Brad’s no. 3: Radical by David Platt

Radical is a powerful and convicting book that I recommend to all Christians lving in a wealthy nation.  Growing up in the church and attending Bible college, the teachings never shied away from the dangers of loving money.  Upon reflection, however, this was always done in the context of the wealth of our country.  What David Platt aims to do in Radical is shift the paradigm of our thinking to view our prosperity in light of the world’s plight and — most importantly — in light of our earthly purpose for eternity.  Guilt is not the intended response.  Instead, it is a call to love Christ with reckless abandon.  To follow the model of Jesus by loving the world at our own expense.  The greatest dangers to Christianity are never external: persecution, want, suffering, and the like are shown to galvanize Christ followers, separate out the chaff, and provide a platform on which God’s amazing grace and mercy can be lavished on his children.  Instead, Western Christianity celebrates our ease of life and thereby grows complacent with mediocrity.  Radical calls us to trust God and his promises, even when they seem dangerous or foolish by worldly standards.

The title of the book is not accurate from a Christian point of view.  The ideas that Platt brings to the table are merely the teachings of Scripture.  What is radical is the relief between the Biblical truths and the American Dream that has infiltrated Christian thinking.  The two cannot co-mingle just as the love of God and the love of mammon cannot.  The book is sometimes uncomfortable; Platt asks some tough questions.  However, it is apparent that he too has struggled or is struggling with answering the same questions.  Coming from a pastor who reached the religious apex — pastor of a mega-church at a young age — the power of this book is amplified.   Platt challenges –not without, but from within– the extra-biblical presuppositions that the American church holds as “self-evident”.  His book is ultimately the result and the reporting of a narrative: the story of how his church has changed due to this “radical” thinking.

Many might recoil at the book and claim that it is going too far or bordering on legalism.  I find such charges unfounded.  Granted, there were some difficult rhetorical questions, but they must be seen as just that: rehtoric.  They are a literary tool used to jostle our thinking free from its entrenchments and view the familiar Biblical truths in a fresh light.  He does not prescribe a rubric of specific actions to be taken in order to achieve holiness — that would be legalistic.  The closest he gets to such things is sharing stories of how some of his congregation have applied the Biblical call to being “radical”.  These are not measures we must strive for; rather, they are encouraging examples of what can be expected when we let go of the false security of comfort and wealth and embrace the promises of God in His mission for us on earth.

Ultimately, Platt is positing a simple truth: the greatest measure of what we truly cherish and believe is not found in what we say or think, but what we do.

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