Over the years, I have acquired a great many books. I have stacks and shelves and even boxes of books, many of which I have never read. Beyond that are the many books I have acquired now in digital form and those that I have access to through libraries and other means. And the possibilities are ever increasing. In the “Christian Living” category alone, Amazon shows over 1,800 books released in the last 30 days! With the almost endless possibilities of new books to read, a book would need to be pretty significant to warrant being read more than once.
Radical by David Platt is one of those books. I have just finished reading it for the 3rd time in just over that many years and decided that it might be time to review and recommend it for any who have not yet taken the time to read it. Released in 2010, it is already, in my opinion, one of the most significant books that any Christian could read. The subtitle summarizes the general direction of the content quite well: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. At the close of the first chapter, the author himself provides us with a simple overview of the purpose of this book.
“In the pages to come, we will together explore the biblical gospel alongside our cultural assumptions with an aim toward embracing Jesus for who He really is, not for who we have created Him to be. We will look at the core truth of a God-centered gospel and see how we have manipulated it into a human-centered message. We will see a purpose for our lives that transcends the country and culture we live in… We will discover that our meaning is found in community and our life is found in giving ourselves for the sake of others… and in the end we will determine not to waste our lives on anything but uncompromising, unconditional abandonment to a gracious, loving savior who invites us to take radical risk and promises us radical reward.”
For me, that paragraph was enough to convince me that I had to finish reading this book and relieve any concerns I might have had about his intent. He is clearly not espousing some sort of social gospel that ignores man’s need for salvation. Instead, this book serves as a challenge to take all of Jesus’ words seriously, commit to obey them and then consider what the implications would be if we did so.
It is not my intention with this review to provide so much detail that you do not need to read the book yourself. Rather, it is my desire to provide a few highlights that give you a desire to read it. With this in mind, let me offer some of my own observations that might prove helpful.
- Radical proposes that the biblical gospel, when received, will produce in us a heart that abandons everything to follow Christ. The book is intentionally critical of a Christianity that embraces the American dream, lives for self and has little or no regard for the poor and suffering of the world.
- Radical clearly and passionately presents the gospel of grace apart from works (p39). Though Dr. Platt is quite adamant that Christians should be sacrificing to meet needs all over the world, he is also quite clear that doing this can never save.
- The primary message of Radical is total abandonment of self and total devotion to Christ for the sake of the gospel. Meeting the needs of the poor and suffering are seen as a necessary part of taking the gospel to them and not as a replacement for giving them the gospel.
- Radical challenges the church to embrace our role in God’s plan as the means for taking the gospel to the nations.
My conclusion is that everyone should read this book. However, as with just about any book, there is risk that one might miss the point or draw a wrong conclusion. In regard to that risk, I trust that my above observations will prove helpful. In addition, I would like to say that after reading the book several times, I am convinced that the author is not trying to spell out for each reader a specific way that he must sacrifice or a specific lifestyle he must live. Rather, I believe that his intent is to challenge each of us to ask questions that we never have before about how we use the blessings God has given us. I think he wants every Christian to ask what they can sacrifice and how they can give of themselves for the sake of the gospel, and that is certainly a message that I wholeheartedly agree with. Whether or not you ever read the book, I challenge you to evaluate the impact the gospel has had on your lifestyle and consider what you can sacrifice for the sake of Christ.