I am continuing my review of David Platt’s book Radical. As part of my review I am actually reading through the book a second time. The chapter I am reviewing today was not one of my favorites the first time I read the book. Perhaps there is a good reason for that.
The Great Why of God
The beginning of chapter 4 is somewhat shocking to me. The first time I read it I was appalled. Dr. Platt relates how while meeting with some church leaders and sharing some of his mission work, they related that they wished God would just annihilate the people. Surely there can not be people in the church that have such an attitude? A second reading of this chapter forced me to examine my own attitude concerning the lost (especially later in the chapter). Perhaps being appalled is the appropriate first step that leads to conviction.
Dr. Platt attempts in this chapter to explain why God has created us. He believes that there is a two fold purpose and that is to enjoy His grace and to extend His glory. He then goes on to examine what most Americans believe and contrast it with what we should believe. This is brought home by transforming the sentence “God loves me.” into “God loves me so that I might make Him known.” By doing so, we have changed the focus of the Gospel from ourselves to God. I would also add that focusing only on “God loves me” would be only enjoying God’s grace and not extending His glory.
The next section of the chapter focuses on the excuses people make to not take the Gospel to the nations. This ranges from “I’m not called to missions” to “I only feel called to local missions.” I have to admit that a second reading here led me to reexamine myself a bit. I have used the excuse that I have never felt God calling me to foreign missions before and yet His word plainly and clearly calls me. I am sure that I am not the only one who has been waiting for a special invitation and who has felt that missions in the US was more than adequate (a prideful I am doing more than most perhaps?), but the clear message is that we are to make His name known to all the nations. Local stuff is great- don’t stop doing that. Supporting those who are going is great as well- don’t’ stop doing that either. But still I am left with “How will they know unless someone tells them?” Perhaps it would be wise to join the list of someones.
Enjoy His grace. Extend His glory. I would be cautious to affirm that these are the sole reasons that God has created us, but I can certainly affirm that there is overwhelming Biblical support that these are at least among the reasons that He did. A second reading of this chapter convicted me more than the first time that my lack of action is no better than the words of the people the people that appalled me. Call it virtual atheism if you will. Perhaps this is why I did not like this chapter the first time around. It is easy to sit back and attempt to defend your actions. I love God; see how my actions here (locally) demonstrate my trust in Him? This is all well and good but our lack of action elsewhere shows us to be no better than the church leaders Dr. Platt met with. Perhaps we are even in a worse position for these leaders at least were honest about how they felt. It is something to think about.
This chapter also included (IMO) two of my friend Canyon’s objections. The first is the semi-appeal to a sort of social Gospel by working on our emotions and perhaps even guilting us into action. The reference to a poor woman in Honduras who was 8 months pregnant and living in a dump does tend to make us think about her physical needs. However, Platt clearly states that our purpose is to enjoy God’s grace and extend His glory. Our primary goal should be to make Him known to this woman but if we neglect her physical needs then what good is our faith?
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
The second objection is the appeals found in this chapter to “God told me to do this”. I have to question whether the mentions of this type of scenario are actual verbal communications with God or merely a way of communicating the conviction of the Holy Spirit that a person feels. I would also state that any conviction one feels should be weighed against scripture to see if it is Biblical. I must say that when reading this the first time, I took these references to mean the latter. A second reading has not convinced me otherwise. I certainly agree that one must be careful in telling others that God has told you to do something. Perhaps better phrasing could have been chosen that would have left little doubt in the reader’s mind. For example “When confronted with this abject poverty and in light of James 2:15-17 I could not help but feel convicted that I could be doing more with what God has given me.”
Overall I felt more convicted by this chapter when I read it again.