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From Radical to Ordinary (Book Review of Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, by David Platt)
A quick look in the dictionary at the word "Radical" and one will find two related though different meanings. The first meaning is: "of or going to the root or origin; fundamental." The second meaning is: "thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms." These two definitions represent two different perspectives in how one looks at the book by David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.
On the one hand, what David Platt presents in his book is "radical" in the sense that he is looking at the fundamental elements of what is means to be a disciple. Jesus taught his disciples that to follow him was costly, counter-cultural, and counter-intuitive. A robust look at the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament present a Jesus who expected followers to take seriously his claims, and by grace through faith live like he lived.
On the other hand, what David Platt presents in his book is "radical" in the sense that for many in Evangelicalism (what-ever that means anymore) at large, the content of Platt's book will come off as "radical" in the second sense: extreme, a change from the norm. Unfortunately, in America we have reduced the Jesus of the Bible into a simple-fix and created a lasting wake of cheap grace. "Come on down! Step right up! Pray a simple prayer and become a Christian." It would seem that Christianity is simply a way to avoid Hell, feel good about yourself without the meddlesome bother of changing.
Platt writes plainly and with passion urging Christians to return to the fundamental faith that appears to be extreme to the comfortable American. He convincingly writes that Americans have substituted the message of the Gospel for the lie of American Manifest Destiny.
The first four chapters set up the problem and the need for a change of focus. The question posed by Platt is this: are you driven by your values consistent with the American Dream (read: comfort, materialism, independence, self-seeking, etc) or by a unrelenting pursuit of values consistent with the Kingdom of God (read: believe and obey the teaching of Christ, exclusive devotion to God, generosity, community, etc). It's not that being "successful" is in and of itself a bad thing. Platt writes that "the goal of the American dream is to make much of ourselves and the goal of the Gospel is to make much of God."
In Chapter 5 Platt considers the difference between disinfecting Christians and discipling Christians. He writes, "disinfecting Christians involves isolating them and teaching them to be good, discipling Christians involves propelling Christians into the world to risk their lives for the sake of others" (105). In Chapter Six confronts the blind eye Americans have turned to the world of poverty, at home and abroad. Plainly put, caring for the poor does not earn salvation; caring for the poor demonstrates evidence of salvation that has taken place. Platt challenges our hearts by posing the problem this way: It's not about asking "how much can we spare?" but by asking, "How much is it going to take?"
Chapter 7 challenges the reader to stop asking what they will of God is and to start obeying the will of God which is "for you and me to give our lives urgently and recklessly to making the gospel and the glory of God known among all peoples, particularly those who have never even heard of Jesus." Chapter 7 is about the proclaimed word of God which must accompany the lived-out word. It is not an either or, but a both and.
Chapter 8 extends the same sentiment of Jesus: Are you willing to lose your life, (read: give up pursuing your gain) in order to inherit life? Chapter 9 offers a yearlong "experiment" intended to apply the content of his book: 1. Pray for the entire world; 2. Read through the entire Word; 3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose; 4. Spend your time in another context; 5. Commit your life to a multiplying community.
Platt understands the reality that what appears as a radical new orientation is really just a call to be an ordinary Christian living out the call of costly discipleship in the Scriptures. It only looks radical if you have bought into the American Dream. Platt challenges the American Christian to look radically different than contemporary Evangelicalism, but look beautifully ordinary as you die to yourself in order to live out the glorious life that Jesus Christ purchased for you.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purpose of reviewing.
Part I of PEACE BETWEEN THE SHEETS poses several important & unsettling questions among which are:
Why do we fall out of love & our relationships fail?
When our "perfect" match leaves, why are we so crazy?
Why are women & men at such odds with each other?
Having gotten rid of our sexual hang-ups, why do we suffer sexual hangovers?
How can we make enduring love as well as sustainable relationships?
How can we break the spell of biology?
How can we exercise saner sex?
With scientific research, wisdom from the Ancients of the East, personal stories, & healthy doses of humor in the form of aphorisms from the trenches of the battlefield between the sexes, PEACE BETWEEN THE SHEETS is an accessible guide for all Readers who know there is something unhealthy, unsatisfying & unexplained in their failing sexual relationships.
Remember, 50% of all American marriages end in divorce, & no one knows the % of relationships which never make it to the ring stage.
Part II of PEACE BETWEEN THE SHEETS is the How of healing what has tied the best of us up in knots for most of our sexual life. Offering ancient, tried & true exercises in a joyful, stressless way.
... recommends PEACE BETWEEN THE SHEETS as an earnest & hopeful, intelligent & amusing adventure in re-discovering our sexuality. It then shows us how to open our hearts & re-train our bodies & minds to re-create healthy sexual relationships.