Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules That Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible, by Jonathan Fisk. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2012. 280 pages.
Pastor Jonathan Fisk is one of the associate pastors at Bethany Lutheran Church (LC-MS) in Naperville, IL. His focus is on youth, communications and the initial stage of catechumenate. He is a board member of The Brothers of John the Steadfast (http://steadfastlutherans.org/), a contributor to Issues, Etc. (http://issuesetc.org/guest/jonathan-fisk/), and the host of the YouTube channel, “Worldwide Everlasting” (http://www.youtube.com/user/Revfiskj). This is his first published book.
What is Broken? Christians and Christianity…because people have followed seven “Christian” rules. These “Christian” rules are meant to break your faith in Jesus, “who was BROKEN in our place” (276). Therefore these rules must be broken so that Christians and Christianity would become unbroken. The title alone gives a clue as to the scope and character of this book. Fisk states his goal at the end of the first chapter “Whatup”.
We will look at how the devil uses such good gifts from God as your heart, your mind, and your hands to try to trick you into placing your trust not in God but in yourself. We will explore the seven counterfeit “Christian” rules he tries to play off as if they were authentic Christianity. We will expose these rules as patterns of thinking that try to break your faith in Christianity by creating doubt. We will call these philosophical systems what they are: lies. And then we will challenge those lies with the truth given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. (21)
Here are the seven “Christian” rules / lies and their antidotes:
- Mysticism (29, 48) over against the plain words of Holy Scripture (36)
- Moralism (54, 74) over against Jesus’ perfection (64-66)
- Rationalism (82, 107) over against Jesus’ redemption (100-104,106)
- Prosperity (119, 121, 144) over against the promises in God’s Word (138-139, 142-143)
- Pragmatism / Spirituality / IfWeCanJust Churchology (152-154, 159-161, 172) over against a correct understanding of the Holy Christian Church (175-183)
- Lawlessness (194, 198, 200, 204, 209, 211, 220) over against tradition / God’s enduring Word (211-217, 223)
- The ever-Lie of all counterfeit Christianity: worship of yourself (234, 238, 245) over against justification (246, 249-251, 255-256)
After a recap of the seven “Christian” rules to be broken, (234, 273), Fisk concludes with the only true Christian rule, “Go. You are free. God finds you by sending the words of Jesus” (277).
One of the first things a reader will notice with this book (besides the layout) is the selection of examples. They are usually good and relevant to the discussion. Fisk masterfully weaves in modern examples and illustrations alongside quotations from the Confessions to make a few of his points. However Fisk’s examples are not ones people are accustomed to reading in a theological book. With some examples, Fisk definitely gears them towards someone his age (mid-30’s) or younger, e.g. Michael Jackson (69-70); The “Never #3” chapter references the Star Wars movies throughout (78-106); or the video game Final Fantasy X and the main villain, called Sin (189-191).
Fisk’s writing style may also catch a reader off guard, if the reader is expecting a typical book from Concordia Publishing House. Talking about the devil and his lies, Jesus is described: “As far as the devil is concerned, it’s perfectly cool to have a picture on the wall of a guy in a white bathrobe with long brown hair and a beard. It’s even perfectly cool to call that guy in the picture ‘Jesus’ and tell all the children that this ‘Jesus’ guy loves them” (24). While some examples and illustrations may strike people the wrong way, the truths behind them are biblically solid. For example, Fisk describes the ministerial use of reason as, “But it does mean that you need to check your brain at the limits of your brain” (94).
A few things I questioned in the book were calling the fruit that Adam and Eve ate a “pear.” (244) Also the definition of original sin is as follows: “The inborn tendency of fallen humans to make ourselves the measure of all things. We lack true fear, love, and trust in God because we have placed true fear, love, and trust in ourselves” (239). While this can be taken correctly, it is also liable to be taken incorrectly, as if original sin is only a “tendency,” and not something more than that in humans.
Nevertheless I do like how Fisk talks about these lies that have been around since the Garden of Eden and relates them to people in terms that most everyone knows. Perhaps his writing style and examples like those above are the reasons why Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, says, “Jonathan is a post-modern pastor. He’s one of the up-and-coming young generation, who look at things differently” (cf. Broken site below).
For a pastor, this book could be helpful when non-members (and members) fall for these lies masquerading as “Christian” rules. No matter what form the lie takes, the foundation is always the same: elevating anything or anyone above God. For a pastor to have the foundations of these lies in the back of his mind may help him direct the other person to see the lie as well.
While I do not think some of the illustrations, layouts, and formatting of this book are for everyone; the lies and truths expressed are for everyone. Satan’s first lie to humanity’s parents, Adam and Eve, will continue to their descendants. Fisk states Satan’s first lie positively as: “God wants you to find Him somewhere other than in His Word” (17). He states that same lie negatively as: “There is only one attack the devil uses to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ—remove Jesus. He does this by removing the way Jesus reigns: by removing Jesus’ words” (20).
Therefore we must be ever vigilant against this lie from “the father of lies.” (John 8:44) We must know the truth—the truth that God tells us in his Word.
N.B. For downloadable discussion guides, video introductions, and chapter video introductions to Broken, check out: http://sites.cph.org/broken/#&panel1-1.