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Customer Review

70 of 89 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Lacks Punch, September 8, 2009
This review is from: Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Paperback)
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Francis Chan reminds of John Wesley, the 18th century pioneer of Methodism. John Wesley wrote a sermon called "The Almost Christian," yet another of his attempts to convert cozy church people into risk-taking, born again Christians who are steadily growing in holiness. Like Wesley, Chan believes that the same dynamic experience of Christian faith of the New Testament is available to the present day followers of Jesus Christ.

Like his first book, "Crazy Love," Chan's second book, "The Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit," challenges readers to take some risks. Whereas "Crazy Love" might be considered a primer on the doctrine of God (with a distinctly Reformed undertone), "Forgotten God" obviously focuses on that mysterious third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Chan writes in the Introduction:

"From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten...There is a gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today. In many modern churches, you would be stunned by the apparent absence of the Spirit in any manifest way. And this, I believe, is the crux of the problem."

Chan wants us to experience the Holy Spirit in power, not merely get some good theology about the Holy Spirit.

I couldn't find a well-reasoned order to the chapters of this short book. Each chapter seems more like devotional reflections rather than a progressive building from chapter to chapter. Brief biographies of people who strike Chan as "Spirit-filled" end each chapter.

Nothing in "The Forgotten God" struck me as new. I did mark out a few passages that struck me as insightful reminders. Overall, I would characterize Chan's theological pedigree as Reformed and evangelical. He doesn't delve deep enough into issues like speaking in tongues to label him as Charismatic. Much of his work seems friendly to a Wesleyan tradition, too. I should note that I don't attempt to label Chan theologically to "peg him" so as to dismiss him; it's simply an exercise of awareness.

Because Chan is so frustrated by American Christianity - its ease, wealth, and comfort - his tone can be a bit of a downer. Of course we should be careful of dismissing hard to hear messages simply because they make us feel bad, but this tone stood out to me in both of Chan's books. His favorite adverbs ("really," "genuinely," "honestly") indicate a distrust with the glittery ease of American Christianity. It's not an always positive message Chan offers, but it's good to hear a popular evangelical leader who pastors a megachurch wrestling with the implications of his church's wealth and power.

I should also note that I'm likely not the intended audience. Chan's writing for popular Christian readers, not Mainline pastors like me who spent a good chunk of seminar reading the Church Fathers (including St. Basil the Great's "The Holy Spirit"). This wouldn't be my first recommendation to one of my parishioners if they were seeking to not only learn more about the Holy Spirit but also to experience the Holy Spirit more.

In that case, I'd recommend one of Jack Hayford's books (an Amazon search for "Hayford" and "spirit" will pull up a number of good hits). For delving into theology of the Holy Spirit, I'd recommend the above work by St. Basil the Great. John Paul II's encyclical on the Holy Spirit (available on the Vatican's website) is also good, as is the Roman Catholic Catechism. I'd also recommend perusing some of John Wesley's sermons (freely available online), as well as John Calvin's section on the Holy Spirit in The Institutes of the Christian Religion. But if you get this far, you likely won't find much need for "The Forgotten God."
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 16, 2010 11:17:38 AM PST
nuhannah says:
Your review was very helpful. However, the favorite adverbs you point out, are necessary and the glittery ease of American Christianity needs to be more circumspect. If a book like The Forgotten God will nudge many from complacent self-centeredness then all the better. Not everyone is at the point of reading St. Basil's writings and such deep contemplations. I agree with you that Jack Hayford's works are excellent.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 16, 2010 11:19:11 AM PST
Rev Casey says:
Thanks for your comment. You're right, of course. It's helpful to keep in mind the target audience.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2010 3:15:25 PM PDT
I'm very confused. You call yourself The Pastor and yet you recommend a writing by a catholic pope as well as the roman catholic catechism! Are you a Christian or a catholic? If you are catholic then this book will mean nothing to you because you are trusting a church instead of the Holy Spirit Himself. If you are a Christian then how can you in all sincerity recommend such demonic publications?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2010 7:07:00 PM PDT
Rev Casey says:
Michael -

I'm a Christian. I'm not Roman Catholic. But for the record, I don't see any inherent incompatibility in being Christian and Roman Catholic (RCC).

Your opinion of the RCC is misguided. You would know nothing of the gospel today in the 21st century without the witness of the Christian community through history - in other words, the Church. That Church was, as it is today, not devoid of the Holy Spirit's work. No branch of God's family tree is perfect, not the RCC or any Protestant church. And that Church through the ages delivered Scripture to you today and gave you the gospel, just as you and I are entrusted with sharing the gospel today. Neither Christians of the past or the present - you and I included - are perfect in sharing the gospel. To claim to be so would be to undermine the very gospel we proclaim.

I'd say read the recommended texts. You'll find points of disagreement, but you'd be surprised at what you agree with.

Blessings on you, my brother.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2010 6:36:48 AM PDT
I love how you countered his attack with love. Awesome! I will read some of your suggestions. I am in search of the person of the Holy Spirit. Thank you sooo much and continued blessings on you, my brother.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2010 7:48:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2010 7:58:04 AM PDT
Avelino: My message to C.Taylor was not an attack. My message was sent in a spirit of love and concern for this man's salvation. The RCC is all about religion. God has NOTHING to do with religion. Jesus came to earth and died on a cross to reconcile us to God. Jesus told Nicodemus "Unless a man is born again he will not see the kingdom of God." Anyone who mixes true Christianity (a relationship with God given to that person by God through the finished work of Christ) with religion needs to be told God's truth. This is too critical of a matter. There is a heaven and a hell ahead of us. Baptism, Sacraments, all works cannot save you. Only a dependent heart crying out to the Savior in acknowledgement of their sin and of their desperate need for the grace and mercy only our God can give to us matters. When God draws a person to that place of desperate need and they cry out to Him He then responds with His gift of salvation and they are given the gift of eternal life. Please remember, Jesus stated: "This is eternal life that they may know You and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." God's desire is for relationship. It always has been. Religion is an abomination to Him.

C. Taylor is in desperate need. He stated that he does not see any inherent incompatibility in being Christian and Roman Catholic. Anyone who has received the Holy Spirit into their heart will know the truth. Jesus stated that the Comforter would lead those who are saved into ALL truth. I pray that our Lord will open your eyes and ears to His truth so that you can run from religion and run to Him. There is no compatibility between religion (the works of the flesh) and relationship (the work of God).

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2010 12:59:22 PM PDT
Rev Casey says:
Michael - I won't bother replying to anymore of your messages. I appreciate the concern but spend your time sharing Christ to non-Christians, not a fellow brother.


In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2010 1:49:16 PM PDT
After looking at your book reviews and what you said I have no choice but to respond once more. PLEASE cry out to God. You are locked into a religious deception. You believe that the catholic church and the christian church are the same. I can tell from your reviews that you have only a form of religion. Of course you will not believe me. However again I would ask you to cry out to God and ask Him. I have never made comments like this before to anyone. I have no other reason to comment to you excepting that I care for your eternal soul and so does God.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2010 5:34:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2010 5:35:02 PM PDT
I tried to help you but obviously you believe that you need no help.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2010 10:08:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 21, 2011 7:39:34 AM PST
Dear Michael Nathan,

Good points and very well articulated! This is, however, exactly how every church fails - not just RCC - and how even you fail as well. How do I know this about you, a stranger to me? A true "A" Christian is simply someone who shares his or her testimony, converts, and baptizes just one person each year AND teaches them to do the same. Sounds easy and yet I know you have personally never managed this... as no one ever has. If anyone had done this for just 32 years (less than one life time), the entire world (over 6 billion people) would have been converted.

Rainer suggests a minimum of 5% evangelical growth for any truly Spirit driven church. But, Margaret Poloma surveyed 1,275 Assembly of God members, for example, from sixteen different congregations and 30% were children of AoG members, 10% from other Pentecostal sects, and 60% from other churches - seemingly no room for the un-churched and the church hit a membership ceiling in the 70's, just 50 years after starting. And, there has not been a single church (other than the RCC) that hasn't experienced the same decline shortly after the founder's death. But, isn't anything supposed to be possible? What's keeping us from doing more?

One, building relationships on the commission rather than the mission (or what you seem to call worshiping religion just as Gideon failed by worshiping prayer). I had to ask over a hundred people why they chose the church they go to and wade through answers like the music, the friendly atmosphere, and the uplifting messages to get the singular response, "The Holy Spirit made it clear I had a work to do here."

Two, that what we most find deficient in others is simply those things we can't face in ourselves (ouch - huh?). Both are being lost in a world of flesh. This book seems but a humble effort to get us to question our beliefs as well as our authorities ... and this is a key message of the Bible which is about a people named by God "Israel" which literally means, "those who fight with God." Anyone, Michael, who is not an "A" Christian (and there's only been one so far) should cry out to God - and if lucky manage to be blessed for defeating Him (or at least our false idea of Him). Are you, Michael, ready to best God?

My primary complaint about this book is a huge underestimation of the negative response likely to befall anyone who would take such a questioning attitude to church. I can say my teacher or boss is a jerk as we've all had teachers or bosses with problems but any criticism of my pastor only makes me the jerk. But, such a pedestal negates any honest worship. Are you, Michael, ready to embrace the same self-evaluation effort you recommend to others?

My second complaint of this book is the stereotypical suggestion that America is a fairly Christian place. The reality is when God finally answered Rick Warren's prayers, for example, to be sent to the most un-churched place in the world, God said "get ye to California." While religious organizations commonly assert a religious revival in the United States, "There does not seem to be revival taking place in America. Whether that is measured by church attendance, born again status, or theological purity, the statistics simply do not reflect a surge of any noticeable proportions. In fact, Americans seem to have become almost inoculated to spiritual events, outreach efforts, and the quest for personal spiritual development" (George Barna, 2001).

1 out of 6 American Catholic Priests are imported from Asia (Time, 2002), only 1% of U.S. churches are exhibiting any evangelical growth (Miles McPhearson, 2003), with attendance spiraling down roughly 25% to 50% from the 1950s (Putnam, 1995) and 10% in just the 1990's (ARIS study), 7000 churches close each year (Hunt and McMahon, 1985), and only 4% of Americans under 28 are born-again Christians (Rainer, 2004). Few Christians believe church growth to be their responsibility and fewer than 5% ever share their faith (this "high" number being for Baptists). Sadly, it is difficult to say exactly what a "Christian" believes. Surveys by George Barna show ideas about who Jesus is, what grace is and how it works, sin, forgiveness, faith, repentance, obedience, etc. already varies with every Christian. The idea we return to reading the Bible away from being "spoon feed" what it means can't be bad - can it?

These issues are for me the "missing punch" while I still agree with C. Taylor that this was a good read with an important message.
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