Book Review: “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan

10 06 2009

So, I’ve been reading Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love” for quite some time now.  I’ll be honest, I read the first 80% of it within a week or so, and then the last 20% took me forever to finish.  Part of that was life getting hectic, and I don’t know what the rest was.

But, it is now finished, and I have much to say about it.  However, I will first remind everyone what I mean when I say the word “review”.  It’s not meant to be objective in any way.  This is entirely subjective (which, I believe, is the point of reviews…you find someone you tend to agree with, and then trust their opinions on various media suggestions) and moreso, is definitely very much about where my head and heart are right now.  So, as with everything I say, take this with a grain of salt, a swig of your favorite beverage, and hopefully a munch of something tasty.  That said, here we go:

“Crazy Love” is definitely the most interesting book I’ve read in the last five years.  No, it’s not the most “gripping”.  It’s not very exciting at all, actually.  Mostly, I have a hard time reading non-fiction.  So, if it doesn’t have a story and characters and twists, and whatever…it doesn’t get read (all the way, at least).  But, Crazy Love called to me in the bookstore.  No joke, I believe God placed this book in my hands.

Francis Chan has a simple premise here-that we’re not living as we should.  That we’re not living the lives we profess.  That we are sapping our own vitality here, and potentially endangering our very souls by doing so.

See, Pastor Chan (of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California) believes that we need to be sold out for Jesus.  And we, as Christians nod in agreement, and say “Of course, man!  Amen!”  But Francis doesn’t let us off the hook there.  He says, “Well?  How about it then?  Where is your faith?  Where are you walking where only God can catch you if you fall?”

He brings up a lot of points in the book, but the ones that got me the most, were the ones that talked about money, and our obligations to the poor.  Chan reminds us that the Bible is filled with people who turned away from following Christ, because they held their money too tightly.  And while you may agree with Chan, he goes further and says to the reader (me, and hopefully you too): “If you believe that God has your best interests at heart, and that you are part of a church that is intended to support its members in love, and that you are living for heaven, and not today, here on earth:  Why do you strive for the bigger house?  The better running car?  Why do you want the better paying job?  Why do you have a 401k?  Why do you plan for the future so much instead of living for God’s glory today?”

And it’s a very VERY challenging statement he makes throughout the book.   The kind of living that Francis Chan refers to is VERY counter-cultural.  It’s VERY dangerous, even, by the world’s standards.  And you’re left with three options when you’ve read the book in its entirety:

1) You could do nothing, and act as if the book were entirely false.  However, scripture would say otherwise.

2) You could feel convicted, say “wow, he’s right” and then do nothing differently.  (Like most of us do in church EVERY Sunday, or after a mid-week sermon…)

3) Or, you could change.  You could pray for God to make you the kind of person that would take risks if God moved you as such.  That you would be the kind of person that would live dangerously now, if God asked you to.  That you would be willing to be uncomfortable, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, if it came to it, to help others in love, and to honor God’s desire for us to love one another.

Chan, obviously hopes we end with #3.  But it’s a very tough proposition.  It’s really about living our lives NOT as our own.  And I think it’s very different as a parent and a husband, than it is as a single person.  A single person can pick up his or her shingle and move anywhere they need to, live in abject poverty if they so desire, and do anything dangerous.  And they only affect themselves.  But, as a family member, what I choose affects my family as well.  If I sell all my belongings?  I also sell my wife’s and my daughters’ stuff too.   That’s scary, man.  Just being honest there.  Totally scary.  But God may be asking me to do that.  God may be asking me to move to Botswana or something.  Do I take my family, or do I leave them behind?  Will they leave me, because they think I’m crazy, or being too zealous?

And ultimately, the question is:  “Does it matter, if I’m doing these things for Christ?”  And the answer is of course, “No.”  But we don’t ever really live that way, do we?  We live in the way that’s much more comfortable, or more safe.

Chan puts it this way: We claim that God exists.  But we live safely, so if he didn’t, we wouldn’t be changed.  That 401k I mentioned earlier…If God has my future set for me, and I am living only for him…can I not trust that he will have my best in store?  Even if that best is not on this Earth?  Even if I live a terribly short, terribly painful, terribly uncomfortable existence, yet I give all for God and others…isn’t that worth it, for an eternity with Jesus who will judge those actions as good and honoring of himself?

See, that’s the point Chan brings up.  And that’s why it’s called “Crazy Love”.  Its well-written, and it’s got a lot to say and back up what he says, biblically.  He’s not suggesting anything new, simply a return to radical, entirely trust-driven personal ministry, where Christ is our everything.  We trust Him to be Provider, Savior and King.  It’s a bold situation.

However, here’s where I’m struggling.  (I mean, I’m working out the entirety of the thing, but here’s where I don’t know if I agree with Francis Chan:)

The very end of the book has a question and answer portion.  The end question asks about how Chan has a bold stance on salvation that may be very counter to what the majority of even biblical, Christian evangelical churches preach.

He claims, very much like James in the New Testament, that faith without works is dead.  Not that the works are the saving thing-that’s always grace through faith.  But that our works prove that our faith exists.  And that without those actions that demonstrate our love for Christ, and our desire to love others in His name?  If we’re lukewarm Christians?  Then we are NOT saved.

Meaning, you could want to believe.  You could “say the prayer” and accept Jesus as your savior.  But if you don’t make Him Lord as well?  If you have no repentance, and if you have no change of behavior?  If you live life, not as described in this book, as totally sold-out for Christ?  Then you’re not saved, because your actions prove that you didn’t really mean it.

Again, this is Chan’s stance.  And I understand it, intellect-wise.  But I’m not sure that I can sign on, personally.  I’m not rejecting the idea, because it has merit.  Because he gives biblical, contextual answers to back this up.  And I cannot deny these things.  And he doesn’t claim that the actions are what save.  He simply says that the action is what proves the changed heart.  And the changed heart is the necessary result of an encounter with God loving us.  That we simply cannot be the same after that encounter.  So, no change means no encounter.  No encounter means no salvation.

Again, I can understand it logically and philosophically, but I don’t know if it completely works in relation to accepted doctrine (or at least what I’ve understood my entire life up until now).  I’ve always thought, “yeah, you can be a mass-murderer, but when you accept Christ, if you mean it, and then you still murder again, you’re forgiven.  Sure, you should repent, but your sin is still covered, and you’re still going to heaven.  Maybe there’s no reward.  Maybe heaven alone is enough.”  But, Chan says no.  You live a lukewarm, unaffected life?  You do not have the holy spirit, and therefore you are NOT saved.

I don’t know.  I’d be very interested in your thoughts.  Especially if you’ve read the book.  I would definitely recommend the book, as regardless of Chan’s doctrine on salvation, the truths about following Christ, (not just claiming it) are absolutely spot-on.  We need to be a church of action, and a church of service and a church of sacrifice, not a church of words, rituals and nice, pretty people.

I’d rather be a dirty, exhausted dead guy going to judgment knowing I served with my whole heart, soul and spirit than be a good, clean Christian boy who did nothing for his neighbor, his enemies, or fellow Christians.  I want to be the guy who says “Lord, send me!”, no matter what the cost of that possibility.  And I want it to be my nature, not an obligation.  I want to do it out of love for Christ, not because I simply know it’s what I should do.  So I pray for this.  I know God alone can change my heart and soften it, and make it less selfish.  Because He knows, I’m plenty selfish.

So, in a short recap:  The book is written very well.  It’s a great read.  It’s a very challenging read.  It’s a controversial read, even from zealous evangelicals.  It’s a must-read, I think, for the church surrounded by post-Christian culture.

Definitely pick it up, and as always, comment away below.  Thanks!

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8 responses

30 06 2009
Peter Stoloff

I found otakudad.wordpress.com very informative. The article is professionally written and I feel like the author knows the subject very well. otakudad.wordpress.com keep it that way.

(this comment has been modified by changing the name, and the website. I don’t like spammers, if you haven’t seen in the past…) -OD

21 10 2009
David Hardy

FYI… You might wish to read the article and join the discusion at Christianity Today regarding Francis Chan and his ministry…

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/october/30.42.html

6 11 2009
Donald

Thank you OtakuDad for your honest musings about the Crazy Love book. The reason that you struggled with some of the ideas expressed in the book, I believe, is that the book promotes an unsound doctrine called “Lordship Salvation.” I found the book to be pretty judgmental; it seems to be writing off as lost much or most of the evangelical community, as I see it (particulary in Chapter 5). There’s a good discussion about the book @ http://expreacherman.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/macarthur-type-new-apostacy/

31 03 2010
Timothy McConnell

This review is extremely helpful to me. You’ve got it pinned. The correction is needed in our Churches today, but can we accept this correction “regardless of Chan’s doctrine on salvation”? That’s a critically important point!

Thanks a lot for this work! God bless.

31 03 2010
otakudad

Hey, thanks so much for the comment! However, you should know that I’ve moved the blog to its own domain (at least for now…), so you can read newer stuff at http://www.otakudad.com!

Thanks for reading!

2 06 2010
Noelle Cavanaugh

I’ve read most of the book (9 out of 10 chapters), and so far my opinion is more positive than negative. Chan’s call for Christians to wake up and really start living for God is much-needed. But I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says and how he says it. For example, in chapter 8, Profile of the Obsessed, Chan describes humanity as “disgusting”. I don’t agree with that statement! We are all sinners and imperfect, and without God we would be totally lost. But we are God’s creation, made in His image. Our sin is disgusting, that’s for sure. But to call ourselves that, to me, is self-defeating and brings shame, not conviction and repentance.

There are a couple other things I can nitpick, but that would cast an unevenly negative light on a mostly good book. I think that some might see Chan’s emphasis on acts of charity, etc. as works-based theology. But I agree with him that if we were to truly live as God wants us to, then our lives would show it and we would be doing the things he talks about. Not as a way of trying to earn our salvation, but as a response to a loving, omnipotent God. So you can see that as you want to see it I guess, depending on your background and your viewpoint.

3 06 2010
otakudad

Thanks! I’ve moved the blog, however. So please, while I haven’t wrote much lately, I will in the future! Check it out at http://www.otakudad.com!

30 09 2011
mcventura

Chan, according to his interpretation would not characterize the mass-murderer who murders again as lukewarm; it’s the complacent person in the pew next to you who’ll be tortured eternally. Clearly the killer is fired up, unlike the lukewarm Chrisitian.

You say ” Meaning, you could want to believe. You could “say the prayer” and accept Jesus as your savior. But if you don’t make Him Lord as well? If you have no repentance, and if you have no change of behavior? If you live life, not as described in this book, as totally sold-out for Christ? Then you’re not saved, because your actions prove that you didn’t really mean it.”

According to Chan and certain biblical interpretations God must call you out, if you are not fulfilling the first commandment then you should pray that God give you the love for Him that you do not have and if it still ain’t workin’ you are not predestined to be, in other words that person is going to hell. The gate is narrow they like to remind us

Chicken or the egg or Grace? I ask you…

The truth is I do not need Francis Chan to find Jesus and hence salvation. He told a story about a fourteen year old girl who was doing wonderful work for the Lord and lost her life in car accident that he could never think of as tragic, of course. He then goes on to talk about the number of people that came to the service for her that he was speaking at, hundreds of people many her highschool classmates and after he did his thing, spoke about her works for the Lord, he invited any moved to come to Christ to come, and he said that at least 200 students stepped forward and were saved.

My question to brother Chan is, what fruits did he observe in the 200 saved that day, that he met for the first time, that made him confident enough to claim them saved???

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