The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: Radical by David Platt

Radical is a New York Times Bestseller and I believe was number one on Amazon for a while. It is written by Pastor David Platt, regarded as the youngest mega church pastor ever. The book is just over 200 pages long, and is a light, quick, yet very convicting read. In fact, it is probably the most convicting book (outside of the Bible of course) that I have ever read. 

The subtitle of the book is "Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream," and that is exactly what Platt does in this book. We have grown comfortable and complacent in our faith, living in luxury and spending our time and energies on stuff- we have become materialists. And not just secular America, but Christian, evangelical America. 

While we may all agree that we are neither thankful enough nor generous enough with what we have, Platt really shows us just how unthankful and ungrateful we really are, and he shows us that this is sinful and goes contrary to the gospel itself. Platt seems to be in favor of creating a sort of "salary cap," meaning that it is ideal to say that you will live off of x amount of annual money, and whatever you get above that you give to gospel-centered charities for people overseas and around the world to advance the gospel and feed the poor. He talks about how many live on less than a dollar or two a day, which is the same we spend on French fries. He emphasizes giving to where it is a sacrifice, giving until it hurts. He cites John Calvin as saying that he believed half of the church's money should be given for the poor and that no one is allowed to starve. He also suggests that God may be calling some people to literally give away everything they have, and he cites from Scripture Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler as evidence. 

Before Platt jumps into our need to share the gospel to all nations and be far more generous in our giving than we are, He lays out the gospel in the first couple of chapters and even devotes an entire chapter to the importance of relying on God's power, the Holy Spirit, rather than relying on our own ability to carry out His will. Platt's message on the gospel and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit alone is worth the $12 bucks I paid at Wal-Mart for this book. It is very encouraging to me to finally see a well-known pastor who is spreading the true, biblical gospel and has a passion for the unreached peoples of this world who also understands that giving to the poor is always to be tied together with and connected to the preaching of the gospel. And the fact that Radical is a NY Times bestseller to me confirms that Calvinism and the true gospel are on the rise here in America, and that we could be on the threshold of a revival! 

Platt also emphasizes, particularly early in the book, the need to be men and women of the Word of God. He stresses that we need to spend more time studying the Bible than studying theological or practical living type books, and that is very convicting for me. Platt detailed the passion for God that many in third world countries have where it is illegal to read the Bible and assemble for worship. Yet these brothers and sisters in the faith secretly assemble anyways, at the peril of their own lives. Most of them undoubtedly study the Word of God far more than I do, and I have no threat whatsoever to my life to read God's Word. This was particularly convicting as well. 

So far, all I have given is praise for Platt's Radical. He preaches that all Christians are to live a radical, sold out for Jesus lifestyle where we study the Word of God till our head hurts, preach the gospel until our voices crack, and give to the poor and needy until all of our spare cash is gone (he even emphasizes downgrading the size of your house and not buying the best cars to give more money to the poor and for the gospel). If Platt stopped here and left it at that, I would have zero complaints about the book. Unfortunately, Platt goes too far. 

You will find fairly early on in Radical that Platt believes that all Christians, as in each and every Christian, is not only to share the gospel, but to intentionally go overseas and share the gospel, and to not do this is a sin and disobeying the Great Commission. He ridicules those who just give money for missionaries and others who go overseas to propagate the gospel, saying that Jesus did not tell us to send our money but to send ourselves. Then, Platt rebukes those who claim that foreign missions are not for everyone but only for those whom God has called to such a field: 

"I wonder if we have in some ways intentionally and in other ways unknowingly erected lines of defense against the global purpose God has for our lives. It is not uncommon to hear Christians say, 'Well, not everyone is called to foreign missions,' or more specifically, 'I am not called to foreign missions.' When we say this, we are usually referring to foreign missions as an optional program in the church for a faithful few who apparently are called to that. In this mind-set, missions is a compartmentalized program of the church, and select folks are good at missions and passionate about missions. Meanwhile, the rest of us are willing to watch the missions slide shows when the missionaries come home, but in the end God has just not called most of us to do this missions thing. But where in the Bible is missions ever identified as an optional program in the church? We have just seen that we were all created by God, saved from our sins, and blessed by God to make his glory known in all the world. Indeed, Jesus himself has not merely called us to go to all nations; he has created us and commanded us to go to all nations. We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling, something that only a few people receive....The result is tragic. A majority of individuals supposedly saved from eternal damnation by the gospel are now sitting back and making excuses for not sharing the gospel with the rest of the world?"

While this may sound well and good and cause great conviction initially, I think this is a very dangerous, harmful, and unbiblical teaching by David Platt. Platt even seems to insinuate that a person who does not go overseas to share the gospel may not even be saved from their sins. While Jesus does tell all the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, Paul later on clearly tells us that not everyone is called to be an evangelist, teacher, preacher, and so on (1 Cor. 12, Rom 12, Eph. 4, 1 Peter 4). These verses also make clear that teaching, preaching, evangelism, are gifts that God gives to certain people, and not all people have each of these gifts, although all people do have at least one spiritual gift given to them from God. I have written extensively on this subject in a blog post entitled   We Are The Body, But We Are Not All The Same    that I think is worth looking at. Suffice to say for now, God has designed things so that we each have certain spiritual gifts, that we are all part of the body of Christ, but each individual person is not the ENTIRE body of Christ. In other words, I am not a foot, arm, shoulder, and torso, I am just one particular part of the body, wherever my particular spiritual gift is, and we are to develop and cultivate that spiritual gift and primarily use it to advance the kingdom of God and the gospel. For some this may be working at a homeless shelter, or giving away much of their money, or both. For others this may be in a teaching or evangelistic/missionary sort of role, or a combination of these things. But I do not believe that anyone is called to be a missionary, evangelist, preacher, teacher, deacon, leader, AND exhorter as our primary gifts from God.

Please do not misunderstand me- we are all called to preach and proclaim the gospel, we are all called to be generous to others with our money, and we are all called to stir up one another to good works. But to say that we are all commanded to be missionaries, going overseas to spread the gospel, simply isn’t biblical. Now I do agree that Platt is right that many who say they have a “passion for people in their country or nation” really don’t have a passion for people in their country or nation but are just using that as an excuse for not being a missionary or doing short-term missionary work. Is there anything wrong with going overseas and doing short-term missionary work? Of course not, it may very well be beneficial, but God has not commanded that each and every Christians MUST go overseas and preach the gospel and feed the poor or else they are sinning and are possibly not even Christians. Yet Platt seems to suggest this.

This is neither good theology nor is it very logical. For example, if everyone did go overseas and spend the majority of their time ministering to the poor, what about those who are not poor, what about those in our hometown and country? What about the science teachers, the atheists, the football players, the CEO’s, the politicians of the world? We are called to not forget the poor and the unreached, yet we are NOT called to exclusively minister to the poor and unreached either. Platt isn’t suggesting that we exclusively minister to the poor and unreached, but you can come away from this book feeling like if you do not become a missionary to some third world, Muslim cannibalistic nation that you really don’t love Jesus like you should.

Further, all of life isn’t about evangelism. I know that may be news to some people, but I believe we have a more fundamental job than evangelism, and that is living righteously. Yes, sharing the gospel is essential to living righteously, but I am talking about living righteously from an introspective position. “Make your calling and election sure,” “put off the sinful deeds of the flesh by the power of the Spirit,” and so on. If we are not living holy, righteous lives, then our hearts are not truly concerned about others getting saved and living holy, righteous lives! I have seen some young people who hardly care at all about living righteously claim to have a great passion for missions and evangelism and have gone overseas sharing what they called “the gospel” and have actually shared a false gospel that does far more harm than good. So we need to be sure we are looking to put off the sinful deeds of the flesh before we start sharing the gospel with others, otherwise we will be seen as the hypocrites that we actually are and do more harm than good. Finally, God is glorified through us living righteously, putting off sin, and putting on longsuffering, meekness, temperance, faith, gentleness, kindness, and the other fruits of the Spirit, as He is when we share the gospel to an unbeliever. Both are necessary, and to overemphasize one to the neglect of the other is sin. This means that are time will be divided up between growing in holiness, communing with believers and ministering to their and our needs, defending the faith, and evangelistic endeavors. Platt would agree with this I am sure, but his book paints an imbalanced picture making it seem like 90 percent of our time should be spent on evangelism or else something is wrong with our walk with Christ.

Overall though, this book is outstanding and I highly recommend it, keeping in mind the cautions I just listed. We do need more missionaries to foreign fields, to people who have never heard the gospel, and we do need more people who have the spiritual backbone to proclaim the true gospel right here and right now to our friends, family and neighbors locally. Radical will convict us and teach us how to do that.  


  1. I believe that Mr. Platt has succeeded in disturbing you, as he has me... I do not believe that Christ wants us to hide behind theology in order to justify our inaction to His global calling. We must be careful that we do not measure out for ourselves a justifiable action plan that we think will satisfy our Redeemer.

    Platt's main message is quite simple and biblical. Jesus wants all of us....everything that we are, to be in service and obedience to Him. That is our calling (universal). We cannot separate or compartmentalize it categorically. We cannot hold anything back and should be compelled by His love to serve Him. Anything less then this, should make us truly grieve.

  2. I just started reading the book Radical and was looking for reviews and came across your Blog..
    I understand what David Platt means ..Americans and American Christians are creatures of comfort..we have so much's what we know...but also I beleive in a Mighty Creator who works in each of us to do what he pleases...Every good and perfect gift comes from above.......a relationship with a God who loves us so much...It is a dying to self...

  3. I agree, we are to live our lives for God always and in all ways. I do fear that the tone of the book could lead one to thinking that, unless you go overseas and feed some people and share the gospel then you are sinning, and that is not necessarily true at all.