Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/28/2010 by John Bird.
Recommended. A clarion call to live radically for Jesus Christ. But if you read it, will you?
David Platt has a burden—a burden to see believers in America acting like New Testament Christians. But for the most part, he says we're not. Instead, we are pursuing the "American dream" rather than Jesus. Jesus told his disciples not to lay up treasures on earth. They were to take up their crosses. They were to live for others. They were to be willing to die for others. But we live for ourselves. We live for security, for comfort, for ease, for entertainment, and for retirement.
With the best of intentions, we have actually turned away from Jesus. We have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel he taught.
And, according to Platt, it's not just individual Christians embracing flawed values. Churches in America spend billions of dollars to build extravagant kingdoms and then praise themselves for sending a few thousand dollars to missions, while millions around the world are starving to death without ever hearing the gospel. Platt calls this lack of concern for the poor a "blind spot" in American Christianity. And it's a blind spot that should concern us: "If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is really in us at all."
Though he is serious about the poor, Platt's main concern is spreading the gospel. Early Christians were willing to die to share the good news. And many are dying today in other parts of the world. But some of us are unwilling to talk to our neighbors, much less reach out to those of a different class or nationality. Perhaps we're too busy; the gospel just isn't a priority. Platt, however, says it should be:
If people are dying and going to hell without ever even knowing there is a gospel, then we clearly have no time to waste our lives on an American dream.
Throughout the book, Platt exposes the indifference of American evangelicals like me. It was hard for me to put the book down, though I can't say that I enjoyed it. I was convicted. I was uncomfortable. At one point while I was reading, my wife asked, “Are you most troubled?” Yes, I was. But mostly I was (and am) challenged. Challenged to live a life that looks more like that of a true follower of Christ.
A side note: Platt, like many young evangelicals, sounds a lot like John Piper. I could give several examples, but one will suffice: "[God’s] passion does not ultimately center on his people. It centers on his greatness, his goodness, and his glory being made known globally among all peoples." I don’t point this out as a criticism—only a comparison. Good theology tends to sound the same.
In the end, Platt challenges readers to the one-year "Radical Experiment." This experiment involves five components meant to "radically alter the remainder of your life." My excitement built as I drew nearer to the final chapter. I imagined being called to martyrdom. I was nervous. "Can I do this? What will it cost? What will my wife say?" But when I got there, it was anticlimactic. Platt doesn't ask me to die, or even to sell my house. What he does ask is easier, something I can actually do. But the question remains: "Will I?" And as I consider the challenge, I realize that, in this selfish culture, it is radical. Indeed, to live as Christ calls His disciples to live is, in any culture, radical.