Two Books On Love – Two Different Answers

It started simple enough, I wanted to read some of the best selling books on religious studies, and I ran into Francis Chan first. I’ve heard of his church, and the progression of the message of Christendom that he was bringing and I was intrigued. Francis Chan is a contemporary Christian speaker, and pastor. I have heard him in the past, but did not read the book he wrote about God’s love. “Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God”, is an interesting title, but would the book really be about this relentless pursuit by God towards humanity?

A little background about me. I’m not a Christian in the traditional sense. Heck, I’d probably be thrown out of most churches because of my past and present proclivities that I do not find to be sinful, but I’m sure everyone else would be quick to point at. I lean towards Calvinist ideas most often, and the need for evangelism in 2019 is not something that I agree with. At least not in the American spectrum. Have you really never heard about Jesus? Come on? Really? Not even in references? Did you catch last week’s episode of the Simpsons? It was all about God and forgiveness, and well, it might as well been made by Veggie Tales.

Chan’s argument is simple, God loves you and he is pursuing you. He makes a simplified argument throughout, using examples of church, rules, and the traditional scope of what you may already know about Christian. Now, he paints it in a way to tell you that it’s “not” do this and do that, but at the same time, the dichotomy of Christendom is that you should not do this and should not do that. But as soon as you raise your hand, Chan immediately follows up with that argument, that if you really loved God, you wouldn’t do it. There’s a contention here, because if we really loved God, and we wouldn’t do something, then why need God to begin with? If we are saved by Grace, then why do we need to constantly be told that God is saddened by our decisions, then told that he will save us in the nick of time, so don’t worry? The reactions and questions that I have for Chan are not answered by him in the book, instead, he leans heavily on the same message we always get, “Faith”, and “Really Saved”, and then he goes on to to talk to the church. This is not a book for the lost, but rather those that have already been schooled in Christendom, to the point where many of what he says is aimed directly at the church going audience, Sunday Christians, and not secular academics. In fact, as soon as you raise questions of academia, he shuts them down to say, “I don’t mean to…”, many times. Ok, well, if you don’t mean to, then why write it? Oh right, because the Church will buy the book, go to the website, get the video series, and make money for the profit and extension of the name. I mean that’s what Mark Driscoll did, right?

I am not going to accuse Francis Chan of the same mistakes that Mark Driscoll is accused of, however, I am going to say that this book paints a very well known picture. One that you already know if you have Arminius as scholarship to your quest for finding anything to do with Christendom.

That being said, “Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God” is not a horrible book. I read it in one sitting, and it is a breeze. However, if you’re “new” to the faith, or you are on the fence, you may find that this is captivating stuff. However, if you have any sense of scholarship, you’ll find that this is light, but then again, it wasn’t made for everyone, and perhaps a little perspective, goes a long way, right? In this case, it certainly does.

Moving to the second book about love, I ran into something so simple, and yet so easy to digest that another one sitting got me through it. This book retails for 16 dollars, mind you, and yet I read it in one sitting, giving me little to no meat on the bones. Now, that is not to say that Micah’s work is not relevant, it is, but it’s like Chan’s book. It takes personal stories, throws in the Bible as a proving ground, uses little to no scholarship aside from a few quotes, and then jumps on the grenade of “faith”.

“Love Changes Everything” by Micah Berteau is an interesting book on the surface. I love the cover, and I thought that it was an excellent handbook for those that are absolute babies in the world of Christian theology. That being said, the over the head structure of the book leans so heavy on “love” that it forgets to add critical elements to the stories, and even adds additional contemplation and errors to the Bible. There’s various translations used to back up points, and the constant elevation of this unconditional love, that is if you obey commands.

It goes back to the faith and works argument that Paul and James seem to conflict. That is not to say that I hated this book, but it’s so light that I had to just laugh a few times. I understand the why of this book, and yes, there is a great deal of “Love” that is pointed out in the Bible, but the whole story and every sequence that showcases a notion of love is not meant to be an example of salvation and love. It just isn’t. However, one can argue that it does, and Micah being a pastor and having a built in audience doesn’t hurt.

Two Books, Two Different Focuses on Love

Is God Chasing? Are we supposed to Chase? That’s the thing, there are moments in each book that paints God as someone that chases that does everything to save, and will save you even when you don’t believe. Then there are moments where you will go to hell, or you will not be saved, if you don’t believe, or if you don’t do certain things. So which is it? Is there unconditional love that saves us? Or is there a variety of rules that you have to follow, no wait, that you will want to follow, in order to be saved?

Either way, it sends a confusing picture of what the Bible in the Calvinist viewpoint sends, that is if you believe in election, and limited numbers. Not to say that those are finite, but come on…ok, maybe I’m just a skeptic.

Alternative Reading

Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will, and the Nature of God by James Arminius and John D. Wagner

Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

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