Saturday, July 23, 2011

Crazy Love - Francis Chan


I really wanted to like this book.  I had heard that Francis Chan's latest book was in the vein of Radical by David Platt, and that if I liked Radical I would love Crazy Love.  Well, I didn't.  I can see where this idea would take root, as both books are calls to abandon the mediocre faith walk that today's American Christians seem content with.  Both authors make "radical" claims, challenge believers to give up material things for Jesus, and highlight truths in the gospel that make what the Church is teaching today seem almost unbiblical.  But that is where the similarities end.

Throughout the first few chapters I found myself agreeing in many ways with what Francis Chan was laying out.  But his writing often seems simplistic and I found myself longing for David Platt's explanation of the crucifixion in his book Radical (a beautiful description of God's wrath poured out on Jesus) instead of Chan's continual expression of  "crazy, amazing love".  He is of course correct in saying this, Jesus's love is crazy, amazing and beyond belief.  I appreciate how Chan explains that there is more to the Christian walk than being comfortable, praying occasionally, attending church and giving a respectable tithe.  I really enjoyed the Chapters on Love and how as Christians we will be known by how well we love God and love one another.  It was a refreshing wake up call to how we treat each other and how Jesus expects us to die to ourselves in order to live out this call to love.

However, in his most controversial chapter of the book on lukewarm Christians, Chan takes a stance that I can not get behind.  He basically says that the lukewarm Christian is not a Christian at all, and we will not see them in heaven.  Wow.

To understand this statement you have to recognize the difference between salvation theologies.  Within the conservative Christian doctrine there are two different ways to interpret salvation; Lordship theology and Free Grace theology.  Francis Chan is clearly in the Lordship vein, as he boldly asserts that you are not a saved Christian if you are lukewarm.  He also asserts that you are in need of salvation if you are not in the 10% of Christians who lead an "obsessed" life, 100% committed to the Christ walk.  In stating this, Chan is making the claim that although you are saved by grace through faith, you are not an actual Christian if your life is not bearing the fruit of this decision through works. He uses scripture to back up this assertion.

While I agree with many things that Crazy Love calls us to consider, I can not come down on the same side of salvation theology as Chan.  I came away from this book almost feeling fearful for many people who might question their salvation experience.  Yes, faith without works is dead.  Yes, we are called to obey Christ, to live this life committed to him.  I believe that Christians should look different from the world, and that there is absolutely nothing in this life that should hold more appeal to us than falling madly in love with Jesus.  But, I do not believe that you can cheapen grace by tying it down to works.  Grace is free.  Salvation is Jesus + nothing.  I can not agree with the statement that lukewarm Christians are going to hell- nor do I agree with the way Chan interprets the Scripture in Revelation about the church at Laodicea.  I also do not believe that unless you are one of the "Super Christians" that Chan highlights in his book you are not walking with Christ and are therefore not truly saved.

There are many things to appreciate about Crazy Love, so this is a mixed review.  I can only hope that anyone reading this is spiritually mature enough to take away the call to action but not succumb to fear based theology.  If, according to Chan, going to heaven is tied to how well we follow Christ on Earth, then we are ultimately saying that Jesus died for works. It is important to remember that we will be known by our good works, but His Grace is enough.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Rene,

    Good review. You were so right to question Chan's theology in Chapter 5. His condemnation of the lukewarm is unfair, overly harsh and broad-brushed. There is a detailed review of the book at Free Grace Alliance:
    Also, there are many articles on Francis Chan's theology at