NOTE: This book review has been adapted from my review of The Insanity of Obedience that I handed in as a part of my Introduction to Christian Missions class at Boyce College. It will be a different [and lengthier] style than my usual book reviews, but I hope you will enjoy a more in-depth look at this book.
The Insanity of Obedience is a resolute challenge for believers across the world to stop practicing “safe Christianity” and to desire something greater, something deeper. It is a battle cry for Christians to be prepared for persecution. While we may not see much persecution in North America; Christians around the world are struggling with it every day, and we never know when it may develop here. With great obedience to Christ, we can expect persecution (28); this is something that followers of Christ should be prepared for and should expect.
Nik Ripken is the author of The Insanity of Obedience. Ripken has served as a missionary alongside his wife, Ruth, for more than twenty-five years. Throughout their journey together in missions, they have labored in numerous countries, many of which are defined by their persecution towards Christians. Ripken has interviewed approximately 600 believers who live in regions where persecution is rampant, in around seventy different countries across the world; which gives him credibility to write a book such as The Insanity of God which speaks to the conditions believers in these countries live in.
The Insanity of Obedience is a practical primer instructing us on how to actually go out into the world and live the life Christ has called us to. Christians have not been called to live a life of luxury, comfort, or pleasure. Christians have been called to take up their crosses and follow Jesus. Throughout the pages of this book, Nik Ripken reminds us of our upward calling and argues that if we are living a life in obedience to Christ, persecution is not just probable, but it is something that we should expect. Living the radical lives we are called to is something that is unusual to this world; and it is something that many react negatively, perhaps even harshly to. As Westerners, we don’t often see that. Many of us live in countries where the right to worship is protected; so it can be difficult to fathom how insanely contrasting this can be in other parts of the world where they do not have the blessing we have of being able to worship, go to church, and fellowship with believers freely.
Throughout the pages of this book, Nik Ripken seeks to answer the question of can faith survive under intense persecution? Telling the stories of many believers throughout the world who have suffered through immense persecution; Ripken makes the compelling argument that not only can faith be sustained through these periods of persecution, but it can thrive. The way that Christians react to persecution largely impacts the effect it will have. If Christians are steadfast and unrepentant of what they believe in; it is a great witness to those around them and often believers are added to the family during these times of grave suffering
Throughout The Insanity of Obedience, Ripken purposes to show readers what a life of radical obedience to Christ looks like. Ripken challenges how North American Christians define persecution during what he calls “post-Pentecost” era; He accomplishes this purpose by retelling stories of Christians throughout the world who have experienced persecution and have come out of these times of immense trials as stronger believers with a greater zeal for Christ. In The Insanity of Obedience Ripken asks several questions including: why would a man move his wife and children from a comfortable life in Kentucky to dangerous countries in Africa and the Middle East? Why would a missionary overseas continue to share the gospel of Christ after believers had recently been beheaded in that area? Throughout The Insanity of Obedience Ripken shares that the answer to these questions is simply obedience to the gospel.
Ripken enters into The Insanity of Obedience with a few biases. First of all, he writes from the perspective of an individual who would uphold a reformed theology. Ripken believes that the Lord desires individuals from every group across the world to be saved; and his reasoning for this is founded in a reformed view of theology. While it may not be explicitly stated; Ripken writes from the view of total depravity of sinners; unconditional election of the saints; limited atonement through the blood of Jesus; irresistible grace from God; and that once Christ has saved you, saved you are always saved. Another bias Ripken utilizes in his writing is the assumption that we should do missions. This view is heavily prevalent in the text, as the primary point that Ripken is trying to get across in The Insanity of Obedience is the importance of missions in hard places; which would not be possible without the presupposition that missions is something that is important and something Christians should be doing. This is a bias because there are many Christians who do not believe that missions are a priority or something that is important to the church. Some Christians that even would uphold the belief that we do not need missions; because if God has predestined those who He will save; we are not needed to do the work of a missionary because God in His greatness has already done the work of electing those who will be His children.
There are several strengths that The Insanity of Obedience has. Throughout The Insanity of Obedience it is evident that Ripken is passionate about seeing Jesus proclaimed throughout the world, especially in the tough places that we sometimes want to avoid. Ripken pleas with his readers to remain true to Christ and follow Him, no matter what the cost. Some of the things that Jesus has called us to are uncomfortable, and some are straight up dangerous. Regardless of the risks at stake, Ripken is confident that we must pursue a life of obedience to Christ. This is strongly communicated throughout the pages of The Insanity of Obedience and is a strength of the book.
The Insanity of Obedience also has a few weaknesses. The book is not an easy read; and can at times be difficult to follow. Many readers open this book expecting to encounter a light or casual read; and are surprised to find that it requires a great amount of thoughtful consideration and understanding to comprehend the fullness of what is being communicated throughout the text. Another weakness seen throughout the pages of The Insanity of Obedience is that experiences are given more volume throughout the book rather than Scripture. There is so much precedence given to the incredible, miraculous experiences that Ripken has witnessed and that other believers throughout the persecuted world have testified to. These stories are incredible, and every one of them deserves to be published.
In conclusion, I would argue that The Insanity of Obedience is a critical book for all Christians to read if they desire to be convicted of the radical calling we have to be more like Jesus. As Christians, we are required to strive for biblical excellence; and this book calls us to do that through reminding us of the importance of global missions to the church. I think the Western church is often oblivious to the persecution that is going on in other parts of our world today; and this book is an eye-opener that should be read by all Bible college and seminary students, those serving in the local church, and those looking to grow in their zeal and understanding of missions. If you do want your heart to be challenged to serve the local church through missions; then this is the book you should be reading. If you want to continue living a life of luxury and of comfort, this is likely the book that you need to read; but perhaps not the book you are looking for.
Want to purchase The Insanity of Obedience? You can do so here.
Ripken, Nik. The Insanity of Obedience. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2014. 302pp.