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The Barbarian Way

March 17, 2012

The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus (Thomas Nelson, 2005) was a colossal disappointment to me. I have read and enjoyed other work by McManus and had heard good things from people I trust, but in this case they are wrong. The book begins with with a false dichotomy between “barbarians” who have passion and the “civilized”who show patience and respect. (p. 6). On page 12 we read, “We have lost the simplicity of our early faith.Beyond that we have lost the passion and power of raw, untamed and primal faith” This stands in juxtaposition to C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity where  he writes, It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all life is not simple” (.p 32) Paul is constantly tell us to grow up in the faith become mature, reflective, thinking, meek (strength in perfect control) gentle, not just passionate, rash, energetic, active, unleashed. With every page the idea of “zeal without knowledge” ran through my head. Of particular danger was a story recorded on pages 80-82 it serves as a crystal clear example of all that is wrong with the book. “I used to serve on the board of Intercultural studies at BIOLA University…I almost never went, I could not get myself to commit to the whole day. One afternoon I happened to be there when the counseling dept enthusiasticly presented a plan for serving missionary personnel around the world. The were going to provide access to counseling and mental health to all those working overseas….Before I knew it I was blurting out, ‘Don’t do it. Please don’t do it….Don’t go around the world and make our missionaries mentally healthy. You’ll ruin everything.You’ll mess up the cause. I mean you have say, a husband and a wife from Kentucky and they have four kids and they believe God called them to Central Asia….You go make them normal and they will be on a plane back home next day’. The board member making the presentation graciously responded, ‘Erwin has a different view of professional counseling than we do’ (McManus) These people have to be crazy to do what they’re doing and insane to believe that its possible, don’t they? They are not insane but they are crazy. One day they just got up and took the barbarian way out of civilization” Now Erwin is a professor at Bethel Seminary he knows much better than to write this sort of dribble. To me it is just sloppy thinking and Juvenal applications of theology but to a young mind searching for steps to Christian  maturity and usefulness this is down right dangerous. I am not even going to dignify the story of urging his young child to jump off the second story of his house and calling  out to him  “try to clear the concrete and land on the grass. Its softer” with a full telling. But Erwin you may want to read a book titled Better Safe Than Sued (Jack Crabtree, Zondervan) it may give you a dose of reality as a parent and ministry leader. All in all this is a book to miss or at least read with a powerful focus on discernment.



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