Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
Author: David Platt
First Take: Challenging… in the extreme
When did I read it? Mid 2018
You have been warned. Read this with care. It is a very challenging book and at the end of reading it, you may well find you are really, really rethinking whether you are a disciple.
I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves
Rethink your faith
Yep, this is a book that asks you to rethink your Christianity in a very big way. If you read it, you can’t help but do so.
Ultimately, Jesus was calling [followers] to abandon themselves. They were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, self-preservation for self-denunciation. In a world that prizes promoting oneself, they were following a teacher who told them to crucify themselves.
This is emphatically not a book that is going to leave you comfortable about your service.
He relates a story, for example about a newsletter extolling a new church costing millions of dollars whilst on the facing page of the same newsletter, the writer is excited about raising a couple of thousand for flood victims in SE Asia.
He pulls no punches and he asks you to step up and radically change your life.
I know I am hitting you with a lot of quotes, but I can’t render this stuff better than David does himself:
We live in a land of self-improvement. Certainly there are steps we can take to make ourselves better. So we modify what the gospel says about us. We are not evil, we think, and certainly not spiritually dead. Haven’t you heard of the power of positive thinking? I can become a better me and experience my best life now. That’s why God is there, to make that happen.
My life is not going right, but God loves me and has a plan to fix my life. I simply need to follow certain steps, think certain things, and check off certain boxes, and then I am good. Both our diagnosis of the situation and our conclusion regarding the solution fit nicely in a culture that exalts self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and self-confidence. We already have a fairly high view of our morality, so when we add a superstitious prayer, a subsequent dose of church attendance, and obedience to some of the Bible, we feel pretty sure that we will be all right in the end
Trust in the Power of God
He calls on us to trust in the power of God and indeed to surrender our lives in such a way that we are “radically dependent on and desperate for the power that only God can provide.”
He informs us that we have been “created… to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and… anything less than radical devotion to this purpose is unbiblical…”
Pretty strong words, I think you’ll agree.
Where I think potentially the book falls down is in the “what now?”
Ok, so you have evangelised, indeed rescued the heart of someone from this broken world, now what? One of the saddest things that I have witnessed of recent times is this very phenomenon. We rescue someone’s heart for God, but then they are left to fend for themselves.
So many hearts out there to rescue, but in doing so, we have a responsibility to nurture and grow those hearts into spiritual maturity so that they in their turn can rescue hearts.
I think that David rather ignores this personally – which is a pity, because so much else he says is really powerful.