Book Review

"Broken: 7 'Christian' Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible" by Jonathan Fisk

Eric Landry
Jonathan Fisk
Friday, March 1st 2013
Mar/Apr 2013

The late Michael Spencer (aka The Internet Monk) once wrote an article for these pages in which he gave advice to the parents of "Alex," a teen who doubted his faith. Spencer's main point: Don't distract Alex with anything that will hide Jesus as the center of Christianity. Ministers, parents, educators, and friends have a bad habit of covering Jesus with layer after layer of feelings, relationships, behavior, and belief that have little to do with who Jesus is and what he did in time and space for his people. Recognizing that problem, Lutheran pastor Jonathan Fisk has written Broken, an excellent book that identifies seven rules we often use to hide the real Jesus. The title comes from Fisk's good advice: We need to break those rules in order to rediscover the Jesus who is God incarnate for us and for our salvation, who was "broken" for us.

Jonathan Fisk is part of a new generation of Lutheran Church’Missouri Synod ministers who aren't afraid to talk to people outside that sometimes parochial denomination. He first gained attention in 2012 for his video response to Jefferson Bethke's popular "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus," which had more than 23 million views on YouTube. Fisk, who some have described as a cross between Max Headroom and Martin Luther, adeptly combines tech savvy and verbal skill on his own YouTube channel, providing a modern catechesis of sorts, tackling issues as varied as homosexuality, the millennium, and the Greek exegesis of the Gospel of Mark. You probably need to be of a certain age (or attention span) to appreciate his videos, but this, his first book, presents his wit and cultural insight in a seizure-free style.

The rules that Broken encourages us to break aren't new to any of us. As Fisk says, Satan (the old crow of the Parable of the Sower) doesn't have much new material. Muddling the promises of the gospel with mysticism, pharisaical traditions and rules, pragmatism, and antinomianism among other veils takes away the words and works of Jesus that are our only sure foundation of faith. All that's left are our feelings, our behavior, our sense of what's right’and these are not enough to sustain a Christian pilgrimage.

It was probably too much to hope that Fisk would not fall into the "us against them" mentality that particularly pits Lutherans against the Reformed’especially while covering such important ground as this book does. But I was disappointed by his caricature of the Reformed branch of the Reformation as "radical" (throwing us under the bus’or in the pyre, more appropriately’with the Anabaptists) when discussing the Lord's Supper. I was mortified when he used this example as a corollary to the Prosperity Gospel! I hope that with time and "White Horse Inn-like" exposure to brothers in the Reformed world who are fighting the same battles alongside him, Fisk can come to see that we can be distinct according to our confessional standards without being antagonistic. Despite this frustration with the book, I can't help but recommend it because there just isn't anything else out there like it.

Broken is an apologetics book, but it will never admit to being one. And for that reason, it's probably the best kind of book to read with someone who is struggling in the faith. Buy two and read it with someone. Simply throwing a book at a confused pilgrim won't help him (even though it will make you feel good), and while you're reading you might discover some rules that you also need to break.

Photo of Eric Landry
Eric Landry
Eric Landry is the chief content officer of Sola Media and former executive editor of Modern Reformation. He also serves as the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas.
Friday, March 1st 2013

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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