Radical by David Platt, an Alabama pastor, did get a lot of things right — but did not address several issues that would have made it more balanced. That’s what I wrote in my review last week. But a few related topics remained, some leftovers I wasn’t able to get into that review.
For instance, there’s the main theme of chapter 6, “How Much is Enough?” The question, and much of the chapter, reference Mark 10 and its description of Jesus’ encounter with a rich man.
Platt summarizes the account, ending with the rich man’s dejected departure from Jesus, clearly not wanting to follow Jesus’ commandment to sell all he has and follow Him. God bless Platt, he focuses on the truth that the rich man didn’t just have a moral failing. “Fundamentally, the rich man needed a new heart, one that was radically transformed by the gospel,” Platt writes.
Radical’s author also focuses on two errors people derive from the passage: acting as if the New Testament commands all Christians to sell all they have, or assuming that “Jesus never calls his followers to abandon all their possessions to follow him.
“This means he might call you or me to do this,” Platt notes.
But how would we know that? The author stops short of offering thoughts. What solution will fill the empty space? My concern: all those assumptions about listening for some “inner leading” from God, a nudge or a pull this direction or that, are still around. And many Christians will lurch toward them automatically.
Yes, a longer discussion of discerning God’s will would take more time. But Platt was good at including other disclaimers. A short aside like this would have helped: We can’t know for sure if God wants you to sell all you have. That’s another topic (try so-and-so book about it). But we do know Scripture doesn’t support some ideas of listening for God’s “inner nudge.” Our only sure source of knowing God’s will in advance is the written Word.
Without such disclaimers, Radical could permit wrong ideas to enter readers’ minds. To be sure, that’s often not an author’s fault. But Platt’s other asides, such as the hmm-hmm-maybe-that’s-naughty line about French fries, contribute (likely unintentionally) to a guilt-inducing edge. 1
As Kevin DeYoung notes in his critical, though friendly review:
To his credit, Platt says we don’t need to feel guilty for everything that is not an absolute necessity (127). But earlier we are made to feel bad for the money we spend on french fries (108). It is easy to stir people to action by relating how little everyone else has and how much we have in America, but we are not meant to have constant low-level guilt because we could be doing more.
Even more than Platt’s French fries part, this aside from page 77 provoked my raised eyebrow:
In all this missions talk, you may begin to think, Well, surely you’re not suggesting that we’re all supposed to move overseas. That is certainly not what I’m suggesting (thought I’m not completely ruling it out!).
And why not completely rule that out? No — let’s completely rule it out! If the entire body were in overseas missionary work, where would the sense of domestic missionary work be? If the entire body were on the missionary dole, where would the sense of financial support be?
It doesn’t take much to show why Christians should avoid even hinting that one ministry calling would be better than another. That is true even if they’re passionate about certain ministries, such as overseas missionary work. And I argue it’s true even if a Christian book’s audience may be the sorts of people who truly need to consider that their callings may be greater than preserving their American Dreams and leaving the harder missionary work to Those People.
Platt’s lyrics may say all the right things. I just wonder if he let slip some assumptions about the best Christian living, however unintentionally, in the music of his asides and anecdotes.
- Similarly, one can’t directly accuse a parent of manipulation if the parent hasn’t given a direct command; but a parent’s hmm-hmm sidelong glances, implying wrongdoing, can be worse. ↩