By Francis Chan
David C Cook
For more information about Crazy Love see the review by Tim Challies.
See also the Crazy Love website which includes video clips and more.
And, finally, join the Crazy Love Facebook page.
You can buy Crazy Love at Amazon.com.
Francis Chan at the 2010 NACC
There was a large part of me that was fully prepared to dislike this book. Every now and again someone pops up on the evangelical market whose book we ‘simply must read’ because it is ‘the best book about Christianity you will ever read.’ I started hearing the name Francis Chan by accident at a blog and then I heard he was speaking at the North American Christian Convention. I hesitated because I’m not a ‘get the next best thing’ kind of guy (I still haven’t seen Avatar for the same reason.) Then I relented, bought the book, and couldn’t stop reading it once I started.
When I started reading the book, I was overcome early by Chan’s echoing of John Piper. “I don’t know about you, but I want my two-fifths of a second to be about my making much of God” (44). That is nearly verbatim Piper (Don’t Waste Your Life). I nearly choked with laughter because so many people are critical of Chan thinking he is ‘emergent’ and here he is channeling John Piper. So much for the emergent title; that’s easily done away with. Then when the first quote in the book was from R.C. Sproul, I passed out cold. (Kidding.)
I pressed on. I kept reading because something about it told me to press on and when I did I discovered that Chan was neither channeling Piper nor emergent, but a pilgrim on a journey—a Jesus follower who is trying to make sense of a faith that scarcely makes sense to those who observe let alone those who practice. If that sounds backwards, it is meant to. I sort of think that is where Chan is coming from. He has it all worked out; and he has none of it worked out. I got the sense while reading this book that Chan is a fellow pilgrim who isn’t afraid of mystery or the unknown or those areas of following Jesus that seem to make no sense.
That, I suspect, and have for some time, is the essence of faith: trusting that things make sense to God even if they do not make sense to us.
I’m not one to write to you that I like that way of living; that I have mastered it; that I delight in it; or that I have somehow found a way to appreciate it. I struggle with God; I’m struggling with faith. I’m Jacob wrestling with God at the Jabbok and hoping for a new name, Israel, Peniel…something, some name that will clarify why God is often quiet towards those whom he loves and those who claim to love him. Here is part of Chan’s point: God is the one who loves crazily. And, to be sure, “It’s not that I believe in love if love believes in me.” (U2)
“When life gets painful or doesn’t go as we hoped, it’s okay if a little of our joy seeps away. The Bible teaches that true joy is formed in the midst of difficult seasons of life” (146).
I think it is a lot easier to write that than it is to believe it, and a lot easier to believe than practice.
I’m sure part of the reason Chan is revolting to some is because he is not afraid to find trees of wisdom growing in otherwise grassless prairies (we typically call them deserts). He is as apt to quote from Henri Nouwen as he is John Piper or from A.W. Tozer or Frederick Beuchner or R.C. Sproul or Annie Dillard or Rich Mullins or Shane Claiborne—and he quotes them, all. But here is where I find Chan most compelling. It’s not that he quotes these people as sources of authority or verity as much as it is that he quotes them because he is demonstrating his own, whatever else we may call it, orthodoxy. That is, he is saying something like, “I’m not saying anything different from these people. I’m just saying it in a different way.”
Hello, Mr Piper.
So he says, being a disciple means following Jesus. Jesus. Not Piper. Not Beuchner. Not Nouwen. Jesus. “How many of us would really leave our families, our jobs, our education, our friends, our connections, our familiar surroundings, and our homes if Jesus asked us to? If he just showed up and said, ‘Follow me’? No explanation. No directions?” (95-96) He continues:
You could follow Him straight up a hill to be crucified. Maybe He would lead you to another country, and you would never see your family again. Or perhaps you would stay put, but He would aske you to spend your time helping people who will never love you back and never show gratitude for what you gave up.
Consider this carefully—have you ever done so? Or was your decision to follow Christ flippant, based solely on feeling and emotions, made without counting the cost? (96)
Hello, Mr Piper.
Seriously, though, this is no easy discipleship that Chan is calling us to. And, probably not ironically, it is the same thing that we read in other people’s work too—Piper, Beuchner, Tozer, Nouwen, Chambers, Buchanan, R.C. Sproul or NT Wright. Speaking of Wright, here’s how he puts it in After You Believe:
Those with sharp eyes may have spotted that the question, ‘How should I behave?’ contains two significantly different questions within it. First, it refers to the content of my behavior: In what way should I behave? In other words, what specific things ought I to do and not to do? But second, it refers to the means or method of my behavior: granted that I know what I ought to do and ought not to do, by what means will I be able to put these things into practice? One of the oldest and best-known moral puzzles, after all, is that we all know what it’s like to do something we knew we should not do, or not to do something we know we should have done. Interestingly, Jesus seems to have given both sides of this question the same answer: ‘Follow me!’ This is both what you should do and how you should do it. (14)
Counting the cost? Following Jesus? Living the crucified life? This is weighty stuff from a so-called emergent so I’m not sure if those who have Chan as their latest whipping boy are reading the same book I read or if they just don’t like him because he’s from California. Chan is not calling for slack Christianity or flimsy Jesus following. He says that following Jesus in this world is like swimming upstream, against the current. His chapter in Crazy Love called “Profile of the Obsessed” is profound example of this calling to the ‘hard’ following of Jesus. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. “We cannot start believing that we are indispensable to God” (147). Ouch.
When I closed the book, I was challenged; and I have a new author I love to read. Here is a man, a writer, a pilgrim who understands precisely the way I do. He loves the authors I do—Beuchner, Dillard, Nouwen—and quotes from them. Here is a man who is following Jesus and wrote a book about his experience as a follower, what works for him, what cross Christ has called him to bear, and how that is worked out every day in the light and darkness of faith. This is no easy road to travel and I don’t think Chan is writing to say it is. Sometimes he is a bit too critical of his brothers and sisters in Christ, and sometimes I think he makes a bit too much of a big deal about money (as if that is the only way to measure our faith here in America.) But I am with him and I recommend this book to you. It’s worth the read.
His final warning comes from Oswald Chambers, “Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you” (167).
I think that is good, sound advice. Now if only I can practice it.