Book Review 19: “CrazyLove” by Francis Chan

A New Yorks Times bestseller, Francis Chan wrote a thought-provoking book that was released in 2008 called CrazyLove. Musician Chris Tomlin writes this book’s foreword (pp. 15-16). In the preface, Chan explains how this “book is written for those who want more Jesus…who are bored with what American Christianity offers…who don’t want to plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do” (p. 21). He also gives the book’s structure (p. 22). Specifically, he explains that the first three chapters lay the foundation while the last seven chapters “call us to examine ourselves” (p. 22). With that being stated, this book review looks at both sections while also giving a conclusion.

THE FOUNDATION (CHAPTERS 1-3)

In the chapter titled “Stop Praying”, Chan mostly focuses on who God is and how great He is (pp. 25-38). In this chapter, he refers the reader to two different videos. This video (called The Awe Factor Of God) focuses on how big God is, giving decent information in the process. This second video (titled Stop And Think) is lengthier. Like the first one, it is rather informational. However, unlike the first one, this video has some sappy music in the background (a possible emotional manipulative technique). Furthermore, a problem occurs at about the ten minute mark. Chan states, “God right now wants to have a relationship with you.” This tie to “relationship theology” needs explaining (in case this sounds familiar, I gave a similar explanation in my post on Levi Lusko). First, we are all created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-31). Already, there’s a relationship of creation/Creator between every single human being ever created and God. Second, for the non-believer, another relationship already exists; God is judge over the non-believer. Furthermore, the non-believer, dead in his/her trespasses and sins, stands in condemnation before a holy God (Exodus 34:7; Ephesians 2:1-3; Romans 2:8-10; Revelation 9:2; 19-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:14-46 Mark 9:43; Isaiah 66:24). Needless to say, this is a bad, damning relationship. Having a good relationship with Him (i.e., being a penitent believer in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world–Acts 4:12; John 1:29, 14:6; Acts 16:31; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:21) is what is desirable. Unfortunately, Chan’s video crashes and burns as soon he tries to make heaven all about having a relationship with God. Everybody already has a relationship with God. It is just a question of whether the relationship is good or bad. Furthermore, Chan makes no mention of repentance in this attempt at a Gospel presentation. Repentance is a gift (2 Timothy 2:25). In short, Chan misses the mark in this video.

In the second chapter (titled You Might Not Finish This Chapter), Chan focuses on the concept of life being a vapor (pp. 39-51). While I appreciate his call for urgency, he preaches a lot more Law than he does Gospel in this chapter, thus making it imbalanced. In the third chapter (titled Crazy Love), Chan explores whether we love God or just the stuff He gives (pp. 53-63). In doing so, Chan opens up about his personal life, shows once again his inaccurate understanding of relationship theology, and he once again fails to mention repentance’s being a gift. He also mentions nothing of the Great Commission. While he does both give good facts and show his openness by talking of his early childhood, the chapter is still a mixed bag at best.

THE CALL TO EXAMINE OURSELVES

As mentioned earlier, chapters 4-10 focus on the call to examine ourselves. The fourth chapter (titled Profile Of The Lukewarm) shows Chan’s describing lukewarm people at length (pp. 65-81). In doing so, he proof-texts a plethora of passages to try and make his point. This is interesting because the word “lukewarm” (as well as the Greek word for it [chliaros]) only appears once in Scripture (Revelation 3:16).

In chapter five (titled Serving Leftovers To A Holy God), Chan states how we all have lukewarm elements in our lives (pp. 83-98). In chapter six (titled When You’re In Love), Chan explains what it means to love God (pp. 99-111). Chan says some refutable things in this chapter. First, he says, “God wants to change us; he died so that we can change. The answer lies in letting Him change you” (p. 103). This is absurd. After all, God is in the heavens and does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3). If He wants to change us, He will do so regardless of whether or not we want to let Him. Second, Jesus Christ came specifically to save sinners (John 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Matthew 1:21). People can change themselves while yet remaining unrepentant (like myself when I lost weight during high-school). Chan also twists John 10:10 by reading only half that verse when trying to make another point (pp. 103-104).

In chapter seven (titled Your Best Life…Later), Chan explains how to make the most of what we have been given here on earth (pp. 113-127). Like chapter two, this chapter is an imbalance of much Law and little Gospel. Furthermore, Chan misinterprets some texts (Matthew 25) and takes other ones (Malachi 3:10 and Deuteronomy 15:10 to name a couple) out of context.

In chapter eight (titled Profile Of The Obsessed), Chan takes a page out of the Profile of the Lukewarm playbook by proof-texting a lot of passages to fit his definition of what defines an obsessed person (pp. 129-148). This is interesting because nowhere in Scripture is the word “obsessed” found. The only thing he really gets right in this chapter is an eye-opening stat on Americans and how much television they consume compared to time “with God” (p. 145). In chapter nine (titled Who Really Lives That Way?), Chan cites a plethora of people who lived a “radical, love-motivated life” (pp. 149-164). These include Nathan Barlow, Simpson Rebbavarapu, Jamie Lang, Marva J. Dawn, Rich Mullins, Rings, Rachel Saint, George Mueller, Brother Yun, Shane Claiborne, the Robynson family, Susan Diego, Lucy and Cornerstone Community Church.

In chapter ten (titled The Crux Of The Matter), Chan essentially puts a bow on his book, recapping all he has written about to this point (pp. 165-175). What follows are some notes, a Q&A section with him regarding the book, and the sixth chapter of another book of his called Forgotten God (pp. 177-205).

CONCLUSION

Chan obviously has an inaccurate concept of relationship theology. Furthermore, this book is a lot of Law without a whole lot of Gospel. As a result, this is an imbalanced book. He also does quite a bit of proof-texting. While he does say some good things in this book, the only thing I got out of this book that still rings in my ear to this day was the eye-opening stat on Americans and how much television they consume. For that reason (in addition to the aforementioned things), I cannot recommend this book to anyone. There is no way I can recommend a book that features proof-texting, imbalance of Law and Gospel, and an inaccurate concept of relationship theology. While it is far from the worst book I have read, it is a below-average book that should only be read for research purposes.

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