Reviews

Radical

by David Platt

May 25, 2010

[Editor's Note: In the process of reviewing Radical, Kevin DeYoung reached out to the author David Platt. Platt has written a response, which we are happy to include below DeYoung's review.]

David Platt. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Multnomah 2010. 240 pages.

Getting to the Root of Radical: A Review and Response

I really like David Platt. We’ve spoken at the same conferences a couple times and run in some overlapping circles. My personal interactions with him have always been encouraging. David, the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills (a four-thousand member congregation in Birmingham, Alabama), is humble, down to earth, funny, a devoted student of the Scriptures, and a gifted preacher.

And if you’ve heard him speak, you may have noticed that he is kind of passionate.

I’m glad David is one of the good guys because I expect the Lord will give him an increasingly large platform in the years ahead in his city, the Southern Baptist Convention, the broader evangelical world, and the global church that he loves so deeply.

His first book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (which I read first and later decided to review when TGC Reviews asked me to) is not for the faint of heart. Radical is an all-out assault on cheap grace, easy-believism, consumer Christianity. Writing as a megachurch pastor leading a congregation in a leafy suburb of Birmingham, David admits this is hard to reconcile with his present situation “with the fact that my greatest example in ministry [Jesus Christ] was known for turning away thousands of people” (2). David hits hard, but never claims to have it all figured out.

David’s honesty and wide range of experiences (from teaching houses churches in China to fleeing Hurricane Katrina) make him an accessible and engaging author. Combining real-life examples from his congregation, his travels abroad, and his own personal wrestling, David has written a provocative book that will serve as a wake up call to many Christians who are ignorant of their own cultural captivity and indifferent to the needs of the poor and the plight of lost.

There is much to like about Radical. I applaud David’s call for serious discipleship. I love his bold words about counting the cost and pursuing something better and riskier than the “good life.” I am grateful he never shies away from the hard edges of God’s sovereignty and God’s wrath. I especially appreciated Chapter Seven (“There is No Plan B”) where David walks through the book of Romans and makes a strong case for why non-Christians must hear the gospel and put conscious faith in Christ in order to be saved and why Christians must make it a priority to reach those who have never heard.

Radical is a stirring book that will help many Christians.

A Few Concerns

But not everything here is helpful. Let me highlight a few concerns I have with the book and with the some elements of the larger “get radical, get crazy Christianity” that is increasingly popular with younger evangelicals. I hesitate to mention these concerns because there is so much in the book I agree with and because David does provide caveats here and there to soften the blow of his rhetoric. But people tend to hear what we are most passionate about, and I’m afraid the take-home message from Radical for many people may reinforce some common misconceptions about what it means to be sold-out for Jesus.

Here are a few concerns in increasing order of importance.

First, I think David’s context sometimes leads him to overstate his conclusions. For example, David is very negative about church buildings, calling them “temples,” “empires,” and “kingdoms” (118). I can’t help but feel that David’s own struggle with preaching “in one of these giant buildings” has forced him to speak too sweepingly about the way most churches in America (which are small) approach their facilities (119).

Second, we need a better understanding of poverty and wealth in the world. The Christian needs to be generous, but generous charity is not the answer to the world’s most pressing problems of hunger, inadequate medical care, and grinding poverty. Wealth is created in places where the rule of law is upheld, property rights are secured, people are free to be entrepreneurs, and there is sufficient social capital to encourage risk-taking. We can and should do good with our giving. But we must not lead people to believe that most of human suffering would be alleviated if we simply gave more.

Third, there is an implicit, underlying utilitarian ethic in many “radical” streams of Christianity that makes faithfulness to Christ impossibly daunting. To his credit, Platt says we don’t need to feel guilty for everything that is not an absolute necessity (127). But earlier we are made to feel bad for the money we spend on french fries (108). It is easy to stir people to action by relating how little everyone else has and how much we have in America, but we are not meant to have constant low-level guilt because we could be doing more.

Paragraphs like this pack a punch, but on closer inspection are not as helpful as they seem:

Meanwhile, the poor man is outside our gate. And he is hungry. In the time we gather for worship on a Sunday morning, almost a thousand children elsewhere die because they have no food. If it were our kids starving, they would all be gone by the time we said our closing prayer. We certainly wouldn’t ignore our kids while we sang songs and entertained ourselves, but we are content with ignoring other parents’ kids. Many of them are our spiritual brothers and sisters in the developing nations. They are suffering from malnutrition, deformed bodies and brains, and preventable diseases. At most, we are throwing our scraps to them while we indulge in our pleasures here. Kind of like an extra chicken for the slaves at Christmas. (115)

I know David believes in the necessity of corporate worship but I’m not sure how our obligation to worship squares with this paragraph. Surely, we are not guilty for worshiping on Sundays just because the poor exist. Moreover, surely it is appropriate to hold to believe in some sort of moral proximity when it comes to the pressing needs of the world. We do have more responsibility for the boy drowning in our pool than for the boy starving on the other side of the world. The whole world wasn’t rebuked for neglecting the man on the Jericho road, but the priest and Levite were (Luke 10:29-37). The needs of the church come before the needs of the world (Gal. 6:10) and the needs of our families take on a priority that other needs don’t (1 Tim. 5:8).

Along the same lines, as evangelicals rediscover a biblical concern for the poor we must be careful our applications are tied to careful exegesis. Some passages we quickly employ, like James 5 (see p. 109), are not just about the rich, but about the ungodly rich who acquire their wealth by cheating the poor. And other passages like the rich young ruler (Mark 10, Luke 18), which David uses extensively, must be seen in their larger context. The question “Who then can be saved?”—referring to the disappointed rich man in Luke 18—is answered in Luke 19 where Zacchaeus gives, not everything away, but half of his goods to the poor (v. 8). Others in Luke are well-regarded for simply supporting the disciples “out of their means” (8:3). The point of the rich young ruler is not to make us worried that having anything might be too much, but to help us see more clearly the models of lived out faith in wealthy people like Zacchaeus and Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57; Luke 23:50-56).

Fourth, I worry that radical and crazy Christianity cannot be sustained. If the message of Jesus translates into “Give more away” or “Sacrifice for the gospel” or “Get more radical” we will end up with burned out evangelicals. Even when Jesus said his hard saying (and he said a lot of them) it was not his basic stump speech. His message was repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). When Jesus challenged the crowds to count the cost or let the dead bury their dead it was to make clear that following him was not all about miracles and wonders, it was about giving him the preeminence. The emphasis was doxological first and foremost. Worship Christ. Believe in Christ. Walk with Christ. And therefore, before you follow Christ be prepared for opposition.

I don’t worry for David’s theology, but I worry that some young Christians reading his book might walk away wondering if a life spent working as a loan officer, tithing to their church, praying for their kids, learning to love Christ more, and serving in the Sunday school could possibly be pleasing to God. We need to find a way to attack the American dream while still allowing for differing vocations and that sort of ordinary Christian life that can plod along for fifty years. I imagine David wants this same thing. I’m just not sure this came through consistently in the book.

Fifth and finally, we must do more to plant the plea for sacrificial living more solidly in the soil of gospel grace. Several times David talks about the love of Christ as our motivation for radical discipleship or the power of God and the means for radical discipleship. But I didn’t sense the strong call to obedience was slowly marinated in God’s lavish mercy. I wanted to see sanctification more clearly flowing out of justification.

Now I don’t believe that every command we ever give must include a drawn explanation of the gospel. But in a book-length treatment of such an important topic I would have liked to have seen “all we need to do in obedience to God” growing more manifestly out of “all God’s done for us.” At times the discipleship model came across as: “Here’s how we need to live. Here’s how we are falling short. Here’s how Christ can help us live the way we ought.” The gospel looks more like a means to obey the law, instead of resting in the gospel as respite from the law.

Further, I wish there was more of an emphasis on what we do when we fall short of radical obedience. How do we get balm for our stricken consciences? Where do we find rest for our sin-sick souls? Just as importantly, I would hope that as David speaks in risky ways in order to challenge us all to shake off nominal Christianity, he would also on occasion speak in such a risky way that he’s charged with antinomianism (Rom. 6:1). On the whole, I think the motivation for obedience in Radical would have been more biblical and more balanced if it landed more squarely on the greatness of God’s love for us as opposed to the nature of the world’s great need and our great failures.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I should say that David and I have had a chance to talk about some of these matters over the phone. His demeanor could not have been any kinder. He listened humbly and pushed back graciously. I’m happy to call David a friend and look forward to learning from him in the years ahead. To that end I’ve invited him to respond to my review and suggest any areas he thinks I’ve misread or any areas he might want to clarify.

*******

David’s Platt’s Response

I really like Kevin DeYoung. I am thankful to call him my friend, and I join with a multitude of evangelicals who are increasingly grateful for the grace of God expressed in his keen mind, his sharp wit, his theological acumen, his gentle spirit, and his pastoral wisdom. For this reason, I was thankful to discover that he would be reviewing the book I recently wrote entitled Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream. I was thankful because I knew that even if I did not agree with everything Kevin might write, nonetheless his insight, analysis, and critique would serve readers well in avoiding any potential pitfalls they might encounter in processing or applying what I have written. On a more personal level, I was thankful because I know I have so much to learn as pastor, preacher, writer, and most importantly follower of Christ, and I need brothers like Kevin DeYoung to sharpen me in my own life and ministry.

While Kevin was writing his review, we had an opportunity to discuss a variety of issues, and in turn he invited me to offer a response to some of the ideas he has articulated. Kevin is gracious to give me this opportunity, and I am grateful for it. In what follows, my goal is not to respond to every single sentence he has written, but instead to express some thoughts on what I believe are the most significant concerns in his review, and in turn to address what I believe are some of the most important issues for discussion among readers of Radical.

Gospel-Driven and Grace-Saturated

Over and above everything else, I want to convey a shared concern with Kevin for gospel-driven, grace-saturated, God-glorifying obedience. The last thing I want to do is to leave people living with low-level guilt, constantly wondering, “When am I going to be radical enough? What do I need to do, how do I need to give, or where do I need to go in order to do enough for God?” These are obviously unhealthy questions, for the gospel teaches us that Christ alone is able to do enough. He alone has been faithful enough, generous enough, compassionate enough, etc. The gospel beckons our sin-sick souls to simple trust in Christ, the only One who is truly radical enough. In him, we no longer live from a position of guilt, but from a position of righteousness.

All of this to say – comments in Radical like the assertion that over 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day (they struggle to find food, water, medical care, and shelter with the same amount we spend on french fries for lunch) or the reality that multitudes of our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering with malnourished bodies and deformed brains because they have no food or water are not intended to promote guilt-driven obedience. Instead, my goal is simply to help open our eyes to realities in the world that we would rather ignore and to call us to look at those realities through the eyes of the One who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9; p. 113 in Radical).

Worship With Our Eyes Wide Open

Along similar lines, I certainly want to clarify any confusion regarding my comments about worshiping while approximately a thousand children in the world around us die of starvation or preventable disease. My goal is in no way to question the biblical warrant or practical need for us to gather together for worship. Instead, my goal is simply to call us to worship God in a way that opens our eyes to the needs of those who are hurting around us. Surely true worship of God compels tender mercy toward others (Is. 1:10-17; Am. 5:21-24; Mic. 6:6-8; Jas. 2:1-24). On a brief side note, and I don’t believe this is a major point for discussion here, but in light of churches spending up to $115 million on buildings in our day, I do think we need to examine our use of resources in churches of all sizes when it comes to buildings.

A Possible Point of Disagreement

All this leads to a point that Kevin and I may differ on, at least to some degree. I would certainly agree that there is a level of moral proximity that governs our response to needs in the world. Without question, I am uniquely accountable before God for needs in my physical family as well as the faith family I lead called The Church at Brook Hills. At the same time, there is clear Scriptural precedent for also helping our brothers and sisters in other churches. One of the primary examples of giving we see in the New Testament is the offering among various churches for the church at Jerusalem. I have always loved Romans 15:26, where Paul references how the churches at Macedonia and Achaia made a contribution to the poor in Jerusalem, and the word for contribution there is koinonia. The fellowship fostered by this offering was a beautiful picture of one part of the body of Christ saying to another, “We are with you. You are not alone in your need.” And it is here that I believe in our day we have missed the pattern of the New Testament church in a dangerous way. We as North American Christians have grown incredibly wealthy compared to the body of Christ around the world. If all we do is provide for one another’s needs here in the name of moral proximity, it seems that we are saying to our brothers and sisters, many of whom are literally starving, around the world, “We are not with you. You are alone in your need.”

Now I immediately want to offer a variety of qualifications. I am, again, not denying that we have a unique responsibility to care for members in each of our local churches. I am not trying to oversimplify the complex problems (and complex solutions) associated with impoverished peoples in various countries and contexts, and I am not trying to put an unsustainable burden upon any person or church to care for every other needy church in the world. And my goal is not to cause us to feel guilty. Instead, my goal is to call us to look to Christ, as individuals and as local churches, and to ask him how we can best use the resources he has given to us to care for one another in our local churches and to provide for suffering saints in the global church. In the end, my prayer is that God would use sacrificial love for our needy brothers and sisters in other places to demonstrate the unity of the church and the generosity of Christ to a lost and watching world around us.

One Final Thought

That leads to one final thought regarding care for the poor. As Kevin noted, Scripture clearly teaches that the needs of the church come before the needs of the world (Gal. 6:10). But this obviously does not mean that we ignore the physical needs of those who are lost. While we do not have much explicit instruction in Scripture to care for the unbelieving poor, we do have the Great Commission. If we are going and making disciples of all people groups, and if the majority of people groups in the world are far poorer than we are, then we are certainly going to care for the poor while we proclaim the Gospel (i.e., if the person we are sharing the gospel with is dehydrated and/or starving, we will give them water or food). The question then becomes whether or not we are going to people groups like these, and if we are not, then maybe we need to create a moral proximity to them. Whether in the church or among the lost, I want to avoid an unhealthy localism that disregards our brothers and sisters around the world and is detrimental to the spread of the gospel in all nations.

All of this leads back to where I believe Kevin and I wholeheartedly agree. He mentions that Jesus’ “stump speech” was, “Repent and believe the Gospel,” and I could not agree more. In fact, I think even the hard sayings of Jesus that Kevin mentions and that I reference throughout Radical all come back to this essential message: repent and believe the gospel. Whether it was the rich young man, the three prospective followers in Luke 9, or the constant crowds who surrounded him, Jesus was calling them all to turn from themselves and to trust in his grace.

Consequently, as Kevin has mentioned, the message of Christianity is not that we need to do more for God, but that we need to trust in what God has done for us. Like Kevin, I want more than anything for sacrificial living to be grounded “solidly in the soil of gospel grace.” As a part of this grounding, though, I want people not only to believe in the gospel grace that was shown to us on the cross, which is the basis for righteous standing before God, but I also want people to believe in the gospel grace that is being given to us right now, which is the power for righteous living before God. I want to shepherd people away from only thinking, “Look at all that Jesus did for me at the cross; now let me try to live for him today.” I want people to realize that Jesus’ work for us did not stop at the cross. He is working for us today, as well, and he has promised to work on our behalf in the future. That is why I try to use language intentionally and consistently throughout Radical to describe not just what Christ has done for us in the past (as if that weren’t enough!), but what Christ is doing for us in the present, at every moment, to enable us to live in obedience to him. Oh, the wonder of it. Not only have we been saved by his grace at the cross (Chapter 2 in Radical), but he has given us his Spirit (Chapter 3 in Radical), and he now lives in us to empower radical, life-changing, world-impacting obedience for his name’s sake in all nations (Chapters 4-9 in Radical).

Summary

In summary, I am deeply appreciative of Kevin’s various cautions concerning “radical and crazy Christianity.” The last thing I want to be a part of (or worse yet be promoting) is a stream of Christianity that thrives on guilt over gospel, prioritizes our work more than God’s grace, or burns out evangelicals in unsustainable efforts to do more, give more, or sacrifice more. I certainly regret any ways I have contributed to this kind of thinking or way of living. My goal has simply been to call people to believe the gospel – the gospel that not only saves us from our sins, but also compels us to lay down our lives gladly for our own good and ultimately for God’s glory in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need. This is the kind of “radical and crazy” Christianity that has characterized servants who have gone before us like George Muller, John Paton, and Jim Elliot, and this is the kind of “radical and crazy” Christianity that marks our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world who are not looking to passively sustain themselves, but who are living to passionately spend themselves for the gospel, no matter what the cost. I long to stand with them in a line of brothers and sisters from every vocation who are resting daily in the unfathomable grace of Christ while living radically for the immeasurable glory of Christ in every nation.

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. DeYoung blogs regularly at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed.
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  1. [...] the rest here. ← The Final Act of Lost —  Denny [...]

  2. [...] a TGC Review posted this morning, Kevin DeYoung has an excellent review of the book, which I wholeheartedly [...]

  3. I am always struck when reading the Book of Acts that the Church of today in few ways resembles the Church of the 1st century. But what strikes me even more is that today’s Church doesn’t seem at all bothered by that fact.

    I know I get tired of the “prescriptive” argument raised by people who read Acts and then want to discount its radicalness and their own lukewarmness by saying that just because the early Church was filled with miracles, power, a countercultural approach to community and wealth, and on and on that this in no way must mean we have to live like that.

    Excuse me, but that kind of write-off is bull.

    The Western Church today looks just like the world. It bears little resemblance to the early Church. The fact that the God of the Universe lives inside each of us seems to mean little. We come up against tough questions about the way we live and we go running back to the safety of the American Dream. In short, we repeatedly put our hand to the plow yet look back. And we call that normal. Jesus said something else about that way of living, though.

    Not enough Christians today are willing to say that the entire way we live, from top to bottom, is broken. Not enough are asking what the fallout is from 10+ hour work days, hour-long commutes, busting up the family for the majority of the day, and the diminished impact for the Kingdom that creates. Christians are not asking if we must send our children to expensive colleges that do little more than stamp them for approval for an increasingly ethically bankrupt business world, a world Christians have stopped speaking to. Christians are not asking if we have lost something by moving away from the land. Christians are not asking if the little islands we create with one cocooning family here barely interacting with another cocooning family there is destroying our community, even within the Church.

    In short, Christians are not asking if we have become the upholders of world systems rather than the antagonists to them—and in making friends with those systems whether we have lost the aroma of Christ.

    Whenever a Christian trots out the “Yeah, but…” argument against radicalness, it usually means that the status quo is safe. That “but” ensures that no one really changes. John Piper wrote a book called Don’t Waste Your Life, yet that is what most of us are doing. We relent to the system we have created, one that looks at the radical call of Christ and its cost and blanches.

    • Very well said. Defending the status quo is hardly a ministry anyone should be proud of. Too many defenses of “church as we know it” sound self-serving and make a mockery of sola scriptura. I am looking forward to reading Radical precisely because it tips sacred cows and makes people uncomfortable. Given how we live, we should be uncomfortable.

    • I assume you live on a farm, right? And you make your kids’ clothes? And you don’t have a college degree? And you don’t have any money in the bank?

      Since you accuse DeYoung of “lukewarmness” (you know, the sin that makes Jesus want to spit people out of his mouth) without responding to any of his thoughtful critiques, I’m sure there’s absolutely no inconsistency in your own life on this point.

      • JMH,

        Actually, I do live on a farm.

        And actually, I am just as lukewarm as most Christians because that’s how I’ve been indoctrinated by American Churchianity. It’s all you and I know.

        But it doesn’t HAVE to be all we know. Problem is, not enough people are questioning what we know. Too many times, when someone DOES question, out come the “Yeah, but…” folks. And they do that because they are trying to defend what they’ve been indoctrinated in all their lives.

        And why wouldn’t any of us defend that? We think it’s normal and right.

        BUT IS IT?

        Don’t you ever read the Book of Acts and ask yourself why your church doesn’t look anything like that church?

        • I’m a missionary pastor in a city that’s 90% atheist. I was convicted of the need to go where they need more laborers while sitting under the preaching of the Word in one of the American churches you casually mock. So actually, no– it’s not all I know.

          Listen, bro, if you’re lukewarm, repent and change. Don’t blame everybody else. If you think God’s calling you to sell everything you have, then you darn well better do it. (By the way, how much is the farm worth? How can you justify owning land when there are starving children in the world?)

          But don’t sit behind the computer screen and lob grenades at “the church” in order to excuse your own sin. Oh, and read the review again. The last thing DeYoung is trying to defend is stale churches.

          • JMH,

            Blessings to you then. Your decision to move to the city to meet God’s call is commendable. You got it right. Most people haven’t.

            As to defending stale churches, one has to establish to what level our churches are stale. I would contend that if the current state of Christianity in America is any indicator, our churches are more stale than most of us are willing to admit.

            As to my own sin, I am waking up to it. Our country as a whole suffers from American Dreamism, and undoing that entire system is monstrously hard. It’s like waking up to find you were in a nightmare all your life. Few, if any, of us are making the transition out of that system well, myself included. But I do recognize it and I’m trying to do something about it. I wish more of us were. My comments here are an effort to encourage people to start asking those tough questions (like Platt is asking) and not simply fold in their presence.

            I would like to hear more about your church. In what ways does it perfectly resemble the Church in Acts? In what ways does it not? What are you doing as pastor to move it in the right direction?

          • DLE, I completely agree with what you’ve said. There are major problems and there are questions that need to be asked and grappled with. I’m in the same boat as you’re in as far as my thinking goes. Also, thanks for your tone- the graciousness, humility, calmness and kindness of it.

          • Thanks for your kind words, DLE. My point is this though: You commend me for “getting it right.” But my family and I haven’t done this alone. There are over 100 families in the States who support us. They are teachers, lawyers, architects, bankers, IT guys, you name it. Lots of them live in– gasp– the suburbs.

            We couldn’t be here if people who are, in your words, part of “the system” weren’t in the US, working their jobs and making money (some of them make lots of it) so they can generously give it to us. They, and a ton of other Christians, are living out their calling. God has called them to work, to raise their families, to serve their churches and be generous with what they have.

            What I do may seem more sexy, but there’s nothing nonspiritual about being a lawyer who loves Jesus. And there’s nothing particularly spiritual about living on a farm. The critique DeYoung is making of Platt and others isn’t that people should live complacent lives. It’s that “radical” can become a code to beat up on believers who are trying to be faithful in their callings.

          • I remember at the beginning of one of the Radical sermons where Platt took several minutes before the sermon begun to warn against looking down on others who may be choosing a different way. He focused us to see ourselves before God humbly and not pridefully before others. He also passes along much more wisdom and guidance as pertains to this area of concern JMH had towards the end of the post above.

          • Yes, let me clarify that I’ve heard nothing but good things about Platt, and his interaction with DeYoung on this was great. I’m being critical of errors that can arise (and have arisen in these comments) from this kind of teaching; I’m not saying we don’t need the teaching.

    • Notice how DLE slips the “early Church was filled with miracles, power” in and couples it with taking care of the poor. As if cessationists have thrown Acts out of their Bibles and don’t want to give to the poor.

      • In case you’re interested, you can ask you questions directly to David Platt this Thursday, June 10 at 12:00pm CT. He’ll be on the Facebook page, The Radical Experiment – here’s a link: http://ow.ly/1UpWg

  4. I’m with Dan and Arthur on this. The vast majority of us here in the U.S., at least, simply don’t take the radical commands of Jesus seriously enough. Me included.

  5. Having first been brought to faith in such a “radical and crazy” setting, and having subsequently burned out and nearly fallen completely away from Christ were it not for the sustaining grace of the living God, I very much appreciated this review.

    My wife and I spent some time serving the Lord in the context of an orphanage in the Philippines, and I was struck by this fact: while many people do in fact live on very low amounts of money by our standards (a full time pastor at our orphanage was paid somewhere around 12000 Philippine pisos, which comes out to around $240 a month (50 piso:$1 exchange rate)), the cost of living is astoundingly cheaper. The pastors who made $240 a month were fairly well off were the only earners for their families of 3-5, and were able to pay all their expenses, and live fairly well off.

    It’s impossible to avoid the fact that it simply costs more to live here. When those differences aren’t explicitly brought into the argument, younger Christians are quick to lay a yoke on themselves that can quite simply never be alleviated, unless they change the way they think or they leave the United States. Housing is another example — it’s literally impossible to rent an apartment, no matter how poor the quality, anywhere near where I live for less than $400 / month. But that price is utterly garish to the majority of the world (about PHP20000 — more than all the combined living costs of the 3-5 member families of the pastors I mentioned above).

    I hope and pray specifically that those who serve in youth ministry will realize the importance of making this plain. No one taught me to be reasonable as well as radical, and for a year my wife and I were staying with relatives and eating about 600-700 calories a day, because I was convinced spending more money than that was excessive, and refusing to get a job, because I was under the impression that the real Christians were those who gave their lives to frontier missions.

    I’m sure I’m not the norm. But I know at least a dozen kids who still think the way I thought, and who likewise refuse to get jobs because getting jobs would take up time they could be spending “making disciples”, etc. I’m not saying that David Platt is teaching this — I’m saying that just as Mr. Platt was quick to balance what he’d written in Radical by his clarifications above, we ought to all be quick to balance what we say as well … Balancing reasonable and radical together.

    Again, many thanks for this post, and may God grant the church to be led by similarly humble, pure-hearted, and thoughtful men. In Jesus’ name.

    • A.R.,

      You are right that it costs more to live here. The question, though, is whether we have exhausted all options for countering that difference. I don’t believe we have. We have indoctrinated ourselves into certain ways of thinking about how we work and live, but we are loathe to explore the fringes. Fact is, Jesus may be drawing people to those fringes. (Fact is, our imploding economy may FORCE people to explore those fringes.)

      Here’s just one option: Drop out of suburbia and join the Amish.

      Okay, so up the defenses to that. Out come the objections. Fine, then how can you make something like an Amish community work within a more modern context? Is it possible? Could a group of Christians pool their resources, buy a large plot of land some of them could farm (while others did more “modern” jobs), live together on that land in smaller houses, while maintaining a larger community building, and find ways to buck “the system”?

      Our lack of discussion about such ideas is killing the Church. Too many “Yeah, but…” people who are all too happy with the status quo.

  6. Thank you for giving David Platt the opportunity to respond to the review. Well done

  7. I agree. Piper should totally move into the inner city or something. And he should ask his elders not to pay him for the time he’s on sabbatical.

    Wait a second…

    • I know your being facetious there, but you’re missing the point. The point is: can you say the same thing about your (or my) church as was said of the church in the book of Acts: “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold” (4:34)? If not, why not? Of course there are many reasons, and no simple solutions – but that isn’t any excuse to let the issue lie. The church must be radical in the way it lives, it should be a “city on a hill” in every area of life (not least economically). Until we are at the point where there isn’t a needy person among us, we need to be asking the questions that DLE is asking, we need to be challenging our deeply entrenched ideas of what normal life looks like.

      • yes, in accordance with paul’s wisdom in timothy, and galations 6, 1 tim 5.. it’s okay to pastor people to rearrange their lives for Jesus, he’s worth it, but this goes for the one in need just as much, and in urban ministry you can not possibly own someones success in life more than they do.. do you really have a church family were folks are hungry and need help and are look like 1 tim 5, and gal 6 and everyone is just watching it happen? if so it’s like you are denying the faith, figure out what it means to follow Christ, and by his grace do it

        • also.. i don’t have or really like a view of church history that points to the time of acts as the ‘glory days’.. that is kinda true in islam and hinduism and buhdism.. its helped me to be memorizing the upper room discourse.. the Lord wants to work in us, and through us in great ways. the second half of hebrews 11 is still happening, the centuries after Peter, believers moved to africa with their cloths packed in their coffins, teenagers sold themselves into the slave trade to reach the caribean, friends of mine have lost children to malaria, uncles and fathers to persecution, folks live on incomes with the decimal to the left of what they make for the glory of God. what your longing for though is great.. its like, what we are tasting may be just the drips from the cracks in the hoover dam.. ask, seek, and knock for God to work in ways we never seen before

  8. It is very easy to become the one on the corner shouting about everything wrong in the church. It is more difficult to do the same thing in love, having answers for the problems we point out. Unless we have some answers, we become part of the problem(s), not the solution.

    Maybe its only semantics, but I guess I’m more with Kevin on this…Americans don’t take seriously Jesus’ command to “repent and believe”, and that’s a much bigger problem than how we are to live. Because we have churches half-full (or more) of the unregenerate, how can we expect the churches to behave any differently than the culture around them?

    If we were to get back to a regenerate fellowship of believers, much of the problems pointed out in Platt’s book would either become minimal or go away completely.

    • It is true that we need a regenerate church membership, and that is a huge problem, but regenerated people also need to be reproved, rebuked, and exhorted by God’s Word so they’ll grow in their sanctification. I do not think that just because someone is regenerate, that they’ll naturally come in line with the things Platt is saying in his book and in his preaching (Although being regenerate is prerequisite to it). These are issues most of us as American Chritians need to be confronted with and need to think about. It is very much possible to have blind spots and still be regenerate, and thus the need for preaching and teaching in sermons and books that, as I said above, reproves, rebukes, and exhorts.

  9. SM11 -
    Be careful as you don’t know Piper or Platt as if you did, you would know they both practice what they preach. Platt determines what he needs to live on and gives the rest away. He is hardly “living it up” as you say – both he and Piper live modestly. The reason Piper can go 8 mos w/out pay is that he lives well below his means.

  10. [...] this antidote to a radical SBC preacher, David Platt, as he reviewed Platt’s book, Radical.  Their exchange is an interesting blend of concerns well worth reading, as both men have really important [...]

  11. I think you are being too quick to judge Mr. Piper. You do realize that he’s 64, right? He probably has his house paid off. I also know that he lives pretty simply. No fancy suits for John! You also don’t know where the money is coming from..it could very well be from retirement savings. I think we would count him an unwise steward if he had no savings at this point in life… Surprise, surprise…there are actually people who manage their money carefully so that they can give lavishly and not depend on others when they need to do something like this. Seems silly to criticize it! If he was 30 and doing the same thing, I think you’d have more of a case to make…you’d also have a better case to make if he wanted his church to continue to pay him throughout the sabbatical.

    The point is not that he’s taking an unpaid sabbatical, but why. You need to read up on the reasons. It’s a real witness to many pastors who keep plugging on even when they see signs of sin and/or burnout in their lives. http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2010/4555

    As a side note, he requested that they not pay him, but the elders refused his request. (see the post above). So he is praying about how much to give back.

    Honestly, how can you judge that??

  12. [...] an interesting interaction between Kevin DeYoung and David Platt on Platt’s new book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith [...]

  13. [...] DeYoung reviews Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by David Platt (including a response from [...]

  14. Jonathan Houting

    God job! This is how two Christians are supposed to have discussions over the internet. It is so destructive to Christ and His bride when you see two people bickering and back-biting on their blogs and who almost seem to enjoy getting into arguments and divisions with one another. I praise DeYoung and Platt for their congenial, yet honest approach to their differences on a platform that is filled with name-calling and power-struggles, giving embarrassment to their own faith. May humility and a strive for unity guide all of our discussions on matters of this type.

  15. I thought this was great. I’ve read DeYoung’s books and heard Platt speak, and I have been helped by them both.

    I have Radical, but I haven’t read it yet. I felt very similar to what DeYoung describes, though, after reading Don’t Waste Your Life. I was tremendously helped by Don’t Waste Your Life as well as other messages that Dr. Piper has preached in similar vein.

    But I felt a consistent guilt over not sacrificing enough or giving enough. It also felt like I enjoyed nothing that God had given me.

    Still today, I hope to be more sacrificially generous. Radical, even. But it took a long time to learn to get past the guilt of enjoying anything that was not completely necessary.

    I feel confident that Platt’s book will be helpful for me and others. And I think DeYoung’s comments were needed. And I hope that men like Piper and Platt will consider their concerns.

    This is wishful thinking, but DeYoung and Platt are like-minded pastors and authors. Perhaps they could team up to write or edit a book on this topic. I think it would be helpful.

    • I like your wishful thinking. David Platt is my pastor, and I own all and have read most of DeYoung’s books. I respect both men highly. I would love to see them team up on a book such as you mention!

  16. Thanks for posting this review and letting David Platt respond. My husband and I listened to the Radical series months ago. We’ve since read the book.

    This comment won’t be an attack on the church. We’re in no place to attack the church when we, as a couple have been living in so much disobedience ourselves.

    We have lived in College Station, Texas for 14 years. We have four sons. My husband has served on staff at a church. We’ve loved our lives here. After listening to the sermons we could not deny, as David states, that we were Christians chasing after the American dream…the Christian version, but nonetheless…it was the American Dream.

    The Radical Series and the book opened our eyes for the first time to how disobedient we were being to God’s Word. We did not care about missions. We had never asked God if we should “go” even though His Word clearly says we should. We were clueless about how many people needed to hear the gospel, and about how great of a discrepancy there is between how we are living and the rest of the world is living. We were not sending missionaries in any real way (as in feeling apart of what they were doing or living sacrificially so that the gospel could be proclaimed around the world.) We weren’t caring for the orphan. We weren’t caring for the poor. It was heartbreaking to hear Jesus’ heart in scripture, then look at our own lives and see that we did not love the things God loves.

    We began asking God if we should go…and how to live for the kingdom of God. This was scary for us, because we have four kids, my husband has a terrific job, and we love our life here. I’m not even sure how it happened, but we just sold the house we bought (and felt like we had totally “arrived”). My husband took a teaching position in Haiti. We’re moving our family there in August.

    Some days I feel like we’ve lost our minds.

    I wanted to say all of this because yes, our lives are about to be very different (perhaps Radical, I don’t know). However, not a single change God has lead us to make was made out of guilt. As people listening to the Radical Series, and reading the book, we never felt condemned. We were sad over our sin, and a lot of repentance is taking place, but David Platt never made us feel like we had to work ourselves into favor with God. We have been struck over and over again by God’s grace, how patient he has been with people who said we loved him, yet didn’t care anything about the things that are important to Him.

    This move to Haiti was inspired greatly by the Jesus we met during the Radical Series. So I just wanted to say, as people impacted by this book, that we are thankful that David has lead us to take Jesus seriously and to quit acting like God (as the author of communication) doesn’t mean what he says. We had lived that way our entire Christian life.

    Most importantly the Radical Series has lead us to a sweeter understanding of the gospel. It is because of His grace and His sacrifice for us that has gotten me through packing up my beautiful home in order to move somewhere terrifying to me. What a beautiful example Jesus has given us as one who left the comfort and safety of heaven to “go” to earth to serve and love sinful man. No guilt here. No condemnation. Just brokenness, and a hunger to live for the kingdom.

    Thanks David Platt. Although God has used you to bring about a lot of change and a lot of good in our lives, we never once felt condemned or guilty. We felt thankful and hopeful. Grateful for Jesus’ example, for his clear teaching, and that He still loves big fat sinners like us.

    Heather

    • Heather, that’s awesome. We’ve gone through many of the same struggles over the years, and come to a crystal clear realization we are where we need to be, but we had to really seek God to be sure. And we continue to keep our ears open on such things. At the same time, we support ministries in third world countries– usually people we know well, so we know their hearts and work. And if God does call us there, I hope and pray we would go. I believe we would.

      But right now, the American Dream (which has little room for God) is destroying people right here, and that’s our calling.

      One of the problems I see with a great deal of teaching in the Church is that while we (meaning the Church at large) are great at singling out verses and turning them into mantras (I am *not* accusing you, the author or reviewer of this!). Tthere are also verses we tend to ignore, such as “Work out your own salvation…” Instead we tend to take what God is working out in our personal lives and attempt to turn these things into universal truths which become mantras, which become meaningless, hollow phrases– much like the “vain, repetitions” of the heathens.

      I thank God for provocative books, provocative reviews, and discussions that make us think, for His saving grace that overcomes everything we can throw at it, and for those who chase after Him and spread His love and healing throughout the world– here, there and everywhere.

      • Please don’t think I’m advocating that everyone should “go.” I never got that impression from David Platt’s book either. I think he did help us to ask God questions that we haven’t asked God before. Like…how should we live out the great commission, care for the orphan, the widow and the poor. There is so much freedom in Christ for how all those things can be lived out. The problem was, we weren’t really living them out at all. We spent time in prayer asking God if we should “go” or live here in a less extravagant way, using our money for eternal purposes. We believe God led us to “go.” Not everyone will be called to. However, we were tired of being people who were so quick to say, “not it.” Maybe not everyone should go, but if we’re honest, more should probably be going. We should all be asking God if we should. Platt offered lots of examples for how to do this, and points to Jesus as the example, and grace as our motivation. His book was never formulaic. I never felt like if I didn’t “go” I’d be a B-team believer. I felt like the book was strong and yet grace-filled. We felt “free” to work out the teachings of Jesus in our own lives…and free to let others do the same.

        Radical helped us to take a good, hard look at our stuff and the way we spend our money and be honest about where our treasure is. All very good things.

        As adoptive parents, we have seen how quick people are to shout out, “we’re not called to adopt.” That has always broken our hearts. Again…maybe not everyone is called to adopt. However, we are all called to care for the orphan, and seeing as how God says to care for them and that the gospel is a huge picture of adoption, we always pray that people would in the least ask God if they should adopt before deciding they shouldn’t (and not let fear or sinful excuses shape their decisions).

        Being big fat hypocrites, when it came to missions, we were that couple quickly saying, “We’re not called to go. We have successful ministries here.” We never asked God if we should go, even though He says to, and even though the gospel is a story about a missional God.

        Sorry that’s so long. Just didn’t want it to sound like we thought everyone needs to go and the people who aren’t are less Christ-like.

        David Platt’s book was hard to read, but like I said, caused us to quit making excuses and prayerfully consider how to live out the things that Jesus says are important…things we had been ignoring for a long time.

        For that, we’re eternally grateful.

  17. [...] You can read Platt’s response HERE.  [...]

  18. I am confident that both Dr.Platt and Kevin DeYoung prayed for guidance and wisdom from the Lord before they spoke. If we are giving our input without doing the same and have not love, we are just a noisy gong…not serving or defending God on His behalf, but rather getting in the way and misrepresting Him. We need to ask ourselves before we begin to reprove another,am I compelled to do so from God, or is this my sinful flesh. The tone in some of these responses seem pretty obvious they are not from the Lord.

  19. Thanks Kevin DeYoung for a helpful review and thanks David Platt, for responding. I live in Birmingham and attended a service recently to hear from a new ministry in our area that purports to live thus radically and is calling for other Christians and churches to join them (led by David Nasser). Unfortunately there was nothing mentioned about the sinfulness of man during Nasser’s talk; there was no mention of the need for preaching the gospel, of repentance and salvation being the greatest need of the poor, etc. The talk only described meeting the physical (and maybe emotional and educational) needs of the poor. In light of these and other errors the church has to continue to voice caution … DeYoung is right to expose problems and voice cautions, and Platt will be right to humbly consider those cautions.

  20. Thank you for this review. Both of you were humble in a way that I believe honored the Lord and served the church. I’ve listened to David’s messages and am about to start the book. I understand what both of you are saying and I really don’t feel that it’s an either/or situation. In other words, I think you are both right in most respects.

    I do agree that caveats about “radical Christian living,” such as the one Kevin is giving here, often can tempt us to dismiss the call to sacrifice to a certain degree. However, we do need to be on our guard against low-grade guilt – a topic which I think needs to be covered whenever the call for radical sacrifice goes out.

  21. My husband and I attended the most recent Secret Church, “The Gospel, Prosperity and Possessions,” event at The Church at Brook Hills. That evening, Dr. Platt taught much of the material in his book. He also spent an hour or so teaching us the Gospel and how God works in our lives, transforms our hearts, so that we can live out his New Testament directives; there was not any hint of being motivated by guilt, rather Platt explained what Scripture teaches us about grace. There was a strong word about giving up the American Dream, yes, but Platt reminded us again and again of God’s mercy and grace.

    Thank you for this thoughtful review and for allowing Dr. Platt to respond.

  22. Dr. Platt can qualify this with grace and mercy all he likes, but he is still promulgating the idea that since God has done X, we should do Y. The problem here is that we simply cannot do Y as well as we ought, or as well as our friends would like or as well as the pastor or the writer or blogger might think we should. And when we don’t do Y, we are driven to despair. Despair should lead us back to the Gospel, but I’m not convinced that is the goal of Platt (or Francis Chan or fill in the blank). I think in Platt’s view is that (step 1) we are sinners who have been (step 2) saved by the grace of Christ and (step 3) when we are overwhelmed by that grace we are moved to live radically or whatever. My contention is that the more we focus – rhetorically or otherwise – on step 3, the further we get from step 2. And I think that may be a bit of what DeYoung is getting at when he worries that this whole radical business is simply unsustainable.

    I’ve got more on this, but I’ll let it rest for now.

    • The Bible is filled with Since…Then type statements. Colossians 3 is a prime example. Since you’ve been raised with Christ, set your mind on things above, put to death what is earthly, put off the old self, sing to one another, wives- submit to your husbands, husbands- love your wives, children- be obedient, etc… The entire chapter is focused on the Y with only a brief mention of the X.
      I think Platt makes a great case that since we’ve been saved through the work of Jesus for us that we should be active in living out our faith in Christ. He is following in the teaching of Jesus, Paul, James, pick a writer.

      • I understand your point, but I take the Lutheran stance in this, which is that we are under no compulsion to act in any particular way – there is no step 3, no moving beyond the basics of the Gospel and living a particular life. My deep concern with Platt (whom I admire in so many respects) is that the final impression he leaves is that if you are not living radically (as he defines it), then you may well be sinning. And I think that is simply untenable. Note, also, that the passages you cite aren’t particularly specific in their admonitions.

        Living out our faith – yes let us do that to God’s glory, but that doesn’t mean we should give away 90% of our income, live in the ghetto, etc. It might mean that for some who have been called of God for that purpose, but it may also mean, as DeYoung points out, that some of us live in the ‘burbs, give generously at church and elsewhere, and spend our time coaching little league, hosting parties in the backyard with lost neighbors, etc. etc. There is nothing wrong with that, and we should quit throwing fellow believers under the bus for doing so.

        • MRS, my theology is also Lutheran at its core, but that theology doesn’t excuse us should we suffer from complacency. As the Bible clearly states, ” Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered (Prov. 21:13).” Being a Christian DOES carry an obligation with it. We are ambassadors for Christ, and being an ambassador is work.

          Bonhoeffer speaks of cheap grace, and there is no greater abuse of grace than to know what must be done and not do it. The call of Christ IS radical. If we’re not living that way, then perhaps we ARE sinning.

        • MRS, I noticed you said you take the Lutheran stance, which you said, means “we are under no compulsion to act in any particular way – there is no step 3, no moving beyond the basics of the Gospel and living a particular life”. This caught my attention because I’ve put a great deal of effort into understanding Lutheranism. I’ve been very interested in Lutheranism over the last 3 1/2 years and what exactly they believe, and from this interest have formed some opinions of Lutheranism. Before my wife and I married she was an active and fervent member of an LCMS congregation for close to 20 years, and her parents still are. I have researched Lutheran theology on my own, have asked many questions of my wife and her family, and had a inquiring discussion with one of the family friends who is an LCMS pastor regarding Lutheran beliefs. One of the things that I found quite intriguing was his admission that the biggest problem in the LCMS is antinomianism. My wife quite agrees based on her many years in the Lutheran church. I’ll let her speak for herself here: “In the Lutheran church, in my experience, there is an exaggerated focus on grace, grace, grace to the exclusion of all else. There is little to no call to holy living, little to no confrontation of the sin in our lives. This is not healthy, as it leads to a life of license where it doesn’t matter how we live our lives & sin is simply overlooked. Nor is it biblical, as Scripture is replete with exhortations on how to live holy lives in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Are we sinners? Yes. Do we lack the capability to not sin? Absolutely. Does it lead us to despair that we will never be free of our sin? It should. Because only when we reach that low point, where we come to the end of ourselves, will we ever reach out for God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, & righteousness as found in Jesus Christ alone. And you don’t ever come to that point by only preaching grace apart from the reality of sin. After all, if we don’t sin, we have no need of grace. In the Lutheran church – again, in my experience – grace is acknowledged without any real exposition on why we need it, so I’ve seen many people continue to call themselves Christians while living sinful lives because that confrontation that should take place in the regular preaching of God’s Word never happens.” Now, I want to be clear that I love how Lutherans teach the Gospel of Justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone. I love the emphasis on God’s amazing grace, for without it, we are truly hopeless. What I have a problem with is the lack of calls to holy and obedient living that is naturally borne out of a lack of preaching that reproves, rebukes, and exhorts – a relationship that Paul clearly lays out in 2 Timothy 4:1-4. Lutherans are not alone here; as a matter of fact, they’re joined by a majority of “evangelical” churches in our nation, if even a cursory look at our culture (of which more than 90% claim Christ) is any indication. I’ve been exposed to thinking similar to this in a Presbyterian church I attended for a few years that was trying to go easy on its members, most of whom had come there from legalist/fundamentalist Baptist backgrounds, and were broken, tired and worn out from this unbiblical system of what in essence was “works-salvation”. I was one of those people. Rarely in that PCA church did I ever hear any exhortation to holy living, or a certain way of life or thinking pointed out to be sin and unbiblical. Over the years, I’ve put much study and thought into this, and as my wife and I have read and listened to sermons and have discussed the issues related to holy living repeatedly throughout our marriage, we have come to take issue with what seems to be a Lutheran over-emphasis on grace at the expense of calls to holy living in the preaching and teaching of the church. It seems that there has been a backlash against the legalistic/fundamentalist mentality, rightfully so, but we can go too far in our reaction and swing the pendulum in the other direction so that anything that denounces sin and reverences godly living is rejected as legalism. This is just as dangerous as legalism, and we should tend more towards a healthy balance between the two. The very balance that is struck in the Bible; a balance that men like David Platt and John Piper excel at striking. I think what is important, and what these and other men point out all the time is that our good works are borne out of grace. I’m thinking of the book of James as I write this, which makes the point that true faith works. Also, Ephesians 1: 8-10 and Titus 2: 11-14, which point out respectively, that we’re made for good works and are to be zealous for good works. In addition, see my comments elsewhere in this discussion on the patterns of a few of Paul’s books where he first lays out doctrine and the Gospel, and then says, “Therefore”, this is how you should then live and he points out that we’re empowered to live holy and obedient lives. So, quite clearly, the Gospel most certainly does influence how we live our lives. It’s not that we move beyond the Gospel – that never happens in the life of a true believer – but because we have the Gospel and have experienced God’s regenerating work, our lives show that inward reality in outward behaviors. I think it is clear biblically that the role of the law goes beyond the way most Lutherans, as I understand them and , view it, where they seem to look at Scripture through a law/gospel hermeneutic. It does not just reveal us to be sinners before a holy God and lead us as a tutor to Christ as Paul says in Romans and Galatians. It does, indeed, do this, but, in addition, it functions as our rule of practice once we’ve been saved by our holy God in His Son, Jesus Christ, which I think Paul makes clear in Romans 6-8. We’re meant to obey the moral law and have been given the Holy Spirit that we may grow progressively in holiness, godliness and Christ-likeness. It seems to me (please correct me if I’m wrong and forgive me if I’ve mischaracterized your thinking) that you’re possibly seeing all of the Scripture through a law/gospel hermeneutic, in which any passage that calls for holy living and obedience is dismissed as law, and the conclusion is drawn that its only role is one of condemnation, and is impossible to live out. The thing is, in our own strength and muster it is, but not once we’re regenerated children of God empowered by the Holy Spirit. We will fail and break God’s law, but when we fail, which will happen daily a million times, we have the grace and righteousness of Christ covering us, and we repent and turn to the Gospel in our failure and sin against God daily. Men like Platt and Piper point this out all the time in their preaching. In all of Platt’s sermons on “Radical” Christian living he has applied the balm of the Gospel usually at the beginning of the sermon and at the end. He has been painstakingly careful not to discourage anyone by making sure he shows us that Christ is the only one who keeps the law perfectly and that we’ll fail repeatedly and need Him and His grace daily. He even had a whole chapter on the Gospel in the early part of his “Radical” book. This message which Platt is championing is no doubt a controversial one, which shows that it is also a desperately needed one. Because if we were living in the way that God’s Word calls us to, it wouldn’t be controversial to us. We all need to hear it, just like the children of Israel needed to hear the prophets and have their sin exposed so they would turn to God and His mercy and live life in a manner honoring and glorifying to Him, and obedient to His ways. Platt is doing exactly what God’s Word calls him to do as a pastor, and his message is legitimate, even if it is a hard one for American Christian ears to hear. I think men like Platt, Piper, and Chan regularly say things that are offensive to our sensibilities, but, while not infallible, I’ve yet to find them unbiblical. God means for us to humble ourselves, hear what they have to say, search the Scriptures, and experience sanctification where needed. I think it is absolutely amazing how much God has gifted men like Platt to preach so clearly, and the amount of biblical knowledge and wisdom he possesses at such a young age. God has given men like him as a gift to the church, and we’d do well to listen to him carefully. MRS, I’d really encourage you to hear Platt out in this area of practical theology. Resources include of course the book, but also the Secret Church on the topic a few weeks ago, the “Radical” series of sermons, select James sermons, Radical Experiment sermon. I think a caution is needed for those who have not read and listened to Platt, and that is to not pass judgment on teaching of which you’ve not directly partaken. Until you’ve had the opportunity to listen to his sermons and read “Radical” for yourself, it’s probably best to withhold your critiques and speculations. By hearing him out you’ll see that he has not said such radical things like church buildings are idols (although they, along with any other created thing, can and have become idols to many people), among other mischaracterizations. This I can personally attest to, along with my wife, as those who sit under his teaching each Sunday at the Church at Brook Hills. Thank you for hearing me out. Have a blessed evening.

    • I would also add that in the book of Romans Paul lay’s out the Gospel beautifully through chapter 11, and then in chapter 12 verse 1 says, “Therefore”, and then lays out practical Christian living that is meant for us to apply in our Christian life. Another example would be the book of Ephesians. In chapters 1 through 3 the Gospel is laid out, and then chapter 4 through the rest of the book lays out how we should therefore live, or in other words, since what I’ve said in chapter 1- 3 is true, this is how you ought to live and conduct yourself as one saved by grace. Of course, in addition there are the many verses that tell us the power we’ve been given to live godly lives and about how we have the Holy Spirit to empower and help us also.

  23. This this article does a great job of pointing out the good and bad of this book. http://online.worldmag.com/2010/05/12/if-platts-radical-was-radical/

    I just wonder how we are being useful where God has placed us. Paul says God placed us in specific places at specific times (Acts 17:26). I heard from a friend yesterday that one of his friends is quiting his job, selling his house, and moving to Haiti to live and taking his 5 and 2 year old with him. Now I don’t know the guy and don’t want to make judgement but…. that too me does not make a lot of sense. There is a pride in being “Radical.” I am a young believer and I see countless friends get fired up about going to Africa for summer missions but won’t even get to know their neighbors and the normal non-Christians they see and are around everyday. Its wierd. I went on a mission trip last summer to Colombia for only a few weeks, but I realized that I really don’t have much use there. I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t know the culture, and I couldn’t build any long lasting relationships. What was I really there for? This whole movement of sell everything and give it to the poor sounds good but then what? We can’t demonize a normal American person who goes to college, gets a job and then come to know Jesus keeps his job and serves at his/her local church and if married loves their spouse and family. We have to see everyone as having a place in the Kingdom of God. I mean isn’t beleiving in a man who lived 2000 years ago to have been God in the flesh radical in itself? I also wonder as an African American if a church like brother Platt’s church in Birmingham is being ‘radical’ with addressing the exceptional need in the Birmingham area. its clear that white middle class conservative evangelism is not what should be at the utmost of anyone’s affections. The diversity we see right in a America can resemble the nations the nations are right here and not that we shouldn’t have foreign missions but we should be strategic with how we use our funds in all ways.

    • See the following link below and it goes much further than what you see on the website link. (http://www.brookhills.org/local/radical.html).Many small groups are involved in inner city ministry and I believe church plants are in the works or have already begun. There is a booklet at the church listing areas of ministry in Birmingham that many small groups use to guide them to ministry opportunities. Many families have or are moving to poor/undesirable areas in and around Birmingham populated mostly by African American to do various ministry, and my wife and I are strongly considering it as a future move, if God wills. Examples of inner city or urban ministry include men mentoring young men who have no fathers, teaching them how to be men, and women doing the same toward other women of all ages.
      The World Magazine review was somewhat frustrating to me and my wife who are members of the church Platt pastors. I know it is a review of his book, so is not looking further into his other preaching and teaching, but many of the issues he had in his review are just not the case. After I read it, I thought how unfortunate and that this was a situation where maybe it would have been better for him not to have written the review at all because many of his concerns are in reality, just not true. I think that much of what he perceives as bad is not in reality. He would know this if there was a way he could immerse himself into The Church at Brook Hills and see for himself. If you have not read the book, I would reccomend you do so, so you can see if Platt’s concerns and biblical teaching are warranted. May I also suggest the most recent Secret Church: http://www.brookhills.org/media/schurch/secret-church-the-gospel-possessions-and-prosperity), James series of sermons, The Radical Experiment sermon, and the Radical series of sermons, all on The Church at Brook Hills website. I believe Platt has a message straight from the pages of God’s Word that we in the American church need to hear desperately. Its as if he is a prophet sent by God for a time such as ours to lead us down the path of true discipleship. Be a noble Berean and see if what he says measure up to God’s Word. May the Lord Richly bless you MattPe.

  24. I appreciate all that has been said and my adding anything may not be necessary. My only thought is one I once read by Piper…..in paraphrase he said, I would rather have done too much than too little. The premise of David Platt’s book is simply that the words of Christ should be believed and thereby lived. Are they exageration? Are they archaic or are they the truth? If you find yourself spending more time trying to “clarify” Jesus’ commands, then you’re doing too little.

  25. How much can you keep of God’s money? Rules aren’t what is being commanded. Ask God what you should keep of what He gives. He’ll tell you if you will incline your ear and cry out for wisdom. (PRoverbs 2)

  26. DeYoung’s review is gracious but something rubbed me wrong. I see this happen all too often; in our defense of the Gospel we miss the other commands of scripture. I think it is an over sensitivity and worry that the Gospel will be watered down. Somehow we cant preach the Gospel and do social ministry. Also, did Jesus really die and give life so we can have American Christianity, pay our tithe, pray for our children etc… as DeYoung says. Maybe that is the reason the gospel is at risk? That I think is Platts Point.

    • But follow this to its logical conclusion! Did Jesus really die and life so that I could own a record store? Be a lawyer? Run a repair shop? This sort of deconstruction of everything may be fine for some people, uniquely gifted of God, but this reasoning unnecessarily calls into question that God-given ingenuity and creativity of millions of people, and that is simply absurd.

    • Darrell, you make an excellent point. There is something in the Calvinist/Reformed makeup that immediately gets defensive when the “social gospel” gets mentioned. The usual arguments become that either the “real” Gospel will be compromised or doctrine will somehow get undermined.

      That’s a logical error, though. Nothing MUST be lost. Yet that mindset that something will automatically taints nearly every review of anything radical/prophetic/revivalist by adherents of the Calvinist/Reformed tradition when it comes to calling the Church to a more active role in lifestyle changes and concern for any issue that borders on being social gospel.

      The upshot is that the complaint immediately frees the one raising it from having to deal with the content of that call. In the end, nothing gets done, but the Gospel and doctrine have once again been saved from creeping legalism.

      All this has done is excuse the Church in America from being asleep.

      While this is not necessarily a Calvinist/Reformed problem only, the loudest critics are more often than not from that camp. And that’s too bad, especially since the most predominant voices on the Web are found in Calvinist/Reformed blogs and sites.

      • DLE, that sounds really powerful but it’s just not true that “nothing gets done.” There are a ton of mercy ministries that have grown out of Reformed churches. I just thought of a half dozen off the top of my head. Google “PCA mercy ministry” and see what you see, and that’s one denomination. There’s always more to be done, but there’s a lot being done.

        Your argument in this thread has been made up completely of cheap shots and vague broadsides. You haven’t responded to any of the thoughtful critiques DeYoung raised; you’ve just accused anybody who has concerns of being lukewarm. Conveniently, you haven’t named any names– that lets you make serious charges without backing them up. Contrast that with DeYoung, who expressed great respect for Platt and his book, raised some questions, and gave Platt the opportunity to respond. And you’ve excused your own perceived sin by blaming it on “the church in America.”

        Listen, the “church in America” isn’t one unit. Yeah, there are a ton of lukewarm Christians and lukewarm churches in the States. There are also lots of Christians and lots of churches that are quietly seeking to be faithful. Jesus doesn’t call everybody to go to Haiti. He doesn’t make it that easy. He absolutely calls us to sacrificial generosity, but some of us are to live “radical lives” of raising kids, working regular jobs, and helping the kingdom grow like a mustard seed.

        Like I said before, if God’s calling you to sell everything and go, you better sell everything and go, and God bless you. But get busy fulfilling your own calling and quit beating your brothers and sisters over the head because of your angst.

        • JMH,

          If you can point me to the long list of Calvinist/Reformed pastors/teachers/authors who are actively writing about how we Christians can rethink the entire way we live, work, eat, play, and minister, I’ll quickly concede your point.

          But I’ve looked, and they are not out there. Tim Keller is as close as it gets, and his answer for everything is to move to the city. But that’s only a fraction of the solution.

          You have to go all the way back to Francis Schaeffer before you really find someone who questions the way we currently live. Since him, there’s been almost no one.

          This isn’t a question just about being missional; it’s about the way we do everything. And it’s not a toss-off question, either. The Bible demands a response.

          How are we dealing with the unemployed and those who cannot pay for health care? Are we standing up to unethical companies and flawed business practices (like the Church used to 100+ years ago)? Are we helping people find ways to work fewer hours so they can spend more time in service of the Lord? Are we questioning how we get the food we eat? Are we continuing to buy products made by slave labor? Should we continue to send our children onto expensive colleges that do little more than take our money and hand over a piece of paper that says our kid is now ready to slave away in a cubicle? Are we asking what it means that no one in the early Church lacked for anything? Are we wondering why the place the disciples gathered for prayer was shaken while our churches are not? Are we upset by the fact that we love our tech gadgets more than we love our neighbor? Do we even know our neighbors’ names?

          This is bigger than just helping out in a soup kitchen on weekends or questioning consumerism. These are all fallout questions that come from the Church’s concessions to industrialism, 19th century postmillennial triumphalism, and social Darwinism. They are enormous questions that demand radical answers that may shake up every aspect of how we live as Christians in America. But which Christians (of any stripe) are asking them? And worse, if no one is asking them, how will we ever find answers?

          • Do you read other blogs? I mean, seriously? Do you use Facebook? There are thousands of young evangelicals and Catholics who are awake to those concerns. God bless you with your call, but…I mean. Wow.

          • I’m not a Calvinist, but my church leaders are. Several years ago our church read Randy Alcorn’s treasure principle. I don’t know if he is a Calvinist, but that book was revolutionary to my husband and me. You might consider Do Hard Things by the Harris twins. We can and should think nationally and globally, but we can only act locally. We can write letters to authorities, give money to campaigns and good charities/missions, and we can pray. Our main circle of calling for us non famous persons is local. We can reach our neighbors better than a stranger 4000 miles away. We can build real relationships with locals, be we in Africa or NY.

  27. Richard Stewart

    To start, I must disclose that I am a member of Church at Brook Hills, where David Platt is senior pastor. I praise God for bringing him to our church. I also want to thank Pastor DeYoung and the Gospel Coalition for this blog and this model of civil discussion. Gentlemen, you have presented a model of civil discourse; I am so grateful for discussions like this. Thank you for helping us wrestle with tough issues!

    A comment, and some more questions:

    I was especially drawn in by what Pastor DeYoung said in the following paragraph:
    “Second, we need a better understanding of poverty and wealth in the world. The Christian needs to be generous, but generous charity is not the answer to the world’s most pressing problems of hunger, inadequate medical care, and grinding poverty. Wealth is created in places where the rule of law is upheld, property rights are secured, people are free to be entrepreneurs, and there is sufficient social capital to encourage risk-taking. We can and should do good with our giving. But we must not lead people to believe that most of human suffering would be alleviated if we simply gave more.”

    I feel such a gnawing, raw need in own life to make the connection between the fact that God is Lord over all things, all “spheres” of life, and how we are to live out our lives, from “soup to nuts,” and especially in the arena of money, possessions, and how they are to be used to reach out to those who are lost and dying, spiritually and physically.

    Also, I realize that, until Jesus returns, whilst I wrestle with these issues, I am absolutely not excused from giving in the meantime, for if I do that then I shall have parted company with Christian charity.

    I have been drawn to the work of Herman Dooyeweerd as I wrestle with these issues. Who is this generation’s Dooyeweerd? Now, I am pretty sure there is no “Royal Road” here to Godly, Christ-honoring wisdom here. Apparently, there are components of being radical followers of Christ which will look different from person to person. Nonetheless, we need Christian statesmen and philosophers who can clearly teach a Christ-centered, Gospel-driven world view to American evangelicals. This includes issues like how “capitalism and private property rights” fit in Christian life and practice. There is some need for such teaching, particularly in the lives of North American Christians, who, like myself, are waking up to all of the mandates of the Gospel and who are realizing that they had never been excused from wrestling with these issues. How do we also speak into our culture about such issues, in a Christ-honoring, Gospel saturated way?

    Again, many thanks to Pastor DeYoung and Pastor Platt for modelling for us such gracious civility for all to see, even when there is not 100% agreement. And thanks also for helping members of the Body of Christ wrestle with these issues.

  28. The early church was not a perfect church. Acts 5 and 6 demonstrate this. No church is perfect – in the NT or in church history. But churches (and saints) do, by God’s grace, reflect Christ’s goodness more clearly and brightly at times, some even over a sustained period of time. Christ is still head of the Church; he continues to sanctify and build her up – even with all our faults, weaknesses, and tiny faith. Yes, we are called to be a “city on a hill” but our life is also “hidden with Christ”. I don’t ever feel guilty for what I’m not – only always thankful for who He is.

  29. I am a senior citizen trying to understand current trends within the Church. I appreciate the sincerity and enthusiasm of younger believers. Some thoughts for your discussion:

    Different models of churches are not a problem, as long as the Truth of the Gospel is proclaimed. Please be careful about “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” These criticized, although never named churches, with million-dollar facilities typically host thousands of activities a year, all open to the community. A large church in my area hosted 8000 separate events last year. Many people and families have been brought to the Lord because they first, as un-churched people, attended a group at the church, like Boy Scouts or a basketball camp. This church has also given millions of dollars to foreign and local missions and sends out numerous mission teams each year.

    Also I would ask you to consider how many people found employment in building these churches. From the day laborer who may have been in his/her first job developing the discipline to come to the job on time and to work hard, to the highly trained architects and engineers who designed and oversaw construction of the structures, as well as including the many companies who supplied building materials, equipment, and fixtures to the projects….think how many people received money through their employment in these companies to support their own families, and in many cases, to give back some of what they had earned. This is part of the “American Dream.”

    Being an insular church is a problem. Simply having a large structure is not.

    I would appreciate a definition of “the simpler life” lived in America. I am amused that no one mentions giving up computers, Internet connections, and “Twittering” cell phones, all products of the “American Dream.”

    All of us need to look at ALL that Jesus taught. When Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish people were a small group of totally oppressed people. In 2010, we have the privilege of living in the most powerful and most generous country in the world….not perfect, of course, because we are all sinful people, but where else would you rather live?

    We are the country that has received “ten talents,” both through God’s providence and through the hard work and sacrifices of previous generations. Let’s discuss how we can be good stewards of our great gifts, including how frequently our earnest, generous intentions actually result in increasing or prolonging poverty in the groups we are trying so hard to assist.

  30. Having the privilege and the pain of living in a developing country where it is illegal to share the gospel, I come back again and again and again to resting in God’s grace and staying attached to the vine of Jesus, yielded and wielded [as Andrew Murray puts it in “Abide in Christ”.
    And thank you for modeling grace-filled dialogue!

  31. [...] Platt’s new book Radical has been getting lots of press: Justin Taylor, Kevin DeYoung, and J.D. Greear have all blogged about it – not all of it positive. The author, David Platt, [...]

  32. I think A.W. Pink said it best, “How vastly different is the God of Scripture from the “god” of the average pulpit!” With that in mind, Christians need to change their perspective on the westernized church and the idea of gospel centered stewardship.

  33. [...] The article: Radical – TGC Reviews Fred Greco Senior Pastor, Christ Church PCA (Katy, TX) Christ Church Blog "The heart is the [...]

  34. I truly appreciate DeYoung’s thoughtful and graciously shared points…
    as much has been said about how the church differs today from the church in Acts, I too agree that we have drifted into “Americanized” Christianity, or “Churchianity” as I like to call it…
    But here is where I wonder about the “Burnout” issue that DeYoung brings up….
    The Church in Acts truly lived as if Jesus was coming back any day. Because Jesus said…”Behold I’m coming again!”
    So…Yeah…if you literally thought Jesus was coming back next week, what’s to say you wouldn’t sell it all and give it all away? And why would you start a business, or pursue a career, or buy a home or even really build a shelter that took more than a couple hours to build…that is… if Jesus was coming back next week?

    I know that Christ’s return is imminent! (YAY!) and yet we all struggle with “Ok, Jesus is coming again, but…”
    Once the Church began to see that Jesus was indeed not coming next week, you see a natural shift to sustaining the Church.

    I think it’s a tough balance to live knowing Christ’s return is imminent but may not be within our lifetime.

  35. [...] been spiritually compromised by pursuing the American dream. Second, Platt’s book has helped expose a divide among Reformed evangelicals about the church’s obligation to alleviate suffering in the world. Even if Platt’s book [...]

  36. [...] I commend this interchange to the reader as an example of redemptive debate. Would that more of God’s people engaged in this kind of critique/response with such gospel grace. You can read the entire piece here. [...]

  37. [...] an humble, down to earth, funny, a devoted student of the Scriptures, and a gifted preacher by Kevin DeYoung, who goes on to say this about David Platt, “I’m glad David is one of the good guys because I [...]

  38. [...] you can’t just pour money into these countries hoping that it take care of all their problems.  Kevin DeYoung * says that what David Platt is suggesting will cause burn-out, and people will become disillusioned [...]

  39. I think this review serves as an example of how we can humbly critique each other without attacking one another. Standing for sound doctrine is of the utmost importance but showing love and respect for those who differ in the faith is equally important. The issues discussed here are issues of secondary importance and therefore we may be humble when we talk about our differences. Deyoung and Platt both believe essentially the same thing and want the gospel to be spread. Their views are different but the way they treat each other shows a level of maturity rarely scene within the church. Mark Twain once said “Christianity is the most beautiful religion that has never been practiced”… However I think he would have changed his mind if he read how humbly these men expressed their differences.

  40. [...] in all, Radical was a great book. I agree with many of Kevin DeYoung’s cautions to those who read Radical (and also his hearty commendation of both the book and its author, David [...]

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