Book Reviews

Book Review: Radical (David Platt)

Overused words in Christianity:

  • “Guard your heart” 
  • “I don’t feel led”
  • When plans fall through: “It was the Lord’s will” 
  • “Hedge of protection”
  • “Are you in tune with the Spirit?” (No, but I have DVR just in case) 
  • “Everything happens for a reason”
  • “God told me I’m going to marry you.” (I’ll let you know when he tells me too)
  • Starting every sentence with “Brothers and sisters.”
  • Authentic
  • Missional
  • Organic
  • Audacious (faith)

And, last but not least…. 

I don’t say this to pick on anyone specifically (I actually Googled “overused Christian phrases” to find some of these). I’ve said some of these too, and I probably will still say them. Often times we simply say these words out of habit. If I had a feather for every time Platt said “radical”, I’d have a chicken.

Before I went to Germany, I borrowed this book from a friend of mine who’s doing mission work in India. I finally read it a few weeks ago, and what piqued my interest was hearing that David Platt tells people to downsize their houses, live cheaper, give their money to the poor, live with the poor, etc. Because this is a popular book I wanted to see if that was true. Thankfully it wasn’t, but I do have some reservations with this book.

The Chocolate Milk

This book was better than I thought it would be. Whatever it was that I heard about the book was wrong. Platt actually doesn’t tell you the reader to downsize their house, their car, their income, go move to the inner city, etc. He gives examples of some in his church and others who he knows who have done so to remove themselves from the “American dream” and to spread the Gospel to those they wouldn’t normally reach.

Platt does a good job of pointing the reader away from the American dream and directing them toward sending help (financial/physical) to the lost here in America and in other parts of the world. Living in America, even the poor make more money than most of the world. (If you make $9,000 a year, you make more than 85% of the world).

Salvation doesn’t mean we can live however we want. It doesn’t mean we have a new liberty in Christ so we can sin however much we want and know we’ll be forgiven. There should be a life-style change (pp. 38-39). Making money isn’t wrong, but there’s more to life than spending it all on our wants and desires (2 Corinthians 8:9, 12-13). There are others who really need it.There are missionaries who are in Mongolia and live on $1 a day. Starving kids in Zimbabwe. AIDs victims in the Sahara. It’s not the “Social Gospel” of merely meeting everyone’s physical needs, but it’s showing love by sacrifice.

Platt doesn’t tell us to put legalistic pressures on ourselves or on others. We should ask ourselves and pray about how much we should keep and how much we should give. We don’t want to be like the slacker who refused to work and then didn’t have any food saved for the winter (Proverbs 6:6-9), but we don’t want to be like the hoarder who can’t even find their bed when it’s time to sleep.

The Spoiled Milk

So now, comes the main attraction.

My biggest peeve with the book is one theme that was implied throughout the whole book.
It’s only one word.


Maybe he doesn’t intend to do this, but Platt makes a distinction between Christians who live this “radical” way, and those Christians who don’t. So if you aren’t a radical Christian, then you’re an ordinary Christian? What’s an ordinary Christian to do? The only time I hear the word “radical” is if from watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the News. And when I watch the news, radical is never a good term (radical Islam, radical right-wing, radical left, radical Christians, radical extremist, radical obesity, etc).

Maybe I would rather be an ordinary Christian.

What happens if you’re a father or mother who has to work 2-3 jobs because your spouse is disabled (or you’re a single parent), you have hungry kids, you have bills to pay, and life isn’t cutting you a break? What are you to do if you can’t do any of the radical suggestions in this book? What if you already live in the inner city and still you’re barely scraping ends meet? What do you do? Simple. You live. In Acts 17:28a Paul, talking to the men of Athens, says, “…for in Him [the Lord] we live and move and have our being.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”Just living to please God is radical enough, because the world hates God.

An issue I had with Radical was that it feels like Platt assumes his audience is wholly made up of self-centered, money-hungry, American Christians who live in 3-story houses and have nothing better to do with their lives but think about making their next buck. And if he doesn’t think this about his audience, a simple footnote wouldn’t hurt.

In 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul speaks on the character of leaders in the church. The letters aren’t very exciting. The character traits are pretty generic. There’s no specific, computer-generated questionnaire to see who is fit for the job. We might be prone to expect mighty heroes who can change city with a single sermon, so seeing the list of character traits in Timothy/Titus can be pretty mundane.  But today, with imminent crumbling of morality, leaders who live a solid, faithful, and (probably) unspectacular life will stand out.
Today, everyone is always busy doing something to be entertained. Paul says to “lead a quiet life, [and] to mind your own business” (1 Thess 4:11-12) and to avoid laziness (2 Thess. 3:6). This new group of Christians in Thessalonica were being pressured by family, friends, coworkers, and community to turn from their new ‘weird’ faith and come back to worshiping idols. They received mocking, humiliations, and perhaps persecution on all fronts. Paul reassures his love for them, God’s love for them, and to live in a peaceful way that removes all doubt from the mouths of those who hate them.

Please don’t think I’m knocking missionaries. I’m not. It runs in the family. And I’m not saying is that it’s okay for you to sit on your butt waiting for the next big thing in your life to happen. You can’t be lazy (2 Thess. 3:6) and hope that everything will go right for you. What’s really radical?

1. Loving your spouse: In a country where the divorce rate is roughly 50%, actually staying married is an amazing feat worth applauding. Of course, it comes with much prayer, struggling, and sacrifice. Not that I would know…

2. Raising your kids to love God and being the godly example for them: Make rules, stick to them, and be gracious. If you err, err on grace. Show them what the love of Christ, what it means to love a man or woman (your spouse) in the right way, and how to take responsibility for your actions.

3. Keeping a good Christian image to the world: there are a lot of weirdos out there. Some are just odd, while others are way out there. (Understandably, the world is going to hate us anyway. But being weird doesn’t help either).

4. Read your Bible, study your Bible, and pray: We all know we should do this. We’ve all heard about how much we should do this. But do we do it? Do I do it? Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do it every day. We’re human. All of the “good guys” in the Bible (except for Jesus) had character flaws. But the more you grow and learn, the more you mature, the more you’ll be apt to reading, studying, and praying. And what makes you more mature? Reading. Studying. Praying. Circumstances in life that show you you’re inadequate, and God is fully adequate. Reading your Bible and praying are essential, but they’re pretty radical too.

5. Love the world: Love the people who are in the world. Show them you care by the way you treat them. But use common sense too.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16)The gospel takes work. Time. Sacrifice. Getting close to people. Opening up to them. Being real. Being held accountable. It’s hands-on.

Finally, this book was just boring. The last chapter or two consisted of a wrestling match on if I should even finish the book or not.
Here’s how I would structure the book. 
A Boring (Ch 1-4a)
      X Not Boring (Ch 4b-6)
A` Boring (Ch 7-9)


No. Just read this review and this blog on Ordinary Christians.

I know some people have read this book and have been greatly encouraged, and I’m glad. But it didn’t do much for me.



  1. Very helpful review, thanks. Have you heard of or read “The God of the Mundane” by Matt Redmond? It seems like a book you would appreciate more than “Radical.” (I can’t figure out how I got here now, so maybe it was from Reformed Reader, who has reviews on both these books.)


  2. Hi, Spencer Thank you so much for your review of “Radical”. I appreciate your kindness and the thoughtful critique. I have listened and read David Platt and have at time been simply confused bu the vagueness and “both and” stuff that occasionally shows up.


  3. Really enjoyed this review, and TOTALLY agree! Telling Christians to go out and be “radical” just makes you feel guilty that you’re not a missionary even when you’re already just struggling to eke out a living to support your family. I’m one of the “ordinary Christians” you described. Thanks for the book review,


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mark. Yeah, it’s not very helpful. Many could be doing more, but more of what? there’s a song from the Christian metal band Tourniquet called “Crawl to China.” Some of the lyrics are,
      “Is God asking you to crawl to China
      Or just to cross the street?

      Is it the concentration camps at Dackow?
      Is it Joan of Arc revisited?
      Niagra Falls in a barrel?
      Or to mend a broken relationship instead?”

      I’ve known many Bible college students who wanted to do big and amazing things for God, but they couldn neither wash their own dishes nor their roommates. They didn’t even dare try love the awkward/difficult person in their room. If we can’t do that, why should we think we can do it in the midst of third world trials? What’s the use in being a radical missionary if we can’t die to ourself for someone in our own culture, in our own room?

      Thanks again, Mark.


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