for us is more dangerous to our sacred cows than any “7 Easy Steps” book. I finished the book a few days ago and am still chewing over some of the implications I’ve seen for it in my own life. I highly recommend this book. Buy one for yourself and someone in your church.