Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Barbarian Way

I've really wanted to read this book for a while. I was sent this excerpt and it captured my imagination. As a result I had really high hopes for this books.

It's a highly charged book and promotes a life of reckless abandon. One reviewer commented that "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." And that was from someone who liked the book.

A negative review of the book dislikes the use of the word "barbarian": that the word describes the pagan state that Jesus saved us from. The reviewer takes particular umbrage at one anecdote about a naked tug-of-war game, as it encourages carnality. The reason this anecdote was told was to show how dignity should not be a concern, as it wasn't for King David.

I agree that sometimes McManus' anecdotes sometimes seem to miss the mark, but you will still get the point he was trying to make. The idea that the word barbarian was misused was definitely a case of missing the mark. McManus takes the word barbarian, with all it's negative, carnal and selfish connotations, and then subverts it to mean someone who is madly passionate for following God. McManus' barbarians are strong against oppressors, ruthless against injustice, loving and selfless. It reminded me of how Martin Luther King took the word "extremist" and used it to encourage a passionate engagement with love, justice and the gospel.

I really love it's passionate call to a less domesticated faith. One where comfort and safety is not a priority. It isn't even an option. I want to be a believer that acts when God tells me to, to not consider the consequences and know that God's purpose is my priority.

It speaks a lot about the uniqueness of each believer. This is something that I really believe in; God has given each of us an individual character, mandate and plan. Despite this, however, the book only presents a sort of reckless, adrenaline-junkie, accident-prone barbarian and excludes, perhaps, other types of ebullient and effective Jesus-followers. Ones that show wisdom, intelligence and consideration but also share the gospel, pursue equality and mercy are ignored.

It is definitely a book to get your heart pumping and to push people out from the safety of the walls of the church. It is a call to a drastic, radical way of living and reminds us that the gospel is anything but safe.

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