Book Review: Crazy Love, by Francis Chan

Review
03.02.2010

“Your love has got me looking so crazy right now.”

So sings Beyonce in her song “Crazy in Love.” Francis Chan doesn’t quite use this line in his book Crazy Love, but switch out Beyonce’s mythical man for the eternal God, and the lyric works nicely: God’s love should make us look crazy right now.

Chan is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley California and a regular speaker at Passion conferences. His book Crazy Love challenges the “Christian” status-quo. In the preface, Chan says that this book is “written for those who want more Jesus, and are bored with American Christianity” (21). Chan argues that the problem with nominal or lukewarm Christianity is an inaccurate view of God (22).

OVERVIEW

Crazy Love has a simple format. In the first section, Chan addresses the problem. He reviews God’s character from the Bible and challenges our small understanding of who God is. In the second section of the book Chan challenges professing Christians to examine themselves. He gives a profile of the lukewarm and concludes,”A lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are lukewarm are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven” (81).

Chan knows that what he has said will produce fear and guilt, so he counteracts that with pointing to God’s love. He says love is the only answer for the lukewarm: “The answer lies in letting him change you” (103).

Chan then moves on to challenging Christians to live counter-culturally. The title of chapter seven is “Your best life…later.” He wants to see Christians living differently from the world. And he gets the fact—rightly I think—that Christians are provoked to be crazy and distinct not by talking about the value of this world, but by teaching them to store up their hope in the next. It’s these Christians who become “obsessed”—who become lovers, servers, the humble, the risk takers, the sojourners, the engrossed, the dedicated, the sacrificers.

 A WAKE-UP CALL FOR NOMINAL CHRISTIANS

Crazy Love is essentially a response to nominal Christianity. Chan rightly goes to the root of the problem, a wrong understanding of God. He also says what many Christians are afraid to say: that nominal, lukewarm, half-hearted “Christians” are not Christians. Chan also briefly balances his confrontational language. He says, “I do not want true believers to doubt their salvation as they read this book. In the midst of our failed attempts at loving Jesus, His grace covers us”(87).

Chan also understands that by calling believers to examine themselves they may be tempted to look to their own works for salvation:

Perhaps it sounds as though I believe you have to work your way to Jesus. I don’t. I fully believe that we are saved by grace, through faith, by the gift of God, and that true faith manifests itself through our actions…”

But,

The lives of many people who call themselves “Christians” in America lack manifestations of a vital and active faith. And this, to be perfectly honest, frightens me (95).

WHAT ABOUT THOSE WITH NORMAL LIVES?

Overall, the book is a good call for all to look anew at God and examine themselves to see if they are living a changed life. However, I do wish that Chan would have been a little more careful not to dishearten those Christians who are simply living faithful Christian lives. Granted, Chan does cover his bases (see pages 166, 168, and 172), but I would have liked to see him guard more against discouraging those who do not move to Ethiopia or sell all their possessions, but who faithfully evangelize at work, serve their families, and love the church.

Chan quotes a lot of Scripture that speaks of our radical faith in God, yet he does not interact much with verses that speak of us simply being faithful to God in our everyday business. For example, Matthew 24:45-46 speaks of the Son of Man coming back and finding the faithful and wise servant who “give[s] them their food at the proper time.  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”Jesus here encourages believers to be faithful every day in their jobs, families, and relationships. In the same vein, Paul encourages the Christians to live “quiet and peaceable lives” (1 Tim 2:2). The Bible calls us to be radically faithful to God, but this devotion will look different in different circumstances.

A USEFUL PROD

That said, this book is a useful prod—a prod for anyone who treats Christianity as if it only means intellectually assenting to a set of facts, but not something that changes your life. Jesus calls us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”(Matt. 22:37).

By:
Patrick Schreiner

Patrick Schreiner is an Instructor of New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. You can find him on Twitter at @pj_schreiner.