Thursday, June 23, 2011

More “Radical” Isn’t More Radical—A Review of David Platt’s Radical Together

I read David Platt’s book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, and liked it well enough to put it on my “top recommendations” list for 2010.  While I had a slight concern or two with secondary matters, the book’s heart and soul were exactly what the church in America needed to hear.  I even reread it this week in preparation for reading Platt’s sequel, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God.  The second book is good, but like many sequels shines most in its reflections on the first book, and has little that substantively advances the material of the original.

In Radical Together, Platt seeks to take the principles and ideas articulated in Radical and create an environment for applying them together within the context of the local church.  In the first book, the last step of Platt’s “radical challenge” had been to be committed passionately to a faith family, and this book argues that the life of radical obedience, while an individual decision, is not carried out alone. 
Platt presents six statements that he believes the church must grasp to guard and nurture a community of radical faithfulness to Christ.  Each statement is the core of one of the six chapters of the body of the book.
  1. One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the church.
  2. The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work.
  3.  The Word does the work.
  4. Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people.
  5. We are living—and longing—for the end of the world.
  6. We are selfless followers of a self-centered God.

In these six statements I hear echoes of numerous very good books that I have read over the last ten years, from Piper (in statement six especially) to Rainer and Geiger (in statement one) and a host of others.  That is not to say that they are bad ideas, but they are not new—and to his credit, Platt is not saying they are new.

In brief, Platt argues that the church is often more committed to what it does already than to what it should do, and pleads with believers to stop justifying actions or programs by deciding there is nothing wrong with it—there are many things that are not wrong that nevertheless cannot be a priority.  He then calls upon us to realize both the life-changing and life-directing power of the gospel, rightly calling for a gospel life that bears the fruit that the root of grace assures us will come.  He emphasizes the importance of God’s message over any of our ideas, strategies, and plans, and calls upon us to trust what the Bible says.  He removes any thought that human ability or giftedness can produce the spiritual results God desires.  He speaks pointedly to living for the next world while in this one.  And the glory of God is shown to be the right focus not only of us, but of God, for our good.

I agreed with each of Platt’s assertions, and in many ways they were a helpful “fleshing out” of Platt’s theological underpinnings in ways that help you understand where he comes from in the first book.  I suppose no one book can capture all that any author wants to say, but I felt that this would have been better as a final chapter or section of Radical.   The first book needed more emphasis on the corporate element of living the life Jesus calls us to.  If this book were going to do justice to that subject, it may well have needed to be longer than it 120 pages of content.   Instead, we have a second book, offered at a fairly high retail price, that unfortunately proves to be less challenging, less creative, and—ultimately—just less than the first book.

To one and all, I say, “read Radical.”  Then, to church leaders who want to see how Platt begins to apply the corporate dimension of that book, I say, “Pick up Radical Together and see.”  You’ll be helped, but not as much as you were challenged by the first volume.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  I thank them for the opportunity.You can read this and other reviews at their website.  Here is the link for this review: