Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review: Radical by David Platt

Radical is a difficult book to read. David Platt sets out in this book to turn the hearts of American's from their selfish pursuits to the needs of the hurting and lost people groups around the world. Along the way he makes a host of excellent points, but they are overshadowed by his selective use of scripture and poor logic.

I was tracking with the author until about Chapter 4. Up to that point I thought he was doing a good job of bringing me along side of him, taking me step by step to the point where his heart is today. I applaud him for that. The tone was not preachy and the prose were engaging. But it's his response to the question, "What about the needs here?" that lost me (pages 75 and following).

Here he makes the point, with exceedingly poor logic, that if we only have a heart for the United States (and seek to serve the people in our own back yard and within our borders) then we only share 5% of God's heart. God has a heart for the entire world. (I'll agree with that. John 3:16 makes that plainly clear.) But Platt's explanation for why we can't stop in the United States is terribly weak.

He goes on to give examples from members of his congregation ("faith family") who are embracing "a greater dream." Each of them is doing consistent, gospel-centered service in their communities, oh and they spend a week or two a year in another country serving. The impression he gives is that each of them have a heart for a people group overseas, but isn't that the same as having a heart for people in the poor neighborhoods of your hometown? Are we to give more importance to the people of Sri Lanka simply because they live in another country? Don't the gang bangers of the United States need Jesus as much as the orphans of Nigeria? Are the single mom's of our communities in less need of a savior than the single mom's of third world countries?

Platt bangs the drum of "all nations" (Matthew 28:19), but never mentions Acts 1:8 where Jesus tells his disciples they will share the good news beginning in Jerusalem and spreading out from there.

Some positives 
He does make some good points about discipleship in Chapter 5. And the closing chapters have some practical thoughts on how we can turn our hearts towards the needs of others. When is challenging people to read their bibles, prayer for others and make sacrifices for greater needs ever a bad thing? 

Some other negatives 
Platt takes a few pot shots in this book. He calls out video venue churches as being shallow. And takes an indirect jab at Joel Osteen (while it's well deserved it didn't seem necessary). So in this respect I think he painted with too broad a brush at times.

His thoughts seemed rather scattered to me. One chapter didn't necessarily follow another. Again, I think he offered some good points in the book, but they were too varied to try to follow his line of thinking from one chapter to the next.

One annoying aspect was how scripture was quoted throughout the book. Most often references to scripture were directed to footnotes which were tucked away at the back of the book. I quickly lost interest in flipping to the back to see which passages he was alluding to.

Closing thoughts
In the end I feel like Platt wrote this book before he had given time for all of his thoughts to come together. It seems like he's simply struggling to minister to an affluent congregation while maintaining a proper perspective on the needs of others around the world. It sounds like some things are taking root with his congregation, but I don't know that it necessarily translates to a larger audience just yet. 

To me, Radical is simply over-hyped.
Father Fan Man Review Disclosure: The featured product for this review was provided to me, at no cost, by WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the sole purpose of product testing. I do not accept monetary compensation for reviewing or writing about products. All opinions expressed are my own.

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