Book Review: Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age Pt. 1

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“The world has gone mad,” one might think. But the reality is that it has been like this since the beginning. Although it seems to me that the problem may manifest or penetrate in different forms of issues, but nonetheless the same reality of the past, namely brokenness in different aspects of life, present itself to us.

For the Christian who looks at things in the lens of the biblical worldview, the issues of poverty, same-sex marriage, racism, sex slavery, immigration, persecution, abortion, orphans, and pornography are not inconsequential. That is, they are crucial and must be addressed. On the other hand, while we Christians are zealous to stand up and speak out towards the issues we deem to be comfortable and less costly like poverty and slavery, we on the other hand remain silent towards controversial issues like marriage, homosexuality and abortion. This is an observation by David Platt in his book Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age. [1] And Platt points out that the main issue is not poverty, homosexuality, abortion, or etc., rather it goes beyond it. That is, the main issue is God.

“But what if Christ commands us to make these issues our concern? And what if Christ’s call in our lives is not to comfort in our culture? What if Christ in us compels us to counter our culture? Not to quietly sit and watch evolving cultural trends and not to subtly shift our views amid changing cultural tides, but to courageously share and show our convictions through what we say and how we live, even (or especially) when these convictions contradict the popular positions of our day. And to do all of this not with conceited minds or calloused hearts, but with the humble compassion of Christ on constant display in everything we say and do” (xiv). That is, “in a world where everything revolves around” ourselves, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow him (c.f., Lk. 9:23).

The book, I believe, is unique in three senses. First, it clarifies what the gospel is (the good news about Jesus). Then it clarifies what the issue is and what is at stake. And lastly, it clarifies the role of the Christian towards the issue considering what the gospel is.

In the first chapter, Platt lays out the foundation for countering the culture – the gospel of Jesus Christ. That gospel “creates the confrontation with the culture around – and within – us” (1). We will recognize that that message contains the greatest offense. It tells us that we are not our own masters. That is, there is a God who holds all authority in which we will give an account to. The problem of man is sin. Sin questions and challenges the authority of God. It is the exaltation of the self over the God of the universe. In result, it leaves us broken. It destroys everything good – for example – relationships, natural order, health, etc. However, the same God we offended provided the solution we ultimately need – Jesus, the Son of God himself. Jesus died on the cross to fully absorb the wrath of God, to forgive our sins and to restore our relationship with Him (that would eventually result in the restoration of our relationships with one another). And that is the message that calls us to counter the culture. That is, to act with conviction, compassion, and courage.

In the second chapter, Platt talks about the role of gospel and the role of a Christian in the issue of poverty. The latter should stem from the understanding of the former. That is, our Lord Jesus, though he was rich, but for our sake became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich (c.f., 2 Cor 8:9). That although our eyes may drown in the sad conditions of the world around us, nonetheless we must begin to open our ears and hearts when the Scripture says: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). Not just to our brothers, but also to our unbelieving neighbors.  And Platt gives us some concrete examples how to counter the culture in the issue of poverty – by working diligently, living simply, giving sacrificially, helping constructively, and investing eternally.

In the third chapter, Platt talks about abortion as the modern Holocaust. But it is more than that, because there are over 42,000,000 abortions performed each year (compared to the 12,000,000 deaths in the Holocaust). In other words, there’s at least 115,000 abortions performed each day. On one hand, it is called a “silent killer – not only of babies but of moms who possess deep wounds and dark scars from past history” (59). On the other hand, it is not only a revolt against God’s authority as a Creator, but also to his creation and his relationship with the unborn (c.f., Ps. 139:13-16, 22:9-10; Jer. 1:5). The reason behind it is that the unborn is created in the image of God. In this chapter, Platt also deals with the popular slogans and justifications for abortions like “Women have a right to privacy with their doctors,” “Women should the right to choose,” or “It’s not the government’s job to legislate morality.” And then he tackles the good news that although God is a just judge who loathes abortion, He nonetheless is the King who loves to forgive and redeem even those who participated in it, and gives peace in return of their repentance. As what comforted the woman who lived an immoral lifestyle when Jesus said: “Your sins are forgiven…. go in peace” (Lk. 7:48-50).

In the fourth chapter, Platt discusses the reality of the orphans and the widows. For instance, there’s an approximately 153,000,000 children who live as orphans. And it’s easy to forget them when we don’t see their faces and hold them in our arms. However, contrary to what the culture expects, God’s passion demonstrates his love towards the orphans and the widows. “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow” (Deut. 10:17-18). He is “a father to the fatherless; a defender of widows” (Ps. 68:5). Platt then made the call to the Christians that “Christ compels us to counter culture by stepping in to care for orphans and widows when significant people have stepped out of their lives” (93).

To give an example, one of the ways we can step in to care for the orphans is through adoption, since we are also adopted into God’s family:

We have not been put on this earth simply to preserve our genetic material. We have been put on this earth to portray a gospel message, and that gospel message crosses physical barriers and transcends biological bloodlines (97),

But when you come to Christ, another bloodline becomes far more important to you. The blood of Christ on a cross makes you who you are, unites you as a church, and compels you to risk shame and ridicule in your culture to show that Christ cares for those who have no family (98).

In the fifth chapter, Platt discusses the issue of the devaluation of women, to be more specific, in terms of sex slavery and even on pornography. He addresses the issue by laying out the biblical understanding of dignity. That is, a person’s dignity is not tied up to any of his accidental properties (i.e., sex, inclinations, possessions, etc.) or to his function or rationality, but rather to the reality that he is created in the image of God. Men and women are both created in the image of God. And that the “ultimate ownership and ultimate belonging are reserved for the ultimate Owner, the God whom we belong” (119). In result, no women should be treated as objects for sexual gratification, but “to be valued and treasured as excellent in the eyes of God” (124). On the other hand, while the reality of woman objectification is staggering, Platt points out the redeeming hope and the forgiving love that is found in the gospel for both the victims and the perpetrators.

(PS: The second part of this blog will be posted next week.)


[1] David Platt, Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age (Tyndale House Publishers, 2015). The book also comes with another title: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture. 

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