the low down on new books

Radical

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by David Platt. 240 p. Published May 2010 by Multnomah Books.  Book received as a gift.

Verdict: ★★★★★

Who Cares? Adult Christian Non-Fiction

Short Bio: Platt challenges Christians in the United States to examine one of the fundamental components of their culture: The American Dream.  He builds a convincing case that the elements of the American Dream (with hard work, achieve all your potential and enjoy the resulting reward of your labor) inherently conflict with the biblical gospel (God calls the weak and powerless to rely on His strength to fulfill the mission to see His name glorified by all people on earth).  Platt evaluates the way the Christian church and our individual Christianity look in America and compares them to the examples of the church and Christians in the Bible.  He compares our common strategies with those of Christ’s example.  He lists Christ’s instructions to his disciples alongside our expectations of what Christian commitment entails.  Finally, Platt calls readers to join him in an “experiment” to test out the theory that we might be missing out in our American Christianity – he charges readers to (consistently, for one year): 

1. Pray for the whole world (using Operation World),
2. Read the whole Bible,
3. Give sacrificially to a specific purpose in a specific context,
4. Go serve someplace out of your normal context (for one week of the year), and
5. Participate in a faith community. 

Eyewitness Account: This book is certainly one of the most challenging and engaging reads I’ve had in a while – and I read almost all of it in one day because I was so interested in it!  I’m not usually big into marking up books, but my copy has underlines and notes and exclamation marks all through it (hopefully those will amuse whoever borrows it from me) because I wanted so much to engage in the author’s discussion.  I completely resonated with the struggle of fleshing out what it means to be a disciple of Christ in an American context – what exactly is our purpose in life? Is it to climb up our career ladder and work for the comfort and security of our family’s future?  Is it even to regularly attend church and ensure that you give to good charities? Or is it to radically hunger and thirst for God’s word and presence in your life in a way that causes you take ridiculous risks? 

I enjoyed Platt’s honesty about his own spiritual journey and the times when he himself has fallen victim to the American Dream.  I was left challenged with the idea that even having been a Christian for many years, I still think with my American brain.  When I am excited or touched with a need that I sense God asking me to step up to fill, I immediately start thinking “How can I fulfil it? How can I accomplish that task? What resources do I have?” I’ve slipped into my American mindset already – and if I were to succeed, who would get the credit?  Would anyone look at what I’d done and praise God?  No – they’d praise me.  God chooses to use the weak and the powerless and asks them to do ridiculous, impossible things because He knows that’s how He gets the credit!

I LOVED the examples of hard-core disciples that Platt gave – people like George Muller, Jim Elliot, and John Paton who did seemingly crazy things that ended with God getting praise from people who were definitely against God before.  I also found this book to be exceptionally well organized for something of this content – I really appreciated how Platt walked the reader through Matthew 10 to discuss how Christ sent out the disciples, what he told them to expect, and how he equipped them.  I also found his walk-through of the Romans Road a very provocative and logical exposition on our status before God and the need to share the message of Christ with others.

Although I already have portions of his “experiment” imbedded in my daily life, I was challenged to be more consistent and intentional about them.  I found this book though-provoking and and look forward to re-reading it again soon (hopefully I can talk my book club into it)!  If this book really intrigues you, I’d urge you to check out the insightful review done on the Gospel Coalition’s page (linked below) – it has some thought-provoking questions about the content of this book and Platt’s response.  

Notable Quotes: 

“The dangerous assumption we unknowingly accept in the American dream is that our greatest asset is our own ability. The American dream prizes what people can accomplish when they believe in themselves and trust in themselves, and we are drawn toward such thinking. But the gospel has different priorities. The gospel beckons us to die to ourselves and to believe God and to trust in his power. In the gospel, God confronts us with our utter inability to accomplish anything of value apart from him.”

“In direct contradiction to the American dream, God actually delights in exalting our inability. He intentionally puts his people in situations where they come face to face with their need for him. In the process he powerfully demonstrates his ability to provide everything his people need in ways they could never have mustered up our imagined. And in the end, he makes much of his own name.”

Other Books Read by This Author: None.

What are other people saying?  Another book review from Lets Eat Grandpa, a book review and dialogue with the author at The Gospel Coalition, and a reader who evaluates her progress on the “experiment” on year later at The Coffee Shop.

Rating:

★★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Organization

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★★

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