“Forgotten God” by Francis Chan (Book Review)

Francis Chan is a bit of an enigma.

He has garnered great “success” by all cultural Christian accounts by becoming a popular conference speaker, best-selling author, and planting and pastoring a thriving and growing church body. Yet last year he abruptly left it all to spend time chasing down the specific call of God on his life by prayer, fasting and traveling the world abroad. Most in Christianity have praised him for this, some of have been perturbed by this. Chan has most recently been drawn to San Francisco, though he’s being intentionally careful about any public ministry implications in the future.

Chan’s sophomore release to “Crazy Love” is “Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.” The book reflects its author. It’s enigmatic. Warm. Winsome. Generous. Thoughtful. But in the end, enigmatic.

If you are expecting a thorough doctoral treatise on pneumatology, this shain’t it, and Chan admits as much (p. 18). If you want to know what end of the spectrum Chan falls in the Cessationist vs. Charismatic age old debate, again, he remains enigmatic. He does give some gentle rebukes to both extremes, and he keeps a pastoral humble attitude throughout when addressing issues in the modern movements (p. 53). According to Chan, he was “saved in Baptist Church, attended a charismatic bible study, went to a conservative seminary while working at seeker-sensitive churches, partnered with Pentecostal movements, and have spoken at wide variety of denominational conferences.” (p. 57)

More than anything this work is a practical guide to discovering the basic attributes of the person of the Holy Spirit and what massive lifestyle implications He brings to a person’s world. “The reality is that the early church knew less about the Holy Spirit than most of us in the church today, at least in the intellectual sense. But they came to know the Spirit intimately and powerfully as He worked in and through their lives.” (p. 36)

The most helpful and endearing portions of the book are the soul probing and provocative questions Fran challenges the reader with:

On the Holy Spirit’s unction:”If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered?” (p. 91)

The Spirit’s guidance to sacrifice:”Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?” (p. 107)

The Intimacy with the Spirit:”Do you listen to the Holy Spirit as you stand in line at the Post Office?” (p.131)

The fruits of the Spirit:”Do you exhibit more kindness than the Mormons you know? Do you have more self-control than your Muslim friends?” (p. 146)

Consistently, throughout the work Chan encourages the reader to literally “put the book down” and pray, search the Scriptures and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying personally right now (p. 110). Chan knows the limits of his own wisdom and ingenuity, and without the reader seeking a personal experience with the Holy Spirit his book will be another worthless clanging noise in the strange symphony of cultural Christian voices. I applaud him for that.

Though Chan briefly explores the theology (Ch. 3) and intimacy (Ch. 5) of the Holy Spirit, the central thrust of the book is this: the Holy Spirit has enabled us to live supernatural uncomfortable self sacrificial lives of love to others. As a result much of the book is not a revelation of the person of the Spirit Himself, but rather the sure affect the Spirit will have on the believer’s life. “The Spirit will lead you the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or comfortable or pretty place to be.” (p. 50)

At the end of most of the chapters there are some anecdotal stories of saints who were gripped by the Holy Spirit and yielded to His call in sometimes ordinary, sometimes spectacular ways. The subjects range greatly from the common folk Chan admires in his own church, to the notable Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer. These concrete illustrations give living examples to the reader of what it means to live a surrendered Spirit filled life. It may be adopting needy children, being content with a physical malady, enduring severe persecution, or just opening your home to others.

Francis Chan has a readable writing style that is accessible for all walks of Christian life. You will be challenged, but not berated by his encouraging analysis of the church’s tragic “neglect.” Though I made it a weekly study for a group of guys, the book could be easily ingested by a weekend warrior. I recommend it.

Bryan Daniels

Why Dragons are Real and Parents are Stupid

Some adults just don’t get it. I encountered one in a recent movie excursion with my wife, where we viewed the adapted CS Lewis novel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in 3D. The prude was there with his wife and two young children, as he must have gotten time off from his busy schedule of joy-killing to stoop to his kid’s level to watch this movie.

After a satisfactory viewing experience my wife and I headed to the restroom facilities to unload about eight gallons of carbonated syrup we accumulated in the past two hours. As I was waiting outside the bathrooms for my wife to finish (a common experience for a man with a wife in her third trimester) I overheard the JK (joy-killer) speaking with a fellow adult he happened to know within earshot of his children. The convo went like this:

Stupid talking lion

“How was the Narnia movie?” fellow adult

With a snarky tone, “It was a bit farfetched,” said JK. “Extreme.”

My mouth dropped open. The only response my bewildered mind could conjure up was, “Really? Ya think?”

It is a movie based on a fantasy children’s book for mother Mary’s sake! I thought boys who turn into dragons, a sword dueling mouse and a talking lion were quite logical myself. But seriously, why don’t you just go ahead rip the imagination and innocence right out of your children’s little souls? While you’re at it tell them Santa is just your drunk great-uncle and all dogs go to hell.  

It brings to mind one of my favorite GK Chesterton quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”

I feel a bit sympathetic for the JK, because some parental injustice must have been done to him in his early childhood, and as a result his ability to process allegory and wonder has been greatly diminished. In this rationalistic materialistic brainwashing he’s missed the forest for the trees, and the redemption themes behind nearly every movie are (possibly) lost on him. The adult qualities of dignity and pretension has made JK a dull boy.

No wonder the lion of Judah, Jesus, told adults, “Unless you are converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Hopefully, in the new year this childlike wonder will give us a fresh unction to see and worship Christ more, even in 3D movie events. And possibly then a mole cricket or blade of grass may bring us to our knees in curious delight.

I guess the moral of this story is: Don’t be a joy-killer; God loves to challenge the comfortable traditions and long-held presuppositions of our hardened humanity. Don’t scoff too hard at a fanciful land of mermaids and giant sea snakes, the truth just maybe more far-fetched and stranger than such fiction.

Bryan Daniels

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