“Crazy Love” Lite: A Review of Francis Chan’s
Children’s Book, “Halfway Herbert” (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook Publishers, 2010)
by Bruce Bauer
At First Glance:
Here’s a sampling of praises from glowing online reviews of Francis Chan’s children’s book, “Halfway Herbert”:
· “Excellent children’s book!”
· “great book for children of all ages!”
· “awesome book for kids and adults alike.”
· “a favorite with my children”
· “the book is great!”
· “an excellent book that helps teach honesty, integrity, hard work, and doing your best work.”
After taking a brief glimpse at the book, cover to cover, my superficial assessment was somewhat in line with the comments listed above. The artwork is attractive, bright and colorful. The narration is pithy with large letters for children to be able to follow along. The book’s layout is skillfully organized with artful interspersing of pictures and narration. The basic theme seemed innocuous, emphasizing virtues such as achieving goals, integrity, proper enthusiasm, and honesty. If my children were still young and I came across this book in a secular bookstore, not knowing anything about the book or its author, I might be inclined to pick up a copy. However, let’s investigate the book, “Halfway Herbert,” a little further.
A Closer Examination:
First, let’s look at the author of “Halfway Herbert,” Francis Chan. Chan is a former pastor from Simi Valley, CA, who now spends much of his time speaking at various conferences nationwide. He is the author of the best-selling book (two million plus copies sold to date), “Crazy Love.” He teaches and preaches a caustic, judgmental, all-or-nothing, brand of Lordship Salvation which absolutely decimates assurance of salvation for the believer who follows his teachings. For the unbeliever, his teachings may thwart that person from experiencing genuine Biblical salvation through trusting in Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone for salvation—Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16-18; John 11:25-26. This fact has been well chronicled at Expreacherman.com. See, for example, the articles:
Chan’s book, “Crazy Love,” could be viewed as a manual for Lordship Salvation teaching (a.k.a., Lordship Faith or Lordship Probation). In “Crazy Love,” Francis Chan concocts his own artificial list of characteristics of what he dubs, “the lukewarm.” In a nutshell, “lukewarm” means basically any churchgoer who does not live up to some lofty, on-fire, over-the-top level of service for God, whatever all of that entails. According to Chan, all of the “lukewarm” are unbelievers bound for hell. To read a complete review of “Crazy Love,” coming from a Free Grace perspective, see:
Since “Halfway Herbert” comes from the pen of Francis Chan, I would expect for there to be an emphasis on Lordship Salvation in the book. I was not wrong, although Chan’s approach was more subdued and veiled in this book written for children. Was “Halfway Herbert” intended to be a “Crazy Love” Lordship Salvation message targeted at children? The top headline on the rear of the book answers that question in no uncertain terms. It boldly and proudly refers to the book as, “The ‘Crazy Love’ Message for Kids!” I refer to the book as, “Crazy Love Lite.”
Content of the Book “Halfway Herbert”
In the book, “Halfway Herbert,” we are introduced to a young boy who has quite a problem: he does everything halfway. He eats only half of his meals; he brushes only half of his teeth; he does only half of his homework; he plays soccer only half-heartedly; he tells half truths. After we find out about Herbert, he experiences a minor bicycle accident, denting his father’s car, and then lying about the incident to his dad. His dad lovingly admonishes him and then uses the occasion to give him a Lordship Salvation type “salvation” message :
“Jesus doesn’t want us to love Him halfway. God doesn’t want us to live out of just half of our hearts. He tells us this in the Bible.” (Chan proceeds in the book to tell the story of a man building a tower, from Luke 14:28-30; a classic text used by Lordship Salvation teachers to try to prove that genuine salvation requires first “counting the cost.” In actuality, the text refers to the cost of discipleship, NOT salvation.) Chan continues: “This man didn’t just try halfway with his tower, and we shouldn’t follow Jesus halfway either. He deserves our whole hearts, our total devotion.” “But I’ve never been able to do things all the way,” cried Herbert. “God knows that none of us can love Him all the way by ourselves. So He gave us a friend called the Holy Spirit to help us live out of our whole hearts,” Herbert’s dad said. “When we decide to follow Jesus all the way, God’s Spirit fills up our hearts and helps us obey God.” “Can God’s Spirit help me?” Herbert asked. “Yes,” his dad answered. “God loves when we ask for His help!” So Herbert prayed, “Jesus, I am sorry I haven’t obeyed You. I want to follow You, but I don’t want to follow You halfway. I need Your help. Please give me Your Spirit so I can know how to follow You.” God answered Herbert’s prayer. Now he finishes things! . . . He also tries to obey what he reads in his Bible. He isn’t perfect, but God’s Spirit helps him.
So what can we take away from our brief look at the book “Halfway Herbert?” Some would certainly say, “It’s just a simple harmless book, written strictly for children, which has a nice sweet innocent message.” But think about it for a moment. If the book is really what it claims to be, namely, “The Crazy Love Message for Kids!”, then, by self admission, it is a declaration of a false gospel, namely, Lordship Salvation. Did you notice that nowhere in the father-son dialog was anything mentioned about trusting in Christ Jesus alone by grace alone through faith alone for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 16:30-31)? On the contrary, all you see is a call to striving, a call to working harder for God, for attempting to do your best—namely, a works-for-salvation approach—a FALSE gospel! And it’s targeted at KIDS! How tragic!