Platt, David. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Multnomah Books,
2010. Reviewed by Andrew Worley.
David Platt is an American pastor and writer. He used to be the pastor of The Church at
Brook Hills, a mega church with four thousand members. He has multiple degrees, two
undergraduate and three advance degrees. The degrees he has earned are a Bachelor of Arts, a
B.A. in Journalism, a Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and a Doctor of Philosophy. His
advance degrees were all achieved at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Platt currently
serves as the president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
The first chapter of David Platt’s book tries to explain what “radical abandonment”
really means as a disciple of Christ. In this chapter, Platt gives a personal reflection of his time
as a pastor of a mega church, and he expresses that he thinks that something is wrong
somewhere. This issue comes out when he explains that his church spent twenty-three million
on a new building, but they raised a small sum of five thousand for missions. He challenges his
readers to believe and obey Jesus, and radically abandon everything for Christ’s sake and they
sake of others.
Chapter two goes on to explain the need for Jesus, that a believer needs total
dependency on Jesus, and not simply “accepting Jesus”. Platt also urges Christians to examine
their own faith, in order to see how much of their faith is influenced by the American Dream
and how much influenced by the Bible. He continues on to challenge Christians to see more so
who they are in Christ. When his readers understand who God is and who they are in Christ,
then they will better understand the response they are supposed to have. Platt wants his
readers to see that they are hopeless without Christ, and the proper response is total
Platt in chapter three emphasizes the importance of completely trusting and relying on
God. The American Dream stresses that everyone has the power and abilities to do whatever
they want, but Platt wants his readers to understand that the gospel is centered on God’s
power alone. Platt also expresses his concerns with the definition of a “successful church”. He
thinks that this definition leads to leads to doing things on our own power and to our own
glory, not God’s. He contrasts the American church with that in Acts, and how they simply lived
and depended on God. Platt calls all Christians to rely on God to do things that they cannot do.
In chapter four, Platt explains how we are made to love God and give Him glory. The
idea that the gospel for “me” and that “God loves me” is wrong according to Platt. Instead of
thinking that the message of Christianity is for the individual, Platt argues that the purpose is
designed to make an impact on the world. The message of the gospel is not supposed to be all
about “me”, but sharing that message to all the nations. He advocates that every Christian
should be concerned with making God’s glory known in the entire world.
Platt discusses how we are to be like Jesus and live out God’s will of taking the gospel to
all nations in chapter five. He stressed that all Christians need to realize that they are equipped
to carry out that mission of sharing the gospel. Go, baptize, and teach are words that Platt
emphasizes that Jesus tells His disciples before leaving them. Platt states that the church today
focuses on cleaning up Christians over making disciples. He goes onto say that the success of
the church should not be number of people in the church, but the number going out from the
Chapter six looks at the poverty in the world and compares that to the wealth of
America. This difference creates a gap according to Platt. He says Christians ignore this
problem, partly because they are just sinful and partly because they only want to see what they
like to see. Platt makes clear that taking care of the poor will not save, but he stresses that
Christians can have a “blind spot” when it comes to materialism. Platt asks his readers to let go
of the grip they have on their material possession and be willing to give out of love for Christ.
The seventh chapter of Platt’s book examines seven different scriptural truths that
Christians must share with the world. These truths are: all people have some idea about God,
all have rejected God, everyone has sinned against God, all deserve condemnation for sin,
Christ has provided salvation, Christ alone can save, and all believers are to share to gospel.
Platt tells urgency of going and telling people the gospel of Christ. He states that 1.5 billion
people still have never heard the name of Jesus, but, sadly, they probably have heard of Coca
Cola. Platt challenges the church to obey God’s will and share the gospel better.
In chapter eight, Platt argues for his readers to live the “radical life”, and he tells of the
risks and rewards that are associated with this life. He claims that the risks are clear, and that
scripturally, Christians will be betrayed, hated, persecuted, and suffer for the sake of Christ.
Platt explains that the rewards of living this “radical life” are just that, “radical”, because our
reward is in heaven, after death. This reward allows Christians to live their live now “radically”
for Christ, which Platt says is the key to “taking back your faith from the American Dream”. He
also makes clear that the American Dream, the comfortable life, is not the life we are called to
live as a Christian.
The last chapter, chapter nine, is full of challenges to Platt’s readers. It contains a one
year plan to get a believer to live the “radical life”. This plan has five parts: praying for the
whole world, reading the bible, sacrificing your money for ministry, spending time in ministry,
and commit to making other disciples. Platt ends the book with a summary of the cost of
radically following Jesus. He stresses that we should be focused on eternal matters, rather than
a comfortable temporary life.
David Platt’s book has a few awesome things for all Christians to apply and live out. The
first thing, and probably the biggest emphasis of the book, is Platt’s critique of how the
American Dream has infiltrated Christianity. This “American evangelism” associates Christianity
with the prosperity of America, and emphasizes this overreliance on one’s self, possessions, and
time. Platt does a good job to steer the reader from the American Dream and back to Jesus and
helping others spiritually and physically, instead of themselves. He calls the church back to its
identity and mission. His goal was to “”look at the core truth of a God-centered gospel and see
how we have manipulated it into a human-centered (and ultimately dissatisfying) message”
(21). In hopes that “we will determine not to waste our lives on anything but uncompromising,
unconditional abandonment to a gracious, loving Savior who invites us to take radical risk and
promises us radical reward” (21).
Platt gives a very practical challenge and plan at the end of his book that sets his book
apart from others. He calls it the “radical experiment”. This plan and challenge gives the reader
some very practical things to take away from the book and put into practice. Unlike other
books, Platt does well give his readers an action plan to fix some of the issues that he mentions
in the book that the church fails to do well. For example, part of this “radical experiment” was
to give to ministry sacrificially, which would bring Christians farther away from the American
Dream of prosperity and closer to the radical giving that we see in scripture. This “radical
experiment” is unique because it is the testing of the claims that Platt makes throughout the
book. Platt also suggests that it will get those who follow it will separate their faith from
American Dream, which is the main point of the book.
The challenges to be a radical Christian also make this book unlike others. Platt asks the
question, “will we risk everything—our comfort, our possessions, our safety, our security, our
very lives—to make the gospel known among unreached people” (160)? Platt makes clear that
Christians are not called to a comfortable life. He makes clear that living out the radical life will
be hard, but out reward is in heaven, which is the key to living out our faith without influence of
the American Dream. These hard challenges really make readers think and evaluate how they
live out their faith.
There are not many things to critique in Platt’s book, but there are a few things that
could be addressed. The first critique comes from the first chapter of the book. In that chapter,
Platt addresses consumerism that comes with the American Dream. He seems condemn the
building of a twenty-three million dollar church that was build, but then later on in the book he
seems to boast a multi-million dollar campus. It seems that he contradicts some of the things
that he speaks out against in the book. It is hard to not see some sort of contradiction regarding
this consumerism, but it could be possibly explained by context. However, it still is very unclear,
and it looks like hypocrisy at first glance.
The second critique comes from chapter six when regarding the rich young ruler, as well
as some other scripture references to make his points. The way Platt deals with that passage is
somewhat concerning. The problem does not come from his understanding that all believers
should be willing to give up everything if God wills them to. The problem comes from Platt
arguing that believers should being asking God if it is His will for their lives to give up
everything. Platt seems to miss the point of this passage. Platt thinks this passage deals with
obedience to God, when the passage really has to deal with a heart problem, so to use this
passage to speak to obedience of Christian does not work well.
Platt’s book is a very challenging book that calls Christians to live “radically” for the sake
of Christ and reaching others with the gospel. Platt calls for a radical surrender to Christ and
backs up his point with scripture. He gives very practical application to follow in order to live
the radical life he calls his readers to throughout his book. Platt’s challenges are hard, radical
even, but he means well with his intentions. The book does well to convict and challenge
Christians to live a life to the stand Christ calls us to in scripture.