Radical by David Platt – A review and some thoughts

Radical - David Platt I just finished reading Radical by David Platt (I’m a little late to the bandwagon, I realize). It is an engaging and challenging read that I recommend to all American Christians.

The book’s tagline states the purpose of the book: “Taking back your faith from the American Dream”. His overall challenge is to consider the things that Jesus said it would mean to be His disciple, take them seriously, and do them, at any cost. He rightly asserts that it is so easy to be distracted by material possessions and physical comfort, and challenges us to reject all of these things.

Exalting our Inability

Another more subtle temptation he points out as especially problematic for Americans is to mix “The American Dream” with our Christianity.

…underlying [the American Dream] are a dangerous assumption that, if we are not cautious, we will unknowingly accept and a deadly goal that, if we are not careful, we will ultimately achieve.

The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability. The American dream prizes what people can accomplish when they believe in themselves and trust in themselves, and we are drawn toward such thinking.

(Radical, p.46)


We have convinced ourselves that if we can position our resources and organize our strategies, then in church as in every other sphere of life, we can accomplish anything we set our mind to.

(Radical, p.50)

He calls us to remember Christ’s words in John 15:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

(John 15:5)

One of Platt’s major points is that, apart from abiding with Christ through The Gospel, we will be able to accomplish nothing.

DeYoung’s Cautions

As with anyone reading any book, you must be careful not to mindlessly swallow whole everything that is said. We must think carefully and biblically, considering and weighing these words with caution. In this spirit, I recommend you also read Kevin DeYoung’s review and Platt’s response. DeYoung is calling for a more gospel-centric message, and is cautioning against “get radical, get crazy Christianity”.

It’s a good caution.

It is a good caution, not (I think) because Platt is in danger of being in this camp, but because this camp (which I am very familiar with) is going to grab this book with great excitement, and seek, in their own strength, to accomplish the lifestyle Platt extols.

I find this ironic given the strong call at the beginning of the book to recognizing our own inability, and to find our strength in Christ.

However, it is possible to miss this call, given the even stronger exhortation to live a radical lifestyle. I want to ask though, need there be a tension between these two things?

Work Hard, Restfully

Is it possible to live a radically sold-out, sacrificial life and stand firmly in Gospel rest? I sure hope so. It seems that every missionary Platt cites, and every theologian and preacher DeYoung would quote did.

However, amongst us hoi polloi, it is so easy to stray to the right or left. Pendulum swinging to either extreme, either working hard for a “radically christian” lifestyle in our own strength (this is not a radically christian life), or resting soundly in the peace the comes from the gospel, unbeholden to the Catholic-like working that modern “Arminian” “Evangelicals” are burning themselves out on (this is not a gospel centered life).

Hypothesis, based on observation, study, and (all too small amounts of) personal experience: A Gospel-centered life, as Platt is writing about, will cause radically sacrificial lifestyles that will not seem at all sacrificial to the one living it.

DeYoung’s point (if I may) is that in order to stir people on to this radically sacrificial life, we ought not exhort them solely to give away their possessions, travel overseas, go door-to-door in their neighborhood, etc, etc, but rather we ought to exhort them (and ourselves) to fix our eyes on Jesus, as revealed in Scriptures, and with the Spirit’s help, with The Gospel firmly in hand, to run, hard, fast, and long to Him. This is the Radical life. I think this is what Platt is calling us to.

Great book. Read it. You can even check out the first chapter for free.

(Disclaimer: I was honored to receive this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)





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