The book was a light read; and a tough read. It was short, yet seemed to take longer. I agreed with almost all of it, yet often grew frustrated. Its author reinforced truth, yet proved very challenging — and often not for the reasons one might assume.

After hearing about Radical by David Platt for so long, I was finally able to read it myself.

And I meant every word of the seeming paradoxical reactions I described above.

First, what did Platt get right? Much in every way! Radical may not be the first to call Christians to abandon materialistic assumptions (the “American dream,” as Platt references it), but it’s one of the few I’ve read that starts off grounding that call not in moralistic motives, but the Gospel.

Megachurch methods, program-driven pragmatism, topical sermons about how to Live Better, and pray-this-prayer-and-be-safe ideas are popular, but weaken the Gospel, Platt often repeats.

If we have been saved by this amazing God from our just fate under His wrath, Platt asks, why are we not responding out of gratitude to Him? Why do many Christians take God’s blessings as a means to their own end, substituting comfort for God’s call on all believers to take His Gospel into the world to others? And why, Platt asks, do many Christians who claim not to believe all people will be saved (universalism), in practice act as if it’s not necessary to preach the Gospel?

Platt bases his calls to action in solid Scriptural ground: Christian hedonism, not just (as others might say) We Must Build a Better World, or It’s the Right Thing. Those who give all they have to Jesus aren’t just doing their duty. They do so for the sake of Him as their reward:

You know that in the end you are not really giving away anything at all. Instead you are gaining. […] So with joy—with joy!—you sell it all, you abandon it all. Why? Because you have found something worth losing everything else for. [… Jesus] is something—someone—worth losing everything for. And if we walk away from the Jesus of the gospel, we walk away from eternal riches. (page 18)

That’s what I most appreciated about Radical: Platt’s Gospel basis. In many ways, yes, the rest was challenging to my own sin-shrapnel of practical universalism, or lack of care for the poor and those who haven’t heard the Gospel. Yet it was challenging in many other ways — not for anything Platt said, but for some truths and Biblical balance he could have also easily included.

Ministry myopia?

I don’t believe any Radical oversights are intentional. Instead, I wonder if any ministry myopia has accidentally come into play. That mindset happens quite often; I frequently fight it myself.

Here is what I mean. What if I wrote my own book about how (currently this is a favorite topic for me) many Christians have not applied a Biblical worldview to their normal day-to-day jobs? My theme: too many believers have this notion that some jobs are “sacred,” such as church work, and other jobs are “secular,” not worth as much commitment, and not as spiritual.

So in this hypothetical book, I strive very hard to be Biblical. While questioning the state of Christians’ thinking about work, I disclaim many times about how I don’t want to be legalistic. Going through passages such as Proverbs, Colossians 3, and 1 Thessalonians 4:11, I’m very careful to explain that God knows we can’t always do our absolute best at our jobs, doing everything as if for God and not for men. I also make it clear: some Christians truly are called to do overtly “spiritual” jobs, like Going into The Ministry, and all believers should support them.

But what if in this book, almost all the verses and anecdotes I cited were about Christians in secular jobs? What if, right up until the last, I only emphasized scenarios about people who were blessed by forsaking sacred/secular mindsets, and now living for God in their normal jobs?

Very often I felt that was what Platt has done, but only in reverse. Again I found nothing un-Biblical in his book. But he left unsaid too much that was Biblical.

Sure, it’s very hard to include every nuance, every disclaimer, every related truth, in any book or sermon about a particular subject. Platt did well including many related truths with his points to live radically for Jesus in all areas. I don’t question his commitment, his heart, or his effort. However, I do wonder whether any encouragements to be radical and dismiss American-dream false teachings should also include truths from four essential and related Biblical doctrines.

Different gifts, same Spirit

In his finale, Platt recommends five very simple options to living radically. They include praying for the whole world, read the entire Bible in one year, sacrifice money for a specific purpose and committing to a local church. It’s the fourth item that bugs me, again not so much because of what Platt says but what he doesn’t say, and what he does imply: that truly radical Christians will be able to do some kind of missionary work in another nation, or at least an inner city area.

Jesus called His disciples, and by proxy all Christians, to find, teach and disciple new believers in the Gospel (Matt. 28). Too many Christians ignore or dismiss His call. Yet I wonder if Platt might be subtly, similarly overlooking the fact that Christians obey this call in different ways.

[W]e know that each of us has different gifts, different skills, different passions, and different callings from God,” Platt does recognize (page 73). “God has gifted you and me in different ways.” Yet almost all of Radical, and in all but a few anecdotes, it seems Platt focuses narrowly on certain gifts: missionary work, caring for the poor, ascetic living, or personal discipleship.

No one should object to reminders of neglected foreign mission fields, or reiterating the Gospel call. But for many readers who already struggle with basic needs, who aren’t in Platt’s main audience of consumer-driven Christians, and who want to support a local church, what does the call to radical faith look like? One answer: very often it looks like being faithful in small ways, living a quiet life and working with one’s hands (1 Thess. 4:11). Very often Christians who have not devoted more time to Ministry are already being radical in their homes, churches and jobs.

Should we not encourage those who are already living “radically” in ways unique to their lives? My mother-in-law is a single mom, with two daughters still at home, and is restricted to being a nontraditional student and trying to earn a master’s degree before their life insurance runs out, and working. My own mom forsook her nursing career to raise and homeschool not only myself, but my five younger siblings; meanwhile, my father works to support his family in an intense full-time job, leaving little chance for the kinds of missionary work that get displayed in church slideshows. For any of them, trying to meet another kind of “radical” lifestyle would be sinful.

Being radical can mean different things for different Christians. It often takes on small forms. Author Kevin DeYoung calls this being a “plodding visionary.” It is not Big. But it is faithfulness.

I’m sure Platt knows this already. But shouldn’t such vital truths get more air time in Radical?

Platt does say he offers more questions than answers, and I’m certainly not looking for anyone to give an exact formula for every situation! Yet a few more disclaimers about missionary work, or praise for those living radically, outside the missionary spotlights, would have been helpful.

Varying Christian vocations

Christians who are faithful dispensing coffee behind a Starbuck’s counter can be just as radical for Christ’s sake. Christians who work in business, raise their families and even own nice houses — even those who may have unwittingly compromised with a consumerism-driven life — can devote those tasks to the glory of God. Factory workers, stay-at-home moms, scholars, authors and pastors can live radically, even if they have never helped build an orphanage in Costa Rica.

I really do wish I could write that hypothetical book I mentioned earlier. Maybe someone will. For if compromising with consumerism is one blight on the church, so is a failure to see all of life — including Official Ministry such as caring for the poor and evangelizing in a foreign land — as ministry for God’s sake. This, by the way, this is one surefire way to support missionaries.

Maybe a Radical sequel or two could address such things: Radical At Home, Radical At Church, Radical In the Workplace, etc. Yes, that would be much too market-driven; I suggest that only tongue-in-cheek. Yet Platt’s book almost exclusively emphasizes only Radical in Overt Ministry.

Avoiding hints of do-ism

It’s not that I’m opposed to direct explanations of what we’re supposed to do with the Gospel, not that we have it. Yet Platt seemed to explain the basis for the Christian’s radical good works, the Gospel and the rewards Christ offers, in only about 20 percent of Radical. The rest seemed to be exhortations of what to do, with only several callbacks to an assumed foundation. Though I haven’t tabulated total phrases or words, it might be a ratio of about 80 – 20, do versus done.

Even for those Christians who fit most directly into Platt’s audience — the wealthy suburbanites who have long since neglected the Gospel call in practice, even if not in belief — would it not be better to reverse the ratio? Like Scripture itself, should we focus more on done rather than do?

Such wrong views about possessions, and failures to follow Christ’s Great Commission, are not overthrown only by calls to radical living. They are overthrown by focus on the radical Gospel, God’s truly astounding nature and plan of redeemed His people, not just for their good and happiness but for His own glory. Shouldn’t that be Christians’ main points for those who still live a consumerism-driven life? Instead, Platt seemed to focus more on the fruits, and assuming the case had been made for the roots. Those still trapped in moralism won’t see much difference.

Living in light of New Earth

Finally, I run the risk of committing a similar “ministry myopia” error when I fault Platt, even slightly, for echoing a false dichotomy of living for Heaven versus living for this physical world.

Though you and I live in the United States of America now, we must fix our attention on “a better country—a heavenly one.” […] If your life or my life is going to count on earth, we must start by concentrating on heaven. (page 179)

Many Christians may not see a problem here, or even have a problem here. I can only humbly suggest that saying such things could reinforce another myth in Christendom: a myth that spiritual things, jobs and actions — such as preaching the Gospel overtly — matter more to God than material things, such as a Christian’s vocations, creations or talents.

So what I would have really appreciated here is a reminder that God plans to bring Heaven down to Earth (Rev. 21), creating a New Heavens and New Earth. With that in mind, Christians’ goals ought not be just to live for heaven and store up spiritual blessings. How we manage our time, work and talents glorifies God. And even in material, non-spiritual-sounding ways, we glorify Him and live in light of the very real, physical After-world He will create.

Conclusion

In summary, ultimately I recommend Radical, though with some uncertainty. For those already saturated in Gospel-based worldviews and are living in radical ways, it’s a great reminder — yet don’t they already know this in theory? And for more-compromising Christians who need to hear Jesus’ call to radical living, isn’t it better to teach them more about what He has done?

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