Book Review: Radical, Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream

RADICAL: TAKING BACK YOUR FAITH FROM THE AMERICAN DREAM by David Platt, published by Multnomah Books, 2010, 230 pages, paperback.

Here is a book that has caused quite a stir in evangelical circles. It is written by a young pastor of a 4,000 member megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama who has had his life radically affected by what he has experienced on some short-term mission trips to very unglamorous locations around the globe. His missions experience includes trips to the Sudan, China and India. As a result of his missions experience he has rethought his approach to the church and the Christian life. This book is his call to believers to take their commitment to their Lord to a new level.

One strength of the book is that the author David Platt in an incurable God-lover. This truth oozes through the pages and is very encouraging to the heart of a God-loving reader. He also emphasizes the concern that we not get trapped into a life of the pursuit of comfort and ease. This is a valid concern for us believers who live in America. The warning in Philippians 2:12-13 to work out our salvation with fear and trembling would seem to be referring to such a concern that David was expressing, which is that we not get overtaken by our culture. Also the emphasis on evangelism is always good in that it sensitizes us to our responsibility to take the good news to a dying world. Finally, his concern that we increase our awareness that we are part of a global plan of salvation is a good reminder. It is easy to become “provincial” in our outlook and not look broader than our own immediate situation. These are the positive things that I took from this book and my walk with the Lord is better for it.

Now I turn to the dark side. What are my concerns regarding David’s work. Unfortunately, they are multiple. My first problem is his use of scripture. He does seem to take verses out of context. This really concerns me since it gives the impression that he is “using” scripture to make his points rather than carefully handling the word of God to see what God would have us believe and do. In the first part of the book this can be seen in his use of Luke 9 and Matthew 10. David also makes many statements that though they sound good they are a bit off. He seems to be a man of passion but not one that gives careful thought to what he says. He also uses guilt to motivate his readers. What is strange is that after he makes guilt motivating statements he will then seek to qualify what he said. This is a good thing but then he goes on to use more guilt motivating statements. His emphasis on evangelism does seem to come from his own ministry emphasis.  But the problem as I see it is that each believer does not necessarily have the same ministry emphasis. Some believers may emphasize a ministry of helps, some teaching, some mercy and some evangelism. One believer’s ministry emphasis is not necessarily another’s and each ministry emphasis is equally valid and important.

In closing, David Platt’s work is all about encouraging the believer to push the envelope in what it means to live for Jesus Christ. That is a praiseworthy aim but the book contained too many problems for me to recommend it as the book to read on that subject. I would recommend the book by John Piper “Don’t Waste Your Life” as a far better book on the same basic subject. David Platt is one of the good guys but good guys do not always write good books.

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