February 03, 2015

Review: Counter Culture by David Platt

Platt, David. Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortions, Orphans, and Pornography (Tyndale, 2015), 289 pp.

David Platt's new book shows all the signs of being the latest in a long line of Evangelical Jeremiads lamenting the fall of Western civilization. It's not. Instead, it is a plea for Christians to live counter-culturally, and, in so doing, to love our neighbors.

In the introduction, Platt asks, "What if Christ in us actually compels us to counter our culture? Not to quietly sit and watch evolving cultural trends . . . but to courageously share and show our conviction through what we say and how we live, even (or especially) when these convictions contradict the popular positions of our day" (p. xiv). Platt is concerned with what he calls "selective social injustice" (p. xv). There is, he says, a hypocritical kind of political correctness in Evangelicalism causing us to counter the culture only on select issues while ignoring grave sins and injustice in other areas (pp. xiii-xv, 18).

The issues which Platt adresses cut across party lines. He takes on poverty (ch. 2), human trafficking (ch. 5), and race relations (ch. 8), but he also addresses abortion (ch. 3), marriage (ch. 6), sexual morality (ch. 7), and religious liberty (ch. 9). No matter which side of the political fence the reader falls on, he will most likely agree with Platt at times and disagree at others. Though I could probably raise a few minor objections here and there, I think that, overall, Platt does an admirable job of applying sound, biblical thinking to each issue he addresses. Each chapter ends with a few suggestions to help the reader counter the culture through prayer, participation, and proclamation.

This book made me uncomfortable at times. That's not a criticism. It resulted in some prayerful self-examination, which is, I think, exactly what Platt intended.

I do, however, have some concerns. First, I think this book could potentially lead to mission drift within the church. There is a tendency in Evangelicalism to confuse the good works that individual believers do in order to love our neighbors (the primary concern of this book) with the much narrower mission of evangelism and discipleship that belongs to the church as a whole (Matthew 28:18-20). Platt does, however, attempt to alleviate this concern in his final chapter by reminding his readers of the importance of gospel proclamation (pp. 244-247).

Another concern is a subtle shift that takes place within the book. In chapter 1, Platt says, "The gospel . . . provides the foundation for countering culture. For when we truly believe the gospel, we begin to realize that the gospel . . . creates confrontation with the culture around—and within—us" (p. 1). However, by the final chapter, the focus has shifted from countering culture to changing or transforming the culture (pp. 245, 253). To put it bluntly, nowhere in Scripture is the church called to change the culture. Instead, we are called to be a faithful presence in a fallen world (Matthew 5:13-16). Cultural transformation, when it does take place, is a byproduct of the church's work rather than the focus of the church's work. Though Platt affirms this truth as well (pp. 245-246), the overall tone of the book is a bit too triumphalistic. Yes, we should hope, pray, and work to see greater obedience to God at every level of society, but we must also realize that, regardless of how faithful we are to our mission, we are not guaranteed to see any kind of grand, societal transformation this side of Christ's return (contra postmillennialism). Again, Platt makes all the proper concessions and qualifications (pp. 244-246, 253), it's just that the overall thrust of the book seems to be going in a transformationalist direction. While this detracted from my overall appreciation of the book, others who differ with me on the relationship between Christianity and culture may view it more favorably.

Counter Culture is not new territory for David Platt. Much like his earlier book, Radical, Counter Culture is an attempt to afflict the comfortable in order to spur us on to action. Also like his earlier book, Platt's newest is not perfect. It is, however, a much better book than its predecessor, and I hope that it enjoys similar levels of success. Recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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