Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Barbarian Way: A Review (Part 3)

It feels like a while since I last blogged what with finals and everything. Nonetheless, I do want to finish the last part in my series on the book The Barbarian Way. In Parts 1 and 2 I discussed what I liked and didn't like about the book. In the final estimation what I didn't like outweighed what I did like. In this post then I'd like to address those who had the opposite experience with the book. Among their number are some friends I respect, so I don't just want to write them off. Instead I'd like to offer some agreement, warning, and encouragement.

The people I talked to who liked the book emphasized that they felt challenged to move outside of their comfort zone and join Christ in His sufferings. I agree! I felt challenged in the same direction, and I thank the Lord for using the book in this way in my life and in the lives of others. I think these challenging parts are a big reason why many like the book.

That said, I want to offer a warning to those who liked the book: pursue discernment. I think it can be tempting for all of us when we like parts of a book to then swallow it whole. It can also be temping to assume the writer is saying certain things when he or she isn't. In the case of this book while I found sections challenging, I think the overall approach is flawed (I went over why in Part 2). Therefore I think swallowing the book whole could lead to a vague sense that we need to "be the barbarian" without knowing what that means, could cause us to look to our own inner barbarian rather than God's gospel and promises for transformation, could distract our attention from God's written Word to our own sense of the "voice of God," and give us a smug self-righteous attitude towards the "civilized" religions, among other things.

While not presuming to know anyone's heart, I feel I must include that I'm sure some liked the book for these reasons rather than the good reasons I mentioned previously. Some part of us likes looking to the inner barbarian rather than to what God has done in the gospel or having to place faith in His promises. Some part of us likes doing whatever our senses tell us to do and being able to look down our nose at "civilized" others. I think some who read the book probably liked it for the good reasons mentioned above, but I wouldn't want to suggest those are the only possible reasons someone might like it. Without discernment, I fear these bad reasons get missed. As with any book other than the Bible, we must be both teachable (Pr. 2:2-4) and discerning (Acts 17:11, 1 Thess. 5:19-21) as we approach it, lest we be led astray (Col. 2:4-8, Eph. 4:14-15). As we are teachable we can take in and praise God for the good and as we are discerning we can recognize and reject the bad.

The encouraging news is that God does call us to suffer, but not because it's the barbarian way. Instead he calls us to suffer because (to give only a few examples):

  • In doing so, we share in Christ's sufferings (1 Pet. 4:12-13)
  • It grows us in hope (Rom. 5:3-5)
  • It grows our character (Jas. 1:2-4)
  • We learn God's statutes (Ps. 119:71)
  • God works it for good (Rom. 8:28-29)
  • He suffered the ultimate penalty in Christ on our behalf! (Isa. 53, 1 Pet. 2:21-25)

I hope these reviews were helpful. I plan to continue doing them for other popular books I've read or for ones I'm currently working on. Let me know if there's anything that would make them better or if you have any more thoughts on The Barbarian Way.

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