Book Review: Counter Culture, by David Platt
David Platt. Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans, and Pornography. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 288 pps. $19.99.
David Platt is concerned. Anyone who has known of this man and his passionate message will be unsurprised by that statement, but the precise shape of David Platt’s concern in this book may come as something of a surprise to some.
Nevertheless, in Counter Culture, Platt is presenting a more comprehensive and defined approach to the gospel passion he has demonstrated in his previous writings, including Radical. In his new book, he maintains a very clear focus on the gospel, while raising his concern for the lack of zeal among many young Christians—though not exclusively, young evangelicals—when it comes to an array of social issues that are directly addressed in Scripture and therefore directly answerable to the claims of Christ.
As Platt writes: “On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet.” In this book, David Platt decidedly does not sit down and stay quiet. He addresses an array of concerns ranging from poverty and sex slavery to same-sex marriage, racism, pornography, and immigration. Along the way, he also deals with persecution, orphans, and abortion.
In his most popular book thus far, Radical, Platt both described and fueled a passionate Christianity, driven by the gospel, that has seized his heart and that he wants desperately to see communicated to others—especially to the vast numbers of younger evangelicals who were drawn to him and to his message. And many were.
Because of this, it’s important that Counter Culture pulls no punches. It presents a very direct biblical examination of each of the issues. In every case, Platt argues directly from Scripture and from the strongest resources for Christian moral argument. His cause is moral, but his grounding is consistently biblical and theological.
On every page, it is evident that Platt has worked through these issues more than the average evangelical pastor. First, Platt discusses them in ways that demonstrate his own personal struggle to define the scope of these issues, including the unavoidable heartbreak once one understands the exact scale of humanity involved. Second, his approach is distinctive in that he allows no escape where Scripture allows no escape. In that sense, this new book is even more profoundly countercultural than its title might suggest.
The issues Platt addresses range across so many concerns that summary is quite difficult. He is particularly moving when writing about abortion and sex slavery, and he understands that a common concern for the gospel must drive all gospel-minded people to understand that these issues, though heartbreaking, are not issues Christians can avoid in terms of both personal and public engagement. In this sense, one of David Platt’s greatest gifts in this book is to share his own model of public engagement—a model that is honest, humble, winsome, and deeply convictional.
Readers of the book may be frustrated by the fact that the issues cannot be simply laid out in a series of considerations as if each is commensurate with the other. In some cases, clear remedies in the culture might be available, at least to ameliorate the effects of sin. In other cases, it becomes increasingly difficult to know what faithful Christians might do, but Platt does not allow for an easy escapism. Instead, he calls for a simple lifestyle, for identifying with those trapped in systems of injustice, and seeking to use all means possible to liberate our neighbors from poverty, oppression, enslavement to lust, and greed. Importantly, he also offers a chapter on religious liberty, understanding that the very real threat to religious liberty experienced in this generation is likely a sign of even greater challenges to come. To Platt’s credit, he understands that these challenges are not only tied to our freedom to publicly engage issue, but, far more importantly, our ability to teach, preach, take, and share the gospel.
The gospel is where David Platt begins the book and where I will end this review. While far too many authors that are most attractive to younger evangelicals use the word gospel in a very vague and generalized sense—a sense in which an impetus for evangelism and missions can quickly be transformed into mere cultural change—David Platt is very specific about what the gospel is. As he defines it, the gospel is “the good news that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin and the resurrection, so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.”
That is a refreshingly clear articulation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel that David Platt is so passionate to see shared with all the peoples of the earth. We can only be thankful that in his new role as president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, his followers may be transformed, by God’s grace, into a mighty force for missions like the world has never seen. That, even more than the wisdom contained in this book , would represent the most threatening counter-culture the world has ever seen.