Book Review: “Radical” by David Platt

If the chapter titles of David Platt’s Radical were written to describe the contents of said chapters, they might read as follows:
Chapter 1: A challenge to comfortable Christianity
Chapter 2: A radical gospel which requires a radical response
Chapter 3: The American way of self-reliance vs. God’s way of Christ dependence
Chapter 4: God’s purposes in the world aren’t just for YOU, they’re for the WHOLE WORLD
Chapter 5: God’s goal is reproducing disciples, not isolating followers
Chapter 6: Following Christ means selling all we have and giving to the poor
Chapter 7: If we don’t share the gospel with the world, the world is damned.
Chapter 8: As radical followers of Christ, we have a guarantee of risk and a guarantee of reward
Chapter 9: A challenge for believers to become radicals by 1) praying for the entire world, 2) reading through the entire Word, 3) sacrificing money for a specific purpose, 4) spending at least one week in another context, and 5) committing their lives to a multiplying community

All in all, it’s a decent book. It is effective at promoting its main point, that is, to issue a wake up call to comfortable American Christians. It’s highly readable, with lots of stories to make the page-turning even easier.

On the down side, Radical has the potential of de-emphasizing the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Platt’s emphasis on the radical response of a true believer through actions such as selling possessions and giving to the poor, taking the gospel to the whole world, and taking risks for the sake of Christ may cause some readers to miss that this is only the RESPONSE to the FREE gift of God in Christ Jesus. One is not saved BECAUSE one sells all of his possessions—he sells all his possessions BECAUSE he has been saved freely.

Furthermore, Platt’s emphasis on “exciting” radicality through social justice activism may cause believers to undervalue and therefore ignore the less-exciting but no less radical actions that Christ calls His followers to. Christ has not only called his followers to give to the poor. He has also called them to live lives of radical forgiveness, of radical dependence, of radical trust. These things are just as radical as the showy actions of social justice—perhaps even more radical because they’re silent, they’re unlikely to result in the world’s (or the church’s) acclaim. They’re what Kevin DeYoung might call “faithful plodding.”

Overall, Platt’s Radical is a good book, but believers should be careful to not consider it the be-all, end-all of the radical Christian life. Read this book. Let it issue a challenge to your comfortable Christianity. But then turn your eyes towards the word of God and see what radical acts God might be calling you to through the pages of Scripture.

Rating: 3 stars
Category:Christian Living
Synopsis:Platt issues a challenge to comfortable Christianity–and the illusion that the Christian life equals the American dream.
Recommendation: Worth reading, but ultimately, take your view of what “radical” Christianity looks like from the pages of Scripture rather than simply taking Platt’s angle on it.

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: “Radical” by David Platt”

  1. Thank you! I very much appreciate this review. I feel that the only thing to be RADICAL about is Jesus, the Cross, Him Crucified and resurrected! The only way to the Father is through Him (Jesus) and that my salvation is by faith alone through His grace. I don’t know what could be in any book that is more RADICAL that the Word of God! I had this on my list but I think I will skip it.

  2. I don’t think you’re being fair. ;-)

    I’m not sure how much of a firestorm to stir up, so maybe I should stop typing now!

    This is the kind of thing I would love to sit down with you and discuss over a cup of hot tea. There’s SO MUCH to say, and time eludes me. Someday I’ll write a post about this. :)

  3. I have to agree with Davene. I just finished reading the book myself and I have to disagree with your assessment as well. Starting with your downsides:
    1. I can’t imagine anyone would read this book and come away thinking that Platt is saying or believes himself that salvation comes from anything but the free grace of God. There were several times in the book where he made sure to point to God’s free gift in the midst of his championing the cause of “social justice.” Which leads me to my second point: I think it is unfair to label what Platt is talking about as simply “social justice.” Everything Platt encourages his readers to do, he encourages them to do for the sole purpose of seeing the nations reached with the gospel. He doesn’t encourage people to sell their possessions because Jesus didn’t have any possessions, he encourages people to sell their possessions because there are people out there who might be able to be reached with the money you can save by selling the things that you don’t need. The gospel is the core of his message is what I took from his book, and isn’t at all lost in his message of “radicalism.”
    2. I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with his not emphasizing the other radical things about Jesus’ life and message like forgiveness, grace, etc. (I think that living the way he proposes does demonstrate the radical dependence and trust that Jesus asks us to demonstrates) You can throw a rock in a Christian bookstore and knock over half a dozen books that talk about those things. His book is challenging the modern American church’s acceptance of the American dream as part of normal Christian life. At no point does he say or imply that if you do exactly what he says, you will be living the complete Christian life. He is simply writing about one part of the Christian life and some of the harder things that Jesus said that aren’t really spoken about much.
    Anyway, I’m writing a book of my own here, and I apologize, but I thought it was an excellent book that I recommend to everyone I know. I only pray that my generation can catch Platt’s vision and live lives of sacrifice, living differently than our society says is normal, not for the sake of showing off how we deny ourselves, but for the sake of the movement of the gospel around the globe.

    Thanks for making me think critically about the book though Bekah. Love the blog!

    • Thanks, Jeremy, for taking the time to write a response.

      I think my review may be unwittingly giving a wrong impression of my impressions of the book. I actually liked Radical quite a bit. I felt it was a well-written, easily readable book with a valuable message to American Christians. However, I’ve been seeing so many unqualified good reviews for it that I wanted to focus on the couple of reservations that I DID have about the book.

      I don’t in any way think that Platt would say that salvation is through works–but I do think that readers who do not have a strong understanding of the gospel of grace could miss that in this book. I agree with you that Platt certainly does not encourage social justice for social justice’s sake alone–his emphasis is denying oneself so that others might come to know and walk in relationship with God.

      Without writing a second (or third) book, I basically agree with everything you’ve said. Platt does an admirable job in this book, and I really have very little to quibble with what he’s actually said. My reservations were less with what he’s written and more with how I fear some readers may respond to what he’s written. Based on my experience in the church world, I feel like a common response to this sort of book is for believers to either feel condemnation because they haven’t sold everything that they own to follow Christ or to become discontent with the radical (but less showy) actions that God has called them to (caring for aging parents in their home, loving coworkers who are irritating and staying in a job they don’t like, etc.) Again, I don’t think that’s in any way what Platt intends to communicate–but I fear that some readers might respond in that way–and I wanted to caution against that.

      A few of the reviews I read prior to reading this book include Lisa’s (of Lisa Notes), Sandra’s, and another Lisa’s (this time of Lisa Writes/5 Minutes 4 Books). Feel free to check them out–you’ll probably like their reviews a bit more than mine!


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