I like David Platt, I think he is an awesome preacher and has done a lot of good, I think he is a Christian and is on the narrow road to life. I hope and pray I can have the impact he is having on many. I pray that he will continue to preach the gospel and will impact the kingdom for many years to come.
That said: I do not think David Platt is a Pharisee, but Radical is Pharisaical. I do not think David Platt is a bad communicator, but Radical is horrendously written. I do not think that David Platt is a heretic, but Radical contains some outright heresy. I do not think David Platt should be thrown out into the flaming fires of Gehenna, but Radical should.
I do not think I would be exaggerating to say that there was something on just about every page of this book that made me cringe. David Platt, I believe, employed too much hyperbole to make his points and this pushed this book far outside of orthodoxy and usefulness. I agreed with a few of Platt’s starting presuppositions, but quickly I rejected his applications. This review will largely ignore the last chapter, “The Radical Experiment” which could be quite a good chapter but is tainted by my knowledge of the rest of the book.
This article will address four major points, the first being the focus of God’s gospel as compared to Platt’s gospel, second the American Dream and how Platt’s book has not destroyed it but replaced it, third is Christ’s emphasis on poverty and Platt’s emphasis on poverty, and fourth will conclude with Platt’s poor Bible reading as evidenced by his mystical heresy and bad hermeneutics.
The Emphasis of the Gospel
First Peter 2:9 describes the effect of the gospel, that we are chosen, holy, priestly trophies and ought to proclaim Christ’s wonderful character and works. I believe that Platt believes this, but Radical doesn’t preach it. If you look on page 88, Platt presents a radically small view of Jesus Christ,
He would intentionally shun titles, labels, plaudits, and popularity in his plan to turn the course of history upside down. All he wanted was a few men who would think as he did, love as he did, see as he did, teach as he did, and serve as he did. All he needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.It all sounds rather pious, but Jesus didn’t attempt anything or need anything, he told these few men that apart from him they could do NOTHING. A Christian does nothing apart from Christ getting the glory for doing the work, Christ doesn’t need anything to impact the world.
But Platt needs to deemphasize sovereignty in order to present the Christian who saves the world of their own accord. I start with this point because it definitely makes me the most mad. There are three clear purposes in Platt’s book for spreading the gospel, first men spreading God’s glory, second to save the poor, and third for the humanistic purpose of getting people into Heaven. None of these remotely is intertwined with the other, and it’s almost like Platt is preaching three sermons unwittingly and not realizing that they he has failed to relate them.
The idea that the emphasis of the gospel is placed on men manifests itself rather strangely, and, if I didn’t know Dr. Platt’s normal self, connivingly through the utter unbiblical cornerstone of the book that, “God really is in the business of blessing his people in unusual ways so his goodness and his greatness will be declared among all peoples.” (p.67)
So the emphasis of the gospel is apparently to show salvation to all peoples…(p.66) Go back to Peter’s purpose, he calls us a people for God’s own possession to declare God’s glory, not to be a “conduit of God’s blessings to all the peoples of the earth.” (ibid)
It is a minor distinction, but Platt’s emphasis of the gospel is quite different than Christ’s. Platt overemphasizes this point to the exclusion of all else, for example, the local church is overlooked, holiness and sanctification are wickedly missing, and ultimately it is quite unbiblical, despite Platt asking a poorly written rhetorical question, “It all sounds idealistic, I know. Impact the world. But doesn’t it also sound biblical?” (p.83)
It does sound idealistic, but it doesn’t sound biblical. The Apostle Paul points out that he was called to a specific people, the Hellas, which is not the word for Gentiles/Nations as Platt either misunderstands or doesn’t care, but is the Greeks. (p.74) Platt sends his hearers outside of the country to the whole world, yet ironically includes a beautiful story of a man doing much good in New Orleans, which is totally out of character with the rest of the book. (p.96)
And we see ministers like Jeremiah (zero converts), Noah (seven converts), and Christ (one-hundred-twenty converts) who really did little to accomplish Platt’s goals, but did much to accomplish God’s goals. This plays out awkwardly in the making of disciples, Platt seems to think it is a lifelong endeavor (p.93), while many in the Bible are made disciples after a sermon. And the “teaching them to obey” gets a sentence (ibid), which is perhaps why Platt’s emphasis is so radically different from God’s in this book.
Replacing the American Dream
There is no doubt that the American Dream is idolatrous and unbiblical. Platt does well to point this out. But instead of killing the American Dream and substituting biblical teaching, Platt tweaks the American Dream and reemphasizes purpose over materialism. I could argue quite effectively that Radical is still the American Dream because I’m pretty sure the dream was taught to me that as long as you’re happy then you’re successful.
Platt’s mere reemphasis is expounded most clearly on page 160 when God’s will is described as taking the gospel to those poor lost Algerians. This is somewhat different from God’s genuine will for your life, which is your sanctification. Granted, your sanctification may lead to you going to the Algerians, but when Platt removes/ignores the middle-man “holiness” he is not doing anyone any good.
The American Dream rejects slavery, and so does Dr. Platt. (p.92) Ironically God does not. (1 Peter 2:18ff) Platt allows for the American hermeneutic to bastardize the plain reading of scripture, and worse yet he uses his false dichotomy to call his readers to follow his radically wrong interpretation of the Bible. (See my article on slavery: http://trustobey.blogspot.com/2007/07/doctrine-of-slavery.html)
The American Dream is not killed in Platt’s book, it is minorly redirected and America becomes the hero delivering the gospel to all people who have a right to hear it, who deserve not to live in a slum, and deserve to live. (That’s humanism, if you didn’t catch it, see Platt p.108) This accomplishes two radically wicked goals, first Platt removes Christ and the Holy Spirit from his efforts, and second he makes the creature the goal of the church’s efforts and utterly ignores the Creator. This is summed up radically on page 163, “If these clinics were used by God to lead someone to Christ, then it was all worth it.” (That one statement condemns Jeremiah’s entire ministry.)
Platt has safely and effectively substituted his dream for the American Dream, giving people a goal which they can devote their entire lives to which is not God. (p.140) It was rather sneaky, ingenious, and seemingly it has been very effective.
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
The major goal of Platt’s efforts is alleviating global poverty. There are numerous things wrong with this, not just that it takes the emphasis off of local poverty, or that Christ said the poor would always be with us, but that being poor and destitute is not a sin and is not always something to be rescued from. James calls the rich to rejoice in their humiliation, Christ said it was impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and he affirmed that those poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom.
I am certainly not rejecting the idea that the poor should be taken care of, but I am rejecting the idea that the poor should be taken care just because they are poor. The Psalmist said he would rather watch the door of Heaven than dwell in wickedness, I would rather live in a slum with God than a mansion without. But Platt misunderstands this point radically, even going so far as to misquote Luke 18:22 on page 117, utterly ignoring that there is great treasure in Heaven for the one who becomes poor for Christ’s sake. And Platt uses that passage as his favorite proof text for selling stuff and giving it away, when the context of this passage is clearly not one of stewardship, but of soteriology. Christ was showing the man that his money would keep him out of the kingdom, and that what he would lose in repentance was nothing in comparison to what he would gain in Christ.
Here is where Radical gets Pharisaical. Jesus stated, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Platt ties up this heavy burden of needing to sell everything, yet he himself fails to sell everything and give it to the poor. He justifies his own command wickedly by living on less…but that is not at all keeping with his interpretation of the necessity to sell everything and give it to the poor. I’m pretty sure this is what Ananias and Saphira died for.
Mysticism and Bad Hermeneutics
There is a terrible and wicked pandemic sweeping Christianity, the idea that God is going to speak to you personally. This personal revelation is known as mysticism. Platt falls for this heresy and promulgates it by saying that not everyone is called to sell everything and give it to the poor, but that God might call you to sell everything and give it to the poor. (p.120-121) This is godless and unchristian.
God will speak to you only through the Word, he will not vocalize (pp.121, 213) his personalized plan for your life to you. This is a terrible heresy, because it causes people to stop reading their Bibles and start listening for a voice that either will not come, or will come by a guy who looks a lot like Christ but is very unlike him. (2 Corinthians 11:14) By Platt preaching this godless heresy of mysticism he causes his reader to fail to follow biblical stewardship plans, to stop striving for holiness, and to forget to seek to glorify God in everything they do. I hate this heresy and so does God.
Small mistakes show Platt’s poor planning and follow-through in this book, such as his statement that Matthew 28:19-20 is Christ’s last command (p.92), when clearly there as a command given the morning Christ ascended into Heaven. (See Acts 1:4) On page 198 Platt uses language that a Modalist would be comfortable with, “He sent himself…” but I’m fairly certain Platt is a devout Trinitarian. These small mistakes, added to blatant theological errors, permeate the book.
Platt somewhat covers his tracks with the use of endnotes instead of footnotes or parenthetical notation. This is partly just plain bad writing, but is also a nifty way of hiding poor biblical application. This must be remembered in the misquotation of Luke 18:22 where Platt leaves off the purpose of his command to sell everything, but the reader has to dig to even know which verse he’s misquoted. On page 226, endnote 11, Platt admits to using a verse out of context, yet how many readers would realize that? And using soteriological verses to support stewardship concepts has led to Platt straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel (albeit a small camel), because he radically downplays grace and introduces a mild form of legalism through applying Luke 18 to stewardship.
And this all plays out most damnably in Platt’s application, that this radical lifestyle should be true of everyone. What makes him think that someone who won’t volunteer at the homeless shelter in Birmingham will sell their Mercedes and volunteer at the homeless shelter in Mozambique? Why does David Platt’s “thing” have to be my “thing”? Are not some called to be evangelists, others pastors, some teachers? Are there not poor in our own backyard that we ought to be radically helping? Shouldn’t we disciple those in our churches before we disciple those in other churches? Isn’t Christ worthy to be praised whether or not he saves anyone?
Ultimately this book is a fantastic example of the hermeneutical failing of eisegesis, or smashing your own beliefs into the Bible. God does call his people to be radical and to do radical things, but not at all in the way which Platt describes.
The emphasis of the gospel is God’s glory, this is accomplished in many ways, all of which are through the church being sanctified trophies of grace, ministering through the proclamation of Christ’s excellencies. It is not going to the nations, albeit that is a minor part of it. The American Dream is damnable, but so is a Christianity without Christ at its center. The poor will always be with us, and we must ensure our motive is to exalt Christ and secure eternities before we save bodies and exalt men. And finally, the Bible says what it means and means what it says, we cannot and should not edit it to support our own radical goals, no matter how pious they seem. God speaks only through his Bible and speaks to all believers equally; there are no secretive meanings to the superspirituals among us.
Radical is poorly written, unbiblical, legalistic, and contains a fair amount of heresy. I pray that Dr. Platt will recant this ungodly work and write a more balanced and biblical call to Christian zealousness, one that accounts for radical holiness, love, purity of doctrine, and Christlike living and preaching. Hopefully Platt will in the future start from a biblical viewpoint and never again try to make the Bible support his own unchristian beliefs.
For more information on humanism, I ask you to listen to Paris Reidhead’s crowning work, “Ten Shekels and a Shirt”. http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=710081423448
And for more information on mysticism, I recently wrote, http://trustobey.blogspot.com/2010/04/mystics-in-our-midst.html
It has been said that the United States is the greatest exporter of heresy in the world, and Platt’s book with its weird mystical leanings and excessive humanism is sure to continue that tradition for at least the next generation.
Please don’t partake in it; instead, read your Bible, discover your gifting, and minister in a way which promotes holiness and proclamation of the gospel. If you are able to learn Burmese easily, then go to Burma. If you are terrible with children then don’t be a youth minister. If you can stand on a soap-box and articulate the gospel and you don’t mind looking like an idiot, then join me at KSU sometime soon. If you don’t know Christ or his Bible, then keep your mouth shut. For believers, in everything you do, know that Christ is your Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, and that his decree will be accomplished with or without your help, but that he calls for obedience in any number of ways. Don’t feel guilty that you still own a car and aren’t getting shot at by freedom fighters; rather love God, then glorify him through your thoughts, words, and deeds. Whatever you do, don’t let it be said your efforts were apart from Christ.