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March 19, 2013
Most people who read this review will be like me in that they live in a culture of radical individualism. Where our identities were once inexorably wrapped up in a local community, today we are what one sociologist has referred to as networked individuals, people who are loosely bound together by interests, but each convinced that we are answerable ultimately, or perhaps only, to ourselves. Individualism reigns, solidarity is passe.
Contra this individualism comes Chris Brauns’ Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices. Brauns wants Christians to understand that in God’s economy we are tied together through what he calls the “principle of the rope.” He holds that corporate solidarity is a key aspect of life as taught in the Bible. We are not meant to exist apart from fellowship and community.
Brauns looks to man’s fall into sin as the ultimate negative example of this principle and then looks to Christ’s work on the cross as the ultimate positive example. In the first case one man sinned and saw the effects of his action extend to all who would come after him. In the second case one Man died and now offers the benefits of his death and resurrection to all who will take hold of the grace he offers and, in so doing, be united to him. In this way Brauns provides a uniquely interesting take on two foundational but often misunderstood Christian doctrines: original sin and union with Christ. And as he does this he shows the beautiful gospel truth that this second rope is infinitely stronger than the first.
The principle of the rope finds application in all areas of life, but Brauns focuses on just a few:
- Christian Community. The truest and highest joys are found not in selfishness, but in selfless investment in Christ-centered community. If you want to pursue joy—and God’s desire for you is that you would pursue joy—you will need to pursue it by investing in others.
- Marriage. The principle of the rope illustrates both the beauty of marriage and the devastation of divorce which represents the destruction of a tie meant to last to death.
- Family. Families experience the “bound together” nature of relationships in a unique way in both joys and trials. Brauns focuses specifically and pastorally on families that have been grieved by a family member who has turned his back on the people who love him.
- Death. Christians can face death without fear because of their solidarity with the One who has already conquered death’s power.
- The Local Church. Brauns insists that the local church is uniquely qualified to counter the radical individualism that is unraveling the very fabric of Western culture. The church offers both the theology and the structure that reinforces the values that are necessary to hold a society together. It is, after all, God’s plan a (and plan b) to reach a lost and dying world.
Jerry Bridges, who has often spoken and written about how few Christians understand the doctrine of union with Christ (and what a difference it would make if they did understand it), says this about Bound Together: “Chris Brauns has done a masterful job of explaining the truth and its implications of the principle of solidarity … His treatment of all humanity’s solidarity with Adam in his sin and the solidarity of all believers with Christ is especially helpful, but the entire book is a masterpiece that will help us understand some of the interpersonal relationships we deal with every day.”
It is, indeed, a book that is both enjoyable and insightful in understanding not only that we are bound together in both Adam’s and Christ’s redemption, but that we are bound to one another in all areas of life. My actions affect those around me and their actions affect me. We are not isolated individuals, but people connected together in so many different ways.