Radical by David Platt- Book Review

So why would an unpaid blogger, writing on a website that nobody reads, take the time to criticize a book so roundly praised by "church leaders" as David Platt's "Radical". Well the answer is simple. I'm a Baptist. You see, we Baptists do not just follow and trust what out pastor, deacons, or other "leaders" tell us. No, we Baptists, who believe in the priesthood of the believer, actually tend to show up to church with our Bible's in hand, and believe it or not, when our preacher says something we do not agree with, well, we tell him that we think he is wrong. Knowing that all Baptist churches are autonomous and believe different things, we may even pack up and join another congregation from time to time, even going as far as to congregate with Methodists.

While I certainly love my church family and have the utmost respect for our young pastor, I do however, wish he had not exposed us to Dr. Platt's Bible Study, at least not the videos. In fact, I considered my first exposure to Platt's teaching to have been a form of child abuse. While sitting there with my 8 year old, Dr. Platt kept screaming over and over again "Hate your mother! Hate your father! Hate your Mom and Dad!" Now I know what verse he was preaching about (Luke 14:26), and I understand the context of that passage. But my 8 year old son was obviously confused, mainly because it took what seemed like a good half hour for the pastor to get around to that context, which he still did not explain very well. If his purpose was to shock, he did much worse. He made me quite angry. That evening I had to sit down with my son and discuss what happened to him that morning. After that day, I decided that I was not going to sit through another minute of these videos without first reading the book. After all, maybe I was wrong about this guy.

Well I did indeed read his book and in fairness, I found many good things in it. I certainly respect the man for his mission work and his passion, and I very much enjoyed the inspirational stories of believers from all over the world.  I found a few things, however, to be quite disturbing and in my opinion, not Biblical. Among those were: his emphasis on works and the questioning of other's salvation, his rejection and criticism of the traditional church, and his attack on the American dream and "materialism".

I Chapter 2, Dr. Platt scoffs "The modern day Gospel says 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore follow these steps and you can be saved.'" Well yes, count me as one who believes that! Perhaps us modern day Gospel types have read Acts 16:31, or Acts 2:21, or maybe Romans 10:9. Dr. Platt even goes so far as to call the Sinners Prayer "superstitious". The whole second chapter is quite shocking actually, as he tells how he fears that many people who think they are saved, actually are not. So much for "blessed assurance". No, according to most of Chapter 2, if you are not in a constant state of fear that drives you to tireless works, then you are not saved. Strangely though, he ends this Chapter by writing, "You might think that this sounds as though we have to earn our way to Jesus through radical obedience...." I was listening to the audio version of the book when the author made this statement, and I screamed out "YES, that's exactly what it sounds like!" He finally ended the chapter by referencing Ephesians 2:8, which seemed strangely out of place. I compare that chapter to hearing a speaker go into a long racist diatribe and then end his speech with, "But I'm not a racist." Maybe that is a poor analogy, but my point is, that regardless of the way the chapter ended, the reader in no way leaves it thinking that the author believes that anything less than exceptionally good works and obedience is required to get to heaven.

While reading this book, I thought about one of those old Billy Graham revivals and how Dr. Platt would likely scoff at such an event, where hundreds of people walk down front and recite that Sinners Prayer that he calls "superstitious". When Reverend Graham invites people to accept Jesus into their hearts, would Dr. Platt ask, as he does in his book, "Does Billy Graham really think that Jesus needs their acceptance?" Dr. Platt infers that everyone, yes every single believer, is called required to do global mission work. I crossed out the word called, because he doesn't believe global missions to be a calling, but that all, every single believer, is commanded to go to foreign lands, based on the great commission. But if missionaries are not answering a calling, are pastors, is anybody? This is strange and unbiblical to me. I believe that if one is led by the Holy Spirit, it is quite possible that he will never leave the city he was born in. Dr. Platt has done many great things as a missionary, but are we second class Christians because God has not asked us to do the same things? This type of thinking is common for a "radical" personality. The radical quits eating pork, and suddenly everybody has to quit eating pork. The radical gives up secular music, and suddenly everybody has to give up secular music. Dr. Platt has obviously been called to go to foreign lands, so obviously everybody is.

The most offending part of this book though, is the author's lack of understanding of capitalism and free markets, and his rejection of the American idea. In one of his anecdotes, he speaks of a "nationalistic" congregation and he continually shames Americans for being so rich, while the world is so poor. At times I thought I was reading something written by Jim Wallis. I thought to myself, this is not a book written for the religious right, but the religious left. It is not only anti-American, but anti-capitalist. This is the language of liberation theology or social justice, and it is a guilt that this American dreamer, this pursuer of happiness, outright rejects. We should not be spurning the American dream, as Dr. Platt teaches, but rather we should be embracing it, and exporting it. If we live in a mansion that requires a full time landscaper, a full time housekeeper, and a full time cook, are we noble for "downsizing" and putting those three people out of work? Perhaps we should all stop buying new clothing and instead shop at thrift stores. Being one who has worked in retail for the last 15 years, would that be helping people like me and my family? Of all of the charities Rockefeller and Carnegie created in their later years, none of those societal contributions compare to what the mass production of steel or the refining of oil did for this country, and yes they did these great things solely for the purpose of making a profit. As the great Adam Smith once wrote "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." But if the jobs these men provided, and their contribution to an improved American standard of living, still do not impress you as much as their charity, ask yourself, would that charity have ever been possible if the money was not first made?

These "poor" countries Dr. Platt speaks of, are poor precisely because they are not free, because the people there despise the wealthy and support demagogic dictators that exploit their envy. And why does this destructive economic mindset exist in these countries? Well obviously the Marxists have influence in the third world, but the Marxists would have gotten nowhere if the foundation for their class warfare was not first laid by religion. Now obviously I am not opposed to charity and helping the poor. I am aware though, that based on history, the best standard of living for the poor is found in countries where markets are free and people are allowed, even encouraged to make as much as they can, and to spend that money they make. It is no coincidence that these countries are also the most generous. In South and Central America, where liberation theology and socialism rule the day, poverty is a way of life.

In conclusion, perhaps my criticism is too harsh. Maybe my perception is completely wrong. Often times, one person can see things totally different than another. This could very well apply in this situation, because after praising "Radical", my pastor steps up to the podium and preaches a wonderful sermon, that to me sounds nothing like David Platt. But I read what I read and thus had to comment on it. Why? Because I'm a Baptist.

Other reviews of "Radical" can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.