Book Review: “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan

What comes to mind when you think of the Holy Spirit? I’ve heard it said that what you think about God is the most important thing about you. And considering that the Holy Spirit is part of the Triune God, I believe that what comes to mind when we think about the Holy Spirit is pretty important.

In my experience, discussions on the Holy Spirit can be controversial. Francis Chan, the author of Forgotten God (along with his co-author Danae Yankoski), recognizes that as well. Yet, he also realizes the importance of intentionally considering what we believe about the Holy Spirit and how well we actually know Him. Chan writes that a huge part of Satan’s tactic against the church is to make us ineffective through tempting us to ignore the work of the Holy Spirit. It is very important for us as the church of the twenty-first century to be intentional about walking in step with the Spirit because our enemy is fighting to make us ineffective.

Brief Fly-Over of Forgotten God

Chan begins by considering why it is important for us to deepen our understanding of and relationship with the Holy Spirit and addressing fears that we have about Him. He also devotes a chapter to the theology of the Holy Spirit, basically looking at what we know about Him from Scripture. Obviously, the one chapter on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is not exhaustive, but it is solid groundwork for some things that we do know.

The last four chapters of the book are a little more practical. Chan challenges us to consider whether we are seeking our own glory or God’s glory, addresses some obstacles in our relationship with God the Holy Spirit, encourages readers to focus more on living each day in step with the Spirit than on figuring out God’s long term plan for our lives, and challenges us as churches and as individuals to live and worship in such a way that people are pointed to Christ rather than to us.

The Goal of Forgotten God

In the first chapter, Chan lays out his goal for the book. Rather than attempt to explain the Holy Spirit or return to the apostolic age, Chan’s goal is “to learn to live faithfully today” (36). He further explains this by stating that 1) we need to realize that we as humans will never fully understand God, 2) we need more experiential knowledge of the Holy Spirit rather than more head knowledge, and 3) the goal is not to go back to how the early church lived, but rather to live powerfully and faithfully in the culture, circumstances, and relationships where we currently find ourselves.

Depending on your background, that second point may sound scary because the mindset in many of our Anabaptist circles seems to be that experience should be avoided or at least it should not be sought. We do need to be careful about focusing on experience, but I also believe God’s Word indicates that, as believers, we will experience certain things through our relationship with the Holy Spirit: peace, joy, and conviction, to name a few. Our journey as believers should not be focused only on experiences, but neither should it be focused only on our head knowledge of God and His Word. Let’s be cautious about extremes, but let’s also consider that head knowledge and heart knowledge are both important aspects of our relationship with God.

Thoughts On Forgotten God

I appreciated that in the very beginning of the book, Chan laid some groundwork by explaining the difference between exegesis (seeking to understand what the Scriptures are truly saying and building our theology off of that) and eisegesis (coming to Scripture with a certain belief already in our mind and attempting to find verses that support that).

At various points throughout the book, Chan encourages the reader to put the book down and spend time either in Scripture or in a time of soul-searching before God. This indicated to me that he believes it is more important for us to be looking to Scripture and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit than for us to simply digest his words – which I also really appreciated.

This is not a theology textbook on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and it is not intended to be. There are a lot of things that he does not cover, so if you are looking for answers to some of the hard, controversial questions like when a believer receives the Holy Spirit or what gifts should still be practiced today, you will be disappointed. Forgotten God is meant to get us thinking, seeking, and studying. I found that there were a few things that I would have liked to read more about, such as weighing our experiences against Scripture. However, if you haven’t given a lot of thought to the Holy Spirit or aren’t sure exactly what to think, this book is a good place to get started.

I would encourage you to read the book with a mind and heart that are willing to learn. Even if you come across something that you disagree with or if he doesn’t cover all your questions, I believe that if this book prompts you to seek and study more for yourself, it will have accomplished the purpose that Francis Chan indicates he had in mind when he wrote it.

While Chan is writing about deep stuff, he writes in a way that is easy to understand. Forgotten God is also short enough that it does not seem like an overwhelming read. At the end of each chapter, Chan writes short bios of people who are allowing the Holy Spirit to do radical things through them – which helps put some flesh and bones to what you read in the chapters.

Conclusion

As I read through this book, there were many times that a truth stopped me in my tracks. There are many of those that I would enjoy sharing with you, but in conclusion I’d like to leave you with one of the questions that burned in my mind as I finished this book. In John 16:7, Jesus said that it is better if He leaves so the Holy Spirit can come. Do we live like we believe that that is true?

Ranita Ranita Reitz currently resides in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Virginia. She has a burden for seeing young women find freedom in Christ as they learn to trust in His promises and apply the principles of God’s Word to everyday life. Some of the things she enjoys most are connecting with people, reading, baking, taking pictures of God’s beautiful creation, and traveling to new places.

Sources

Chan, Francis, and Danae Yankoski. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2015. Print.

 

2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan

  1. I haven’t read this book, but I appreciate Ranita’s well-articulated insights from her reading of it. I especially appreciate her challenging question at the end:

    “In John 16:7, Jesus said that it is better if He leaves so the Holy Spirit can come. Do we live like we believe that that is true?”

    That statement of Jesus’ has often stood out to me, too, since I’ve often wished to be able to converse with Him in person, and here He is saying that having the Holy Spirit is actually better. I’ve never before considered the challenge Ranita posed, though: do I live as though I believe that to be true? You can be sure I’ll now be pondering that question! 🙂 Thanks, Ranita!

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  2. Aha. When I was writing my most recent blog post, I was looking for this quote about John 16:7. And here it is–from my cousin!

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing, Ranita. Forgotten God sounds like a good read. Chan’s Crazy Love is another excellent book as well.

    I’ve been feeling like I (and the church around me) have missed something about the Holy Spirit. Like there’s more for us to experience, but we’ve come up with numerous substitutes for the Spirit–or just ignored Him altogether. This is a good reminder.

    Hmm. Do we sometimes not really want the Holy Spirit to show up because of what He might do?

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