David Platt is a pastor of a large church in Alabama and has recently published Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream (and the companion booklet – The Radical Question: What is Jesus Worth to You?). It was the subtitle (and not the rather cliché title) that piqued my interest, as I appreciate the conversation in the church that is questioning the relationship between what the gospel might actually look like versus what it tends to look like in America (and much of the West).
Throughout the book (and the booklet), Platt lays out an understanding of the gospel that has a true care and concern for the world – in regards to physical needs as well as spiritual needs (though he ultimately spends most of his time on the latter). He finds this global gospel lacking in much of what he sees in American Christianity. He pokes fun at the standard Americanized Jesus:
A nice, middle class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live our Christian spin on the American dream. (13)
Platt does not simply desire to lay out a more holistic gospel; instead, the book intends to push, encourage, and empower readers to start living out this gospel. Platt includes stories from his congregation exemplifying how real, live Americans are actually doing this despite how crazy and “radical” it might seem to the surrounding culture. I appreciated the applicability and practicality of the book as well as the challenge it offers (it is not intended to leave you feeling good about yourself!).
I had a few issues with some of the book’s theology (which I expected, not being a Southern Baptist and/or Acts 29 type); I would have preferred fewer war metaphors and a broader explanation of what happened on the cross (I do not completely dismiss the need to importance of the wrath of God in atonement theory, but think that expanding and explaining the cross in a multitude of ways can bolster the argument and be more effective in current culture). The companion booklet, The Radical Question, might have more effective if it included discussion questions along with the heart of Platt’s message, but it is a nice summary of the larger book.
While I would hesitate to highly recommend Radical for the reasons listed in the previous paragraph, it was a good and quick read with a challenging message to readers. It raised good questions in my mind and hope it will do the same for other readers.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.