“Radical” Chapter One – A book ReviewOctober 30, 2011
So here is how this series of book reviews is going to go. I’m going to put them in four parts
1. Synopsis of the Chapter
2. Good Points
3. Weaker Points
4. How This Chapter Got Me Thinking
Synopsis of Chapter One: David Platt tells us about his experiences teaching in underground churches in Asia. He briefly shows the commitment level by these Christians who must face possible death and problems just to practice their faith. Then, he returns to America and is asked to pastor one of the fastest growing Mega-churches in America; the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. During the flow of this chapter, he makes frequent references to how the church in America (and perhaps other parts of the world) has settled for a Christianity that is weak, unbiblical and without obedience to Christ. He then goes through some of the more radical demands that Jesus made on his followers, focusing on demands to give up all, surrender all and selling everything to follow Jesus.
Good Points: I love how he takes all the radical demands that Jesus indeed does make and refuses to accept the standard misinterpretations of these passages. Too many bible teachers see Jesus’ bold demands on his followers as necessary only because of the nature of the Messiah’s appearance. That is, Jesus had to make it difficult to follow him because he was calling for a complete break from Judaistic culture and tradition. Many bible teachers like to say we need to make commitments to Christ, but that it is not necessary to carry those commitments to the extreme that Jesus’ disciples did. Platt hits that head on. There is no reason we should think Jesus’ radical demands have changed over time. He compares how Christians are acting in situations outside of our country and contrasts their life commitment with the prevalent “mouth commitment” that Christians make in Western countries.
Weaker Points: This is going to be a weakness in some of the chapters: he does make good observations on some Bible passages, but does not give much context to what he will be teaching. Some of his interpretations are not accurate and this causes many of his applications to sound really radical; but they are actually somewhat legalistic. For instance, he speaks about the rich, young ruler being asked to sell all he had to follow after him. From that example, he says that all of us need to sell what we have and give to the poor, the destitute and the work of the Kingdom of God. Really? He knows that is what God is saying to every Christian? Here is a fundamental principle of bible interpretation. First, find out what Jesus’ teaching meant to the people he was speaking to. From that, determine the key thing he is teaching in that situation. Then, establish a universal truth that can apply to all people. Then, apply that truth as broadly as possible. Platt is very strong on living radically; so strong in fact, that he seems to pass over some of these necessary rules of bible interpretation. In the case of the rich, young ruler, he could have been just as radical if he said it this way: “Jesus was calling a man to examine all he had and compare it with the value of being obedient to God”. For one person, that will cost all their possessions. But for another person, they may be asked to give up the idea of marriage. God must be the one who helps each individual apply truth. Platt seems to want to do that for us.
Thinking: As I read this, I do look at my life and wonder if I have compromised my relationship with Christ at times for something easier. Have you?