Many of you have asked us about Francis Chan, and we know he sure seems like a nice person. When one examines the fruits or tests the spirit, it should never be based on a person’s good deeds (even our best deeds are rags to God), or their personality or humbleness. It all comes down to this: How does the teacher handle the Word of God? And like a good tree bears good fruit, who are his/her spiritual mentors?
Over at Truth or Trend, Jenna Guerette has prepared a chapter-by-chapter review of Crazy love that tests the spirits and the fruits. Let us know what you think in the comments section.
Crazy Love/ Francis Chan Book Review (Trend of Austerity)
First of all, I found this book to be a difficult read. It was written in a choppy manner that left me at some points quite confused. I agree with Francis on very few ideas. These include the awesomeness of God, the attributes of God, and the wonders of his creation. The one or two times that Francis mentions salvation by faith in Christ alone through grace alone is another area that he and I agree. Although I think that he has doubts about this doctrine which I will explain further. Sadly, there is little else in this book that would allow me to be in agreement with his ideas.
If I hadn’t ordered this book on my Kindle it would be resting in my garbage can right now. Francis does not
handle scripture rightly and he has such a poor exegesis of major passages that he uses to underpin this book. He does not give credit to any concordance or Bible commentary in his bibliography and I don’t believe that this is something that was overlooked. I honestly don’t believe he used these tools. He also quotes from people who are definitely unsaved as though they are Christians and actually have something to say to God’s people for their edification. He also esteems highly the works of those who dabble in mysticism, monasticism, and the emergent movement.
Let me start by examining his preface. Francis believes that “By surrendering yourself totally to God’s purposes, He will bring you the most pleasure in this life and the next.” He never really explains what pleasure we will receive in this life and I believe that the cost of following Christ results in pain and not pleasure. The Bible tells us that we will be persecuted. (John 15:18-20) Francis also wishes for us to become “giving churches” so that we can alleviate the suffering in the world and change the reputation of His bride in America. First of all the mission of any Christian is to share the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit will work through us to bring the unsaved into a right relationship with God through Jesus’ atoning work on the cross. The suffering in the world is a direct result of sin. Which should we be more concerned about? The sin or the suffering? Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost – should we not follow in his footsteps? As for the reputation of the church in America/Canada, should we be concerned with what the world thinks of us? I think not. They will always hate us.
Francis begins his butchering of scripture in Chapter 2. 1 Cor. 10:31 “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This, according to Francis means that you need to get over yourself. Actually, this verse is discussing Christian liberty. When it is read in context it is advising Christians not to abuse their liberties to make a brother stumble. This would bring dishonour to God. In the next chapter, Francis explains that we are Christ’s inheritance. He does this using the verse Eph. 1:18 “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of His inheritance in the saints.” Actually, Paul is talking about our inheritance that is ours in Christ. Not vice versa – this can also be noted in Eph. 1:11 “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…”
I would consider chapter four to be one of the most confusing in the entire book. The lukewarm churchgoers that he describes cannot be believers. Although he holds them to account for their actions like they are believers. Throughout this chapter Francis tells us not to assume that we are good soil. ” Now, all those who call themselves believers should test themselves to see that they are in the faith.” (2 Cor. 13:5) But then he starts a certain line of questioning which seems to approve of works righteousness. He asks, “Are you satisfied with being godly enough to get yourself to heaven, or to look good in comparison to others?” Quite frankly this is very strange indeed. No one is actually godly enough to get to heaven. Only through repentance and trusting in the atoning sacrifice of Christ can one be saved (the doctrine of imputation). Any works that we do after we are saved are only through the Holy Spirit working through us to make us more like Christ (the doctrine of sanctification).
In chapter five, he finally clarifies that lukewarm churchgoers are not Christians. This is the chapter where those who have wealth start taking a beating. Francis says that “whether we acknowledge our wealth or not, being rich is a serious disadvantage spiritually.” Really? That statement puzzles me as there are many devoted followers in the Bible who were wealthy. Think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, and Solomon from the Old Testament. In the New Testament there is Joseph of Arimathea, Mary and Martha and Lazarus, Philemon, Barnabas, Cornelius, Lydia, and the Ethiopian that Phillip baptizes. Francis goes on to use a quote from William Wilberforce, “Prosperity hardens the heart.” Toward what? I suspect this has to do with the subject of slavery and that many of the wealthy of England were prosperous because of it. They had hardened their hearts against the atrocities of slavery because their wealth depended on it.
Predictably, Francis goes to the encounter that Jesus has with the rich young ruler (Luke 18 : 22-24) This young man wanted to inherit eternal life. Jesus knew that this young man worshipped wealth. He had money and he loved the money. (Please keep in mind that you can be poor and still love money) Jesus decided to test him and asked him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Now Jesus is not setting up some new parameters for salvation. He is not teaching salvation by philanthropy. He was demanding that the young man give Him first place in his life. Well the rich young ruler walks away and Jesus makes a statement about how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:24) (Keep in mind it is those who trust in riches). Jesus goes on to say that it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Here Jesus is highlighting the fact that it is impossible for anyone to be saved by merit.
The Jews believed that a wealthy person could purchase redemption through the giving of alms, sacrifices, and offerings. Also it was commonly thought at this time that wealth was an indication of God’s approval and therefore the wealthy were the most likely to attain heaven. Jesus is destroying these beliefs by making it known that salvation is entirely the gracious work of God. So when the disciples ask Him in Luke 18:26 ” Who then can be saved?”, He answers “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.” Jesus is showing that no man merits salvation it is a gift from God. This verse does not indicate that the wealthy are not able to be saved or that to be wealthy is a sin.
From here Francis takes yet another passage of scripture out of context. He moves on to Luke 19 and the story of the rich tax collector named Zaccheus. Francis considers this proof that the impossible has just become possible (Luke 18:27). A rich man has become saved. Zaccheus was repentant of his sin. He had made his wealth through ill-gotten gain and he knew it. He decided to make amends for his sin by paying back people he had wronged four-fold. This was the fruit of his conversion and not the condition of his salvation.
Next Francis takes us to Malachi where Israel is apparently offering God leftovers. In fact Israel has become a wicked nation that hasn’t kept God’s laws and could actually care less about pleasing God. I would have to call them unbelievers. Francis goes on to say that God doesn’t want their worship in Malachi 1 because it is leftovers. No, He doesn’t want their worship because they are unrepentant sinners. Francis says that God measures our lives by how we love. Well I would go further than that. I would say that he would measure our lives by our outward fruit and that indicates our inward condition. He is able to measure whether or not we are walking in the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit manifested in us (Gal. 5:22-26).
I am unclear as to whether Francis believes one can lose their salvation. On one hand he says that you don’t have to work your way to Jesus but on the other hand he says “that pursuing Christ is like swimming upstream. When we stop swimming or actively following Him we automatically begin to be swept downstream.” Well, I praise God that He holds out a hand through the power of the Holy Spirit for us to hold onto or under that theology all of us would be swept downstream. At this point Francis throws in a quote for our edification.
This quote is presumably from a believer – right? Wrong! It is from Henri Nouwen who was a Roman Catholic priest. Not only that he was into mysticism and was a homosexual.
Near the end of this chapter, Francis says that Jesus said that the road is narrow and few will actually find it. This is true. But then he drops the bombshell that even fewer of these people on the narrow way will be rich. Huh? What does wealth have to do with it? Then just when he has you totally confused he throws in a little fear and doubt. He ends the chapter by saying “don’t assume you are the good soil; don’t assume you are one of the few on the narrow way.” Yikes! Sounds ominous and really could make a true believer doubt their salvation. Francis seems to think that when it comes to being a Christian it’s best to never assure anyone that they are in the faith.
On to chapter six where Francis takes yet another passage of scripture out of context. We return to Malachi. This time it is Chapter 3:10. God invites His people , the Israelites, to test Him. If they will honour Him by giving Him that which is due in a show of true repentance then he will shower them with abundance, protect them from locusts and they would be the delight of the nations. He was allowing them to test Him – a one time offer. This was not setting a precedent for us. In fact in Luke 3:12 Jesus is being tempted by Satan and says “It is said, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Now Francis decides to open an invitation for calamity. He says “If you really want to experience God’s supernatural provision, then do as He says. Test Him. Give more than you can manage, and see how He responds.” Huh? What if He has already given us supernatural provision? Our homes, our jobs, our material possessions, – our very lives!! I guess this isn’t enough – now we have to test Him. What about being thankful for the provisions we already have and being a good steward with what we’ve been given.(Luke 16:10-12)
In chapter seven Francis decides to expound Matthew 25:42-43, 45. This passage is talking about the final judgment where the wicked are told that even though they had the means they did nothing to help the least of Christ’s followers. These wicked people are unrepentant sinners who never knew Christ and rejected His calling. Next Francis turns to 1 John 3 : 16-20. These verses talk about what true love is and that it is about sacrificial giving to another Christian’s needs and helping those who need it. This is appropriate. But then he goes to Luke 12:33 where Jesus says to “Sell your possessions and give to the needy…” Believers in the early church did sell their possessions to help the poorer brethren. But this verse should not be taken as a prohibition against all earthly possessions. Peter’s words to Ananias in Acts 5:4 make it clear that the selling of one’s possessions is optional.
Further in the chapter, Francis encourages us to “trust Him (God) so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. Once again he is inviting us to test God. He extols a man who gave his house to the church and moved back into his parent’s home. He also praises a friend who upon losing his job gave more to God rather than less. But what if some well meaning Christian disposes of all his worldly goods and is in financial trouble? He can’t pay his creditors and claims bankruptcy. What kind of witness is this? Francis wants us to look at ourselves to determine what a life wholly surrendered to God would look like. Apparently serving in the Church, working faithfully at a job, raising a family, being a godly spouse, a faithful steward of our possessions, a giver of time, money etc. isn’t radical enough for Francis. Why do I say this? Because the stories of the people he celebrates in the next chapter do not describe the average working “Joe Christian”. You know the ones that actually support the missionaries that he mentions. The ones that make their ministry possible.
Chapter nine contains the stories of people that Francis feels are living radically enough for his tastes. This includes the dubious story of a man named “Rings”. Apparently, Rings is a chain-smoker who lives in the cab of his pick-up in downtown Ocean Beach, California. He receives a monthly check (from the government?) which he uses to make meals for his fellow homeless buddies. Francis says, “He tells them that God is the One who told him to feed others with his money,(Rings is receiving personal revelation) and it’s because God loves each of them.” Francis goes on to say, “This man gives everything he has to others – literally everything – because he knows he has nothing that wasn’t given to him by God.” I would venture to disagree as “Rings” definitely keeps back some smokes money. Also, if this is a welfare cheque than the American people are actually the ones giving the money. If “Rings” doesn’t earn it, than he’s not really sacrificing a thing.
Another person that Francis extols is a man by the name of Shane Claiborne. He’s been described an a dreadlocked Mother Theresa. He wrote a book called the “Irresistible Revolution” and has founded a group of new monks called the Simple Way. It is a form of new monasticism. As you can guess, Shane gives away just about everything he has. Not only that, Shane is a huge supporter of mysticism. His mentor is Tony Campolo. Shane believes that just because someone might experience God a different way i.e. Islam, doesn’t mean that they are going to Hell. By the way, that book that he wrote was co-authored by a man named Jonathan Wilson – Hartgrove. Jonathan is a leader in the new monastic movement and was a speaker at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina earlier this year. At this festival there was music, yoga, liberal talks and the embracing of gays and lesbians.
Francis kicks off chapter 10 with a witty quote from Annie Dillard. Annie Dillard is an award winning author who has used Hinduism, Buddhism and even Eskimo religions in her writings. She says she either has no religion or many religions. Definitely not saved. Also in chapter 10, Francis puts selling possessions on par with baptism, repentance, and sharing the gospel. Francis says: “After the apostle Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, people were cut to the heart and said … ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” (Act 2:37) The first church responded with immediate action: repentance, baptism, selling possessions, sharing the gospel. But the people were actually cut to heart regarding their sin. Peter answered their question (what shall we do?) by saying that they must repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus. (Acts 2:38) Later on in the chapter (Acts 2: 44,45) do the people sell their possessions to assist the poorer brethren. The text further indicates that they did not sell their principal residences but sold extra land and possessions. They gave what was feasible and didn’t leave themselves destitute.
Francis doesn’t really give any clear direction as to where the average Christian is supposed to go from here. I’m left with the question “What’s radical enough for Francis?” Obviously, the average Christian life is not godly enough for him. He seems to promote works righteousness and esteems the giving of possessions above all else. Even to the point of praising people that do not believe in the true gospel e.g. Shane Claiborne. He also quotes unbelievers, including a homosexual. I speculate that Francis is in a state of spiritual crisis where he isn’t really sure what he believes. Unfortunately, he is trying to bring true believers down with him. I encourage all believers to rest in the doctrine of imputation. This sets us apart from other religions who rely on works for salvation. Working in the local church, being a faithful steward of your money, sharing the gospel with others, raising godly children, loving your spouse, and honouring God in all you do is radical and crazy enough.
The Resources I used are as follows:
Crazy Love by author Francis Chan, The NKJV John MacArthur Bible, The ESV Bible, and The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by authors Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe.