The Barbarian Way The Barbarian Way

Erwin Raphael McManus
ISBN 9780785264323 (0785264329)
Thomas Nelson, 2005

Category: Christian Life & Discipleship
Reviewed by: Phil Groom

Do not read this book.

Don't buy it, don't give it away. If you've already bought a copy, cut your losses and destroy it now, before it's too late. And if you see it on sale in a bookstore, wait until the staff aren't looking and hide it.

This book is dangerous. Erwin Raphael McManus is dangerous. And if you read this book you, with your domesticated, tamed faith will be in danger. Worst case scenario: you'll become dangerous, perhaps even dead.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

I wonder how many of us have actually had this conversation with God: "Abba, Father, Dad, would You purposely put me in danger?" I think a lot of us haven't asked God that question because we went ahead and answered it for Him. Of course He wouldn't do that. We're His children. We're family. He wouldn't purposefully endanger us, not even to accomplish a higher or nobler purpose. Or would He? Maybe you should stop and ask Him. His answer might surprise you. It certainly surprised John the Baptist. (p.108)

Each chapter begins with a Bible passage and earlier in the book, chapter 2, McManus has introduced us to John the Baptist, recounting the story of John's imprisonment and execution by Herod — and Jesus walking away instead of going to the rescue.

It resonates with an observation Conrad Gempf makes in his book, Mealtime Habits of the Messiah: 'if you're willing to ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?" at some point you've got to face the fact that he deliberately set his face toward death.' (p.23-24) — and again, as Jesus faces that death at Gethsemane, 'what do we do when it is not God's will to "deliver us from evil" or "give us this day our daily bread" in the way we wish it?' (p.167).

Both McManus and Gempf are undermining the easy way "Come to Jesus and all your problems will be solved" gospel that the 20th Century church so often presented, that still now in the 21st Century is presented by some evangelists: all resurrection, filled with the Spirit, no Bad Friday, no black Sabbath, just beautiful Sunday, beautiful people, healthy, wealthy, safe in the arms of Jesus. They've gone back to the original story, read it with their eyes open, and discovered a Jesus who didn't make everyone's problems go away, who promised danger and death for his disciples.

So there you are, in your two-car home, safe and secure behind your security lights, singing songs to Jesus in your Bible study group. And those sweet songs, like a lullaby, have gently rocked you to sleep. You don't need the likes of McManus coming along, stirring things up at midnight, telling you about another way, a barbarian way. Far too dangerous.

I see you've picked the book up now, but don't worry: there's still time. You haven't reached the checkout yet - you can turn around quietly, put it back on the shelf, put your neat, tidy life back in its neat, tidy box and walk away. Ignore the carpenter fixing the bookshelves; strange kinda guy, damaged hands, needs to be more careful with the nails, y'know? Thanks but no thanks, not today...

Phil Groom, June 2005

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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