Thursday, October 1, 2015

In Response to "Radical"

I'll keep this review simple and limit myself to answering one question.

Would I recommend David Platt's book, Radical?

 And the short answer is no.

It's not that it's a bad book. It's not. David Platt's theology, where it emerges in his book, seems to be fairly sound.

His stories and arguments are challenging, and he grounds them fairly well in Scripture.

Why I Wouldn't Recommend It

All things considered, it's an ok book. But there's a lot of better stuff out there, especially by those who are closely associated with Reformed circles. Their stuff might not be as emotionally moving, or printed in such a eye-friendly format as Radical, but their theology is deep and rich.

They have a more sober and mature understanding of the church, and therefore are less likely to romanticize what goes on in churches suffering persecution and oppression. These persecuted churches are often full of unbiblical doctrines that even compromise their understanding of the gospel. Of course, who's to say whether these people really believe the true gospel, even though they express their faith in ways that make better-taught Christians very uncomfortable? Who's to say whether they just need to grow more in their understanding of Scripture?

But the bottom-line is, these churches must not be romanticized, as if they're the ideal that more stable, better-taught churches should aspire to. Unfortunately, this is precisely the mistake that Platt makes (or, at least, allows his readers to make) throughout his book.

What Is Our Basic Problem?

One last thing. The gospel is central to the life of the church. Get the gospel wrong, and everything else down the line will go awry. If the diagnosis is wrong, the treatment will be, too.

Thankfully, Platt seems to appreciate this. He even devotes the entire second chapter of his book to "Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Gospel". At first reading, it seemed to be pretty complete. God is a holy Judge who cannot tolerate sin. We have sinned and deserve God's judgment and wrath (yes, he actually uses that word, which we should be grateful for). Christ bore the penalty of sin on the cross, so that we, by surrendering to Him, could be saved.

But as I continued reading, I found myself wondering why I disagreed with his thinking on so many points. How could we differ so much in our ideas of church and missions, when we believed the same gospel? Platt, to his credit, consistently bases his arguments on the gospel truths he lays out in Chapter 2. So, why the disagreements?

I finally realized that he didn't really dwell on what sin is. He used the term, but he didn't take the time to really define it. In particularly, he didn't lay out clearly that sin is essentially a rebelling against God. It's first and foremost about offending God, not hurting other people. At the risk of oversimplification, I'd say that because the book as a whole glossed over this foundational truth, its idea of the gospel, while largely true, was inadequate. Therefore, the book's ideas about church and missions were significantly skewed.

The basic problem of American Christians is not "the American dream." They have the same basic problem as all Christians do the world over -- a sinful heart. And we need to do more than agree with this truth. We need to make it clear and make sure it gets worked out in our theology and in our lives.

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