Radical represents David Platt’s concept of discipleship and he explains it best by derogating what he considers its biggest obstacle, the American Dream. However, even though he holds significant degrees and is clearly articulate, the book is thin on substance, sketchy on interpretation and heavily emotive.
If you follow his lead you might find yourself joining the prophets as they “wander in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”
One woman, in response to David’s teaching, donated a wedding ring to help rebuild homes in an earthquake-ravaged area of Indonesia. On the surface it sounds noble…but!?
To drive his point Platt magnifies the Rich Young Ruler as the model for New Testament Christians – sell all, give everything away. Not exactly a mainstream concept. It would be easier to identify with the spirit of the book if his abandon-everything approach to missions was at least accompanied with a little more detail and maybe a long-term view but it just isn’t there.
It also doesn’t help that his teachings, in principle, aren’t original and he offers no fresh angles to consider. Even the misinterpretations (Rich Young Ruler) sound familiar and, sadly, the whole thing lacks creativity. The word “plethora” – hackneyed to say the least – was used twice!
The main points of the book – personal sacrifice and compassion for the less privileged – are accepted by all but covered only in broad strokes and his arguments are bolstered mostly by examples from the most abused and least provisioned Christian communities in the world.
It isn’t difficult to see how this combination of ideas can produce a lot of emotional turbulence.
In addition to amplifying the “sell-all—give-it-away” mindset, the American Dream is not just reinterpreted according to Scripture or realigned with biblical purposes but attacked as heresy, particularly the part that encourages each person…
“To attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable.”
Never mind the facts:
- God created our innate abilities
- Developing those abilities glorifies God’s name (not to mention builds character)
- And once developed they become the tools of our usefulness to God
He leads us to think that ability is a barrier to serving God when he says we are in danger of assuming “our greatest asset is our own ability.”
There is a veneer of truth to that remark but unqualified it seems to imply that human ability is the antithesis to God’s power. To him, the two are apparently mutually exclusive.
Platt’s ideas, therefore, suggest that spirituality is directly proportional to:
- How little you develop personally
- How little you have materially and
- How much opposition your faith must overcome.
But he contradicts himself. Some of his greatest examples of sacrifice (Daniel, an engineering graduate with honors; Steve, an accountant and Jeff, a very successful businessman) are highly accomplished individuals. Their ability to sacrifice is predicated on their achievements and material resources. If Mr. Platt is not opposed to human accomplishment, it would have been helpful had he said so.
Fortunately, where the Rich Young Ruler is concerned, he backs off a little in the latter part of the book. Not every person must sell all and give to the poor but only those who “may” be called to do so. Unfortunately, he doesn’t exactly tell us how to differentiate between the “sell all” category and everyone else. No doubt many in his church – a very large one – feel this calling incumbent.
“Extreme” might be a better title than Radical. He takes widely accepted ideas and seems to distort them to make his point.
- “Spiritually dead” sounds more like “stupid.” He refers to most people as deluded, disillusioned and in danger of spiritual deception. I have never thought of people generally as being quite that dull.
- “Self denial” sounds more like “annihilation.” His idea of dying to self is more like wasting self. Kind of like the man who buried his talents rather than increase them.
- “Bible study” is a never ending marathon, starting at 6 PM and going till after midnight.
- At one point he even says, “in some sense, God also hates sinners.”
In places, the book is more John-McArthur-ish than Jesus-like.
On the surface, Mr. Platt’s thoughts aren’t wrong and no reasonable Christian could disagree but in spite of the traditional veneer some of his ideas are a bit tangential.
I don’t doubt Mr. Platt’s sincerity and he is on the right track but hopefully he will temper his enthusiasm so it becomes a bit more sustainable over the long haul. A slow burn is more efficient than instantaneous combustion.
You may or may not agree with the reviewers but there is a common thread of concerns expressed in all these reviews.
- Spencer Robinson – “If I had a feather for every time Platt said ‘Radical,’ I’ld have a chicken.”
- Christine Pack – “. . . Seems to be a subtle form of ‘missions pietism.'”
- Gary Gilley – “. . . A bundle of contradictions.”
- Kevin Deyoung – “. . . Not everything here is helpful.”
Get the book inexpensively here.