Friday, August 13, 2010

Crazy Love Book Review

Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Danae Yankoski
Image from : www.cbd.com

I confess, I rarely read any "popular" Christian books. If it's a part of the Christian living section of the book store I generally turn up my nose. This is due to a number of factors. Most because these books are light on meat and heavy on feel good gospel. Or they are written for the average person who apparently doesn't have much Bible training. Usually they are rudimentary and filled with current Christian cliché (you know, does it "resonate"). I tend to shy away from most things in general that get really popular and I try to avoid the hype. Almost nothing lives up to the hype. I tend to spend money on something that I know I will like. Something I have been planning on purchasing for awhile and am really looking forward to. Something I have been saving for that I know will make a great reference or will expand my mind and allow me to learn something. That's part of the reason I had not read Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

     When a friend of mine from church handed me this book one Sunday night and said, "Wanna read?" I found myself saying, "Sure." So I threw it on my pile of books intending to read it eventually but I reminded myself if I didn't get to it right away it would get lost in the detritus of my "to read" pile. Then its rightful owner may not see it for along while. I picked it up.

     First I examined it over to see what I was getting into (see my earlier post on How to Read a Book to get a better idea of how to approach a new book). First I noticed it was written by Francis Chan, never heard of him. Back cover shows his picture and gives a brief bio. Seems he is the pastor (or former pastor these days) of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California.

    I also noticed he looks a lot like Gilbert Gottfried. Just sayin. You put some hair on him and give him an annoying voice . . . you be the judge. That's not a point for the book or against. Just an observation.

Francis Chan
Gilbert Gottfried

     I found the recommendation by Louie Giglio on the back cover. Now this is where I start thinking, "Oh boy, this book might be fluffy." I like Louie Giglio, I enjoyed his passion conference talks, but he has a little too much mass appeal for seemingly not much depth (I admit that is hard to judge from just hearing the passion conference talks). Ok, I will kind of ignore that and just wonder why someone known for theological mastery wasn't on the back cover. The little synopsis on the back cover seems to make one want to read a little more of the book. 

     So I cracked the sucker open. A forward by Chris Tomlin. Someone is trying to strive for mass appeal in lieu of intellectual substance . . . not that Chris Tomlin is void of substance, it is just that he is not known for his intellect. Then I spotted it, on the page after the forward. An advertisement for the book's website. "Watch Francis introduce each chapter . . ." What a great idea. A web enhanced book. There are a few other books that have such a thing but not the same way. A+ to David C. Cook publishing for this feature. Cool idea. Could be a great feature if used correctly. We will see.

    So I progress further into the book. The preface gives me more of what the back cover was talking about. 

"This book is written for those who want more Jesus. It is for those who are bored with what American Christianity offers. It is for those who don't want to Plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do."

Good stuff. If your a believer in Jesus hopefully your screaming YES! That's me! Alas, you won't be diving right in. Mr. Chan thinks we need some foundational warm ups first. Fair enough I suppose.

     So before I started actually actively reading this book I laid it on the desk for a few days. When I came back to it I began wondering about the coauthor. Danae Yankoski is the coauthor of this book. I'm not sure why her name is not on the spine or why she isn't in the online videos. There is one mention of her on page 187 in the "About the coauthor" section. A snippet about her life. No mention of which sections or parts she wrote. No mention of why she is the coauthor or why one was needed. No mention of her primary function. Makes me start thinking that she wrote the entire book and Francis Chan filled in here and there. I'm not sure about the whole coauthor thing but in either case she should get her name out there and get some credit for this book too. 

     When thinking this book will be more fluffy than not I stumbled upon the first quote. From none other than R. C. Sproul. Finally a hard hitting man known for his intellect. This kept me pacified for awhile. Crazy Love remains a little on the fluffy side at least through chapter three. There is reference here and there to the book's website. The author asks the reader to stop reading and refer to the web site. I don't think much will be missed if you do not have internet access. I mean, the book can function on its own without needing to have web access. However, the chapter introductions online give you a better sense of Francis and allows you to get a better feel for him on a personal level. 

     Chapter four starts some interesting reflection. "profiles of the lukewarm" herein the author give us many thoughts about what the lukewarm looks like and how such a one behaves. Interesting stuff to think about. I am a little worried about the application of the Scripture in this chapter. It seems at times verses are just grabbed to try and support his point even when the context of those verses doesn't really indicate what the author is trying to communicate. Another problem with "Christian living" books.

  Chapter five discusses the idea of the "lukewarm Christian" and how it seems such a one is not really a Christian at all. He calls the term an oxymoron. I tend to agree here and this is not a point that is discussed often enough in modern popular books. The chapter video lays it all out. Check it out here. Now I realize that many people will get onto Francis here and say, "Oh that means he is rejecting that salvation is a free gift and he is turning it into a works gospel." I think not. At least not at this point. He is merely pointing out that perhaps these people are never really saved. Makes me think of some really good videos you should check out. Take the time to watch this entire video (be sure to watch around min. 8:00 for info about works salvation). And another video here.  

     I think the author is fair when he says (page 87): 

"Some people claim that we can be Christian without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded? You'll notice that He didn't add, "But hey, if that's too much to ask, tell them to just become Christians - you know, the people who get to go to heaven without having to commit to anything." Pray. Then read the Godspels for yourself. Put this book down and pick up your Bible. My prayer for you is that you'll understand the Scriptures not as I see them, but as God intends them."

That statement seems very honest to me. Not trying to be tricky just communicating what he sees. In either case we should consider these words. I know, it sounds dangerous yet perhaps that's what it takes to shock some people into reality? This quote clarifies some: "The Scripture demonstrate clearly that there is room for our failure and sin in our pursuit of God . . . I'm not saying that when you mess up, it means you were never really a genuine Christian in the first place. If that were true, no one could follow Christ."

     The next quote in this book comes from Robert Murray M'Cheyne. If you haven't hear of him take some time to google him now. He will be the subject of a future post sometime. I would highly recommend his daily Scripture reading plan to you.

     It really jumped out at me. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. "Following Christ isn't something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side." (p. 94) Hello?!? You know all those people that sit in the pews each Sunday morning service yet never do anything! They never desire to grow, they never desire to serve. They just assume that they can fulfill their Christian duty by showing up on Sundays. Don't let that be you friend. This call to commitment, to not settle with well enough, rounds off chapter five.

     Chapter six gives some words of encouragement to help us love God more. Which is mainly what Francis Chan seems to think the problem is. What makes us lukewarm. Perhaps he is right, I can't think of a better why to succinctly describe the lack of devotion and halfheartedness that characterizes most Christians. Even me at times. This lackadaisical apathetic attitude may just be summed up to a lack of love for God.

  Some have been disturbed by Francis making statements like, "God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge." He states this after talking about giving away many of our possessions and income. Some see this as the author saying he is holier-than-thou. I think more people should consider living more sacrificially with the time, possession and income. This principle is not an endorsement of the lifestyle of a monk. I think there are good Scriptural reasons one should not be completely secluded from the world without any modernity.

  You can see there are many places that someone can fly off the handle with this book. Hence the mixed reviews out there. I think as long as you approach it the right way you can avoid most of the problems. It has been said that one should eat the meat and spit out the bones. This principle applies to many such books. Unless the author specifically states something and clarifies it, it's hard to know if he means something to the exclusion of something else. Take it with a grain of salt.

    Chapter seven takes us on a journey of the obsessed. This chapter shows the opposite of the earlier chapter where we profiled the lukewarm. Here various characteristics of the obsessed person, that is, one obsessed with Jesus are given. He lists (with exposition) lovers, risk takers, friends of all, crazy ones (because they do things that the world thinks is crazy, a personal story from Francis about when he came back from Africa and decided to down grade his house to be able to give more away), the humble, servers, givers, sojourners, the engrossed, unguarded ones, the rooted, the dedicated, and sacrificers. These are the things that one will exhibit, if he is obsessed with Christ Jesus. Next a number of stories of interesting men and women that display this obsessive attitude are chronicled. While intended to be more inspiring (I hope) it turns out be be almost braggadocio in some instances. I understand that many different pastors are very enthralled with their own churches and may brag about them (which if it is a pastor led church in most cases it is an indirect self-bragging, perhaps another post to come). It seems a little strange to include your own church in this list of "obsessed with Jesus" charactertures. It's like listing your mother in the worlds best cooks list. Maybe true but would need much more outside verification. Maybe a blind study would be more appropriate here.

     Chan ends this book by discussing what being obsessed with Jesus might mean for you. How you can apply this concept to your life. What specifically you might want to do without giving any specifics. Recommendations for living with crazy love, crazy love of God that inspires you to do bold things, to break the status quo, to stand out, to drop the apathy and get involved. Something I think we should all do. A message needed in today's world. A message that applies to every one in every age. Take a stand, start serving in a new way, reinvigorate your old ministry, prepare to break the standard mold and step out into a more obsessed life.

  This book has a section in the rear that is an interview with Francis Chan. The most interesting one is about the emergent church. Many have wondered if Chan is emergent or not. He says the difference between the emergent movement and his approach is the fact that the emergents seem to not love the church, but he is loving it. Sadly, more distinction is needed to truly distinguish yourself from such a dangerous, nearly (if not actually) heretical movement.

   While this book may have sections that are easily misinterpreted, or capable of being interpreted a number of different ways, the overall message is a good one. Live a life that is crazy in love with God. As with most books, eat the meat and spit out the bones. I'll leave you with an interview of Francis Chan about this book Crazy Love.

2 comments:

  1. Hello.
    You are an excellent writer and you make several insightful observations about the book. I agree with you that it is obviously Chan's goal to encourage more on-fire living for Christ. But I think that you are overly gracious in making allowances for Chan's extreme judgmentalism. In chapters four and five, in particular, he defines and damns all, what he calls, "lukewarm" church goers---"We will not see them in heaven," Chan says! If you read his list carefully, it includes most Christians. I think that this is an awfully mean-spirited (and probably ineffective) device to attempt to stimulate commitment to Christ. To read an extended review of Crazy Love, see:
    http://www.freegracealliance.com/article/balanced-love-a-review-of-the-book-crazy-love-by-francis-chan/

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  2. There's a new link to the Crazy Love review "Balanced Love" above:
    http://www.freegracealliance.com/articles.htm

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