Saturday, July 09, 2011

Book Review (#18 of 2011)

Crazy Love by Francis Chan (his website).
At the website linked above, you can watch the videos that go along with the text, as well as a video overview of each chapter.

This book has been one of the "must read" in the pop Christian world for the last couple years. My first reaction after reading it is "what's the big deal?" Chan isn't saying anything that other authors haven't said for hundreds of years. But I guess he is such a passionate, dynamic speaker that he has inspired a large number of college students. He's what John Piper was to my college years, and they both speak together on the Passion circuit.

But Chan's writing isn't deep on theology or scholarly like Piper's. This book follows all the modern Christian pop genre: Very few words on the page, large fonts for effect, a preview of the author's other book and an interview all to try and make it reach 200 pages. (Even Piper has followed this trend in recent years.) More words weren't necessary, so I guess I should be thankful that it isn't superfluous like other books I've read recently. To summarize:

God is huge and yet loves us individually and deeply. We should respond to His love with overwhelming joy and love. The Bible says we should love God more than anything else, and whoever puts anything ahead of God is an idolater. Christianity means more than just showing up, living a moral life, and tithing some percentage of your income and those who only do that are "nominal Christians" and the Bible says they are not truly saved.

Chan wants us to behave more like a community, a theme of several recent posts here. There is no doubt that the vast majority of American churches don't look like the book of Acts or take most of Jesus' words seriously, and Chan is right to point this out. According to Wikipedia, Chan backs this up with his lifestyle and leadership of his church:
"Chan gives away about 90 percent of his income ... Chan doesn't take a salary from his church, and he has donated all of his book royalties, which total about $500,000 to various charities. Much of it goes to organizations which rescue sex slaves in foreign countries."Furthermore, in 2008 it was reported that Cornerstone would give away 55% of its income to charitable causes.

The problem I have with Chan is that the book doesn't talk much about how to live passionately for God if you're not a pastor. Chan gets to take weeks-long sabbaticals in the woods and spend long hours studying for his sermons and such-- his church supports him to do so. But God obviously hasn't called everyone to that. Work is also worship, which Chan neglects. Chan quotes a good bit from A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God (my review), but it's Tozer who makes the elegant argument that sewing a tent can be just as much an act of worship as writing an epistle and Chan overlooks that.

In the last chapter he makes it clear that there are no prescriptions for individuals, and maybe discipleship means you keep your job and work harder at it as a witness. But the majority of the book has you left feeling like if you don't sell all you have and do something radical and spend 8 hours a day reading your Bible, then you're not giving all you have. Chan's wife's grandmother apparently devoted most of her day to prayer at the foot of her bed. This is great if you're a widow but may not be practical if you're obligated to show up at an office or a classroom.

This, unfortunately, was the message I was preached through college and it led many of my friends to what I believe is called "ecclesiastical schism," where professional pastors and missionaries are seen as spiritually more important than everyone else. I'm reminded that 11 out of 12 Israelite tribes were called to do things other than work in the temple, and no tribe was held above another. I'm quite sure he's inspiring a lot of impressionable kids to feel that if they major in math or biology they've wasted their life. (I see too much of this on campus.)

On the positive side, I was challenged in various ways. Am I exercising faith in the area of giving like I should? If I take the description of spiritual fruit in Ephesians 5:22-23 or of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 and insert my name, does it describe me? "Justin is patient, Justin is kind..." Why not?

But if you've read Tozer, Piper, or Ronald Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, then Chan doesn't really have much to say.

2.5 stars out of 5. Be sure to watch the videos on his website.

No comments: