Nick's Reviews > Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

Crazy Love by Francis Chan
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it was ok
bookshelves: christian-living

This book has a huge fan base in the evangelical world. So many of my personal friends have gone gaga over this book that I feel a little guilty busting it down to two stars. However, I have several reasons that I must do so. Is it because I'm a calloused Christian that isn't willing to be "overwhelmed by a relentless God"? No. It's that I'm not overwhelmed by this book...let me count the ways.

1. I am really hard pressed to find any new material in this book. Recently there has been a wave of similar books calling for comfortable suburban Christians to get Radical about their faith and realize that there is a Hole In the Gospel ( least their Gospel), and that each of us is called to be a disciple and Not A Fan. That covers several of them anyway. I haven't read all of these books, so I will refrain from commenting on them and stick to Crazy Love. Here's the deal Tozer and Bonhoffer said it better. I'll stick with them.

2. I usually like books that give me a kick in the pants, but this one did not engage me at all. I agreed with much of what Chan was saying. Christians play it entirely too safe and half-heartedly worship Christ all the time. So, when I was bored to tears reading this book, I sat down and analyzed why. This point alone will require subpoints (sorry folks, that's just the kind of mood I'm in at the moment).
A. Chan should have fired his editor and hired a new one who would tell him when he was going all over the place, or say, "Hey, Francis, could you flesh this out more. This was just starting to get interesting and you left it dangling only to repeat some of this in a further chapter." Or maybe someone should have said, "You are making broad generalized claims about Christians, the Church, America. They seem true but if you really want to sell me, it would help to have some supporting data or stories or whatever." The fact is that the book could have been greatly improved by shifting some of the content around--dispersing some of his illustrations throughout the book and developing arguments well the first time instead of rehashing the same old arguments half way several times over. Am I being hard on Francis? Maybe but that is because...
B. I like good writing, and this is not good writing. Reading this felt like reading a blog instead of a book. "Well, Nick, Chan never claims to be a great writer!" Fair enough, but when Crazy Love is receiving such high accolades I feel that it is my duty to critique it. I am probably spoiled by reading guys like C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, and N.T. Wright. That might be true, but if you are going to the work of publishing a book learn how to write well.
C. This may just go back to subpoint A...I'm still not sure, and so it gets its own subpoint. Chan's approach to his goal is confusing and muddled. I notice that several other reviewers have picked up on this as well. He begins his book by talking about how we SHOULD be in Love with God and be AWED by him. So he sends you to some websites (I hate when books do this by the way. I'm reading a book. If you wanted me to link to something, write a blog. Take the time and describe or quote the content for crying out loud!). What happens a couple years down the road when these sites are dead links? Your book is outdated that's what. But I digress. He spends several chapters upfront trying to guilt the reader into loving God more. Then it seems that he back pedals somewhat, saying that you cannot make yourself love God more. He spends a whole chapter on the "Profile of a Lukewarm Christian" in which some of the traits are distilled from Scripture and some have no referent other than the opinions of Chan. He makes some hard claims, but then softens them in the next chapter. He says that he is not trying to preach works and that the Holy Spirit must do the work. I believe that he is attempting to preach a gospel of grace, but his delivery stinks. He needs to build clearer, more nuanced arguments instead of making sweeping claims that he has to clarify later. In the end, I am kind of confused about how Chan wants his readers to go about being "overwhelmed by a relentless God." Perhaps this is because he never fully diagnoses the reason why many Christians are in the shape we are. He states the problem and says we need to change, but when it comes to reasons why this is the case he comes up short.

3. And finally, it suffers from the same problems that many of these type of books do, namely it focuses on extreme examples of social justice or financial stewardship. If you aren't downsizing your house or biking to work, then you aren't an extreme enough Christian. These types of books give lip service to less dramatic ways of serving God, but they don't get page time when it comes to examples. Nor is there ever any insight into what "Crazy Love" might look like in rural Kentucky or Montana rather than Urban/suburban Chicago or San Diego. This last point reveals the limitations of the authors, but if you are going to make general statements for the American Church at least get a peek into the world of average small town America.

Well, I guess I was pretty hard on this book. It works for a lot of people. I actually liked some of what he had to say, but in the end I have to say that I think this book is greatly over rated. The huge success of this book, and others like it, reveals that there is a desperate need in our churches for real, life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. I commend Chan for speaking out against self-absorbed, cushy Christianity. I only wish he had done a better job.
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Reading Progress

November 7, 2013 – Started Reading
November 7, 2013 – Shelved
November 7, 2013 –
page 54
28.88% "Sunday school class."
November 9, 2013 –
page 65
November 16, 2013 –
page 76
December 6, 2013 –
page 110
December 18, 2013 –
page 149
December 29, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 18, 2015 – Shelved as: christian-living

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa I enjoy your reviews. ;)

Nick Lisa wrote: "I enjoy your reviews. ;)"

Thanks, Lisa!

message 3: by Laurie (new)

Laurie White Well thought out, I agree with you when you say that the book may not be all that well written, and that the author cuts off his thoughts, etc. Now, I must ask you, what do you think about the book being a good book for first time Christians? Do you think it can help those who are just now grasping the idea of who Christ was on earth and how undeserving we are, yet He gives us so much grace? There are some immature, not well thought out topics in this book but overall, I feel it can help those very stubborn minds think outside the box and just humble themselves.

Nick Hi, Laurie. From what I can remember, it was muddled. New Christians don't need to be confused when there are better books out there on this subject. Yawning at Tigers, for example, is better at inspiring awe, has clearer theology, and is well written. This book does work for some people, and that's great. But I would be hesitant to recommend it for the reasons I have listed above.

Kris Thanks for the great review, Nick! I appreciate seeing detailed critiques of this one...

Nick You're welcome, Kris! Thanks for suffering through a "detailed review" (with subpoints no less) : )

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