David Platt Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015-02-03

Platt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, urges Christians to confront these nine issue (poverty, same-sex marriage, racism, sex slavery, immigration, persecution, abortion, orphans, and pornography) from a Christian worldview. Platt writes to reorient his readers to the real issue at hand, which he asserts, “is not poverty or sex trafficking, homosexuality or abortion . . . the main issue is God” (p. xiv). Platt’s thesis in Counter Culture is that these social issues should concern Christians because they concern God, and if Christians seek to be faithful to God with their sight fixed upon him, they will be thrust into a position in which they must counter the culture of their day.

Platt insists that when the focus is moved from the issues of culture and refocused on the holiness, love, goodness, truth, justice, authority, and mercy of God, Christians will be empowered to act counterculturally to these most pressing social issues. While this is true, Platt surely overstates the case when he claims that Christians are involved in responding to some issues like poverty and slavery, 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. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede” (p. xiii). While there is some validity in saying that Christians may be shy in engaging culture in some of these areas, globally, Christians are expressing a holy dissatisfaction about many social issues. And many Christians are responding in action.

Platt writes with a sense of urgency on these nine issues, and he reminds that the gospel is countercultural. In the introduction he observes: “In a world where everything revolves around yourself—protect yourself, promote yourself, comfort yourself, and take care of yourself—Jesus says, ‘Crucify yourself. Put aside all self-preservation in order to live for God’s glorification, no matter what that means for you in the culture around you’ ” (p. xiv). The premise of the book is that “the gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity, and it provides the foundation for countering culture” (p. 1).

In each of his ten chapters Platt draws on personal experiences as he addresses each of the areas. He sets the stage by insisting that the Christian response to each injustice must always be shaped by the gospel. In chapter 1, Platt argues that the greatest cultural offense of all is the gospel itself. Platt writes, “The most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the creator, Owner, and Judge of every person. Every one of us stands before him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King” (p. 16). While the spirit of what Platt asserts here, that the gospel may offend people as they encounter and react to it, is correct; he is wrong in even hinting that the gospel in and of itself is offensive. On the contrary, the message of the gospel is the good news of what God has done in Christ on behalf of sinful man. It is the best news that sinful people need to hear and it is good because it is from God.

In each chapter Platt brings the reader back to seeing the injustices in culture through a gospel lens. For example, when writing on poverty, Platt argues, “Our greatest wealth is found in the gospel itself, for God has saved us from our sins” (p. 26). With regard to sex trafficking and racism he argues that God is the giver and creator of life. Each person is created equally in God’s image and for anyone to demean that image, whether in the inhuman act of sex trafficking or in the act of racism, is to demean God’s work in creation.

While this book is timely and beneficial for the church, the tone may be a bit strong. Platt indicts the church with harsh and over-generalized language. “We have settled into a status quo where we’re content to sit idly by while literally billions of people die without ever hearing the gospel,” Platt writes. “Surely this is the greatest social injustice in the entire world, over and above all the other issues we have considered” (p. 247). This book is a call to action in a world full of injustice, but Platt seems to dismiss the many Christians and Christian organizations that are actively working for justice.

While the need this book addresses is clear, it would have been helpful to have suggestions for practical responses to the cultural issues. The reader is left without an answer to the “so what; now what” question. Platt’s publisher has set up a website (counterculturebook.com) to give more information about ministries that deal directly with some of these issues, but specific and practical action steps are not found in the book.

Although many will not agree with Platt’s description of the church’s lethargy and laziness, Christians should come away from the book with a renewed courage to stand up for and live out their faith in the face of injustice. This book is a great reminder that while this world is filled with gross injustice, the gospel runs beyond the reach of any injustice that this world could ever produce. Countercultural living that will bring true change to any injustice will always begin and end with the hope of the gospel.

About the Contributors

Glenn Kreider

Glenn R. Kreider

Prior to teaching at DTS, Dr. Kreider served as Director of Christian Education and then as Senior Pastor in Cedar Hill, TX. His research and writing interests include Jonathan Edwards, theological method, theology and popular culture, and our eschatological hope. Dr. Kreider believes that grace really is amazing; it is a thought that will change the world. He is married to his best friend, Janice, and they have two grown children, a son-in-law, and one granddaughter, Marlo Grace. He and Janice enjoy live music, good stories, bold coffee, and their five rescue dogs—two pugs, a chihuahua, a terrier named Chloe, and a black lab, Carlile.