My rating: 4 of 5 stars
[This introduction of “Broken” is taken from my congregation’s newsletter “The Seed of Life” under the section heading “From Pastor’s Bookshelf.”]
This month’s selection from my bookshelf is not your ordinary Christian theological work or devotional book. Lutheran pastor Rev. Jonathan Fisk, the creator and host of the popular YouTube “addiction” Worldview Everlasting has published his first book and its odd title is only a foretaste of the wildness within. Replete with postmodern graphics on almost every page and ample use of different fonts “Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible” is new ground for our Missouri Synod’s publishing arm Concordia Publishing House. It might be the first and the last CPH book with a Star Wars reference weaved throughout an entire chapter. While I have been very impressed with CPH’s offerings in the last decade I am glad to see them trying to reach a wider audience with Lutheran theology. Broken is attempting to do just that as CPH for once sent out review copies and purchased full page ads in a popular Evangelical youth leader magazine.
So, what can you expect to find within Broken? Seven popular counterfeit rules that try to pass themselves off as authentic Christianity complete with personifications of each one and tons of metaphors to explain them. Fisk loves metaphor and personification and you will get them both in heavy doses in this volume. This is one of the books strengths in that it can take complicated ideas and explain them in a narrative style. Readers who generally choose novels over non-fiction will very likely find this book more congenial to their reading preferences. Jonathan’s writing style is entertaining and he introduces chapters in a way that had me wondering how he was going to make his point.
Pastor Fisk writes with a heart for our youth which the Church has been losing. Why have we been bleeding our youth when they enter adulthood? Fisk’s answer is their Christianity is broken by the false rules being pawned off as real “Christian” spirituality. All these rules have two things in common: 1. they take the centrality of God’s Word away from the Christian. 2. They are centered on you not Christ for you. Fisk’s main point is that God can not be found in your emotions, heart, works, mind, mission statement, or your desires. Yet, the ways you become the center of your spirituality are sneaky. Each chapter shows how true spirituality is found in Christ alone whom the Father reveals to us in His Word and Sacraments through the Holy Spirit.
I was pleased to see that important Lutheran doctrines like the distinction between the Law and the Gospel, the Sacraments, and Justification were clearly presented in an unapologetic fashion in this book. Some authors and publishers are tempted to keep doctrine at the lowest common denominator when attempting a book that is intended for a wide audience. Evangelical Christians of the non-Lutheran stripe will likely chafe at what the Bible teaches about Baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, and true presence in the Lord’s Supper among other things expounded in this book. Yet, these things need to be said as they are what make up a distinctively Christian spirituality and are taught clearly in God’s Word.
This is not to say that non-Lutheran readers will not benefit from the content of this book even where they may disagree. I would hope that this book might serve as a primer and may wet non-Lutheran palates to learn more of what our church body believes, teaches, and confesses. Even some Lutherans will be irritated by what Jonathan has to say about the importance of tradition and the underlying motivation behind the church growth and contemporary worship movements. I welcome his insights as these things need to be discussed out in the open in our Synod and many (including myself) agree with Jonathan’s concerns.
One of the book’s strengths mentioned above is also one of its biggest weaknesses. Some of the personifications and metaphors are extended for several pages which can exhaust a reader’s attention. Certain ideas and concepts such as rationalism and pragmatism in “Never #3” could be explained much more concisely and clearly. Also, the narrative style does not lend itself to the kind of depth some readers may desire. I was disappointed that there was no direct interaction with the thought of the “New Atheists” in the section on rationalism. While Fisk certainly points out the err in thinking that our reason and rational mind can get us to God or disprove God’s existence there are better books out there on the problem of rationalism. I can forgive this as Jonathan was not attempting to give an exhaustive apologetic (defense) for the Christian faith against our detractors. His concern is exposing how certain worldviews influencing the Church lead to a false spirituality.
I hope you might give this book a try. Its style is not for everyone, but I think it might reach some readers that CPH otherwise has not. I highly recommend using the free downloadable discussion guide available at the CPH website.
SDG – Rev. Eric M. Estes
For more information, videos, and to purchase the book visit www.cph.org/broken or call 1.800.325.3040. Broken is also available at Amazon.com and other book distributors. It has been released in a Kindle edition (minus the snazzy graphics).
Fisk, Jonathan. Broken : 7 Christian rules that every Christian ought to break as often as possible. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 2012.