Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: Coming Home

Twin brothers Arion and Argo are scared. They have spent most of their lives shipwrecked on the lonely, gray island of Terrene with their ship's captain, and now he is leaving and they cannot imagine life on Terrene without him. He is going to Bluestone, a place where the birds always sing and the grass is ever green. He tells them he is going to prepare a place for them in Bluestone. Then he will come back for them, and they will all go to Bluestone together.

Coming HomeThough Bluestone sounds like a wonderful place, the boys find it difficult to wait for the captain on Terrene. The island is so gray that it is hard for them to imagine the vibrant colors of Bluestone. Soon they grow tired of watching and waiting for their captain, and it is hard for them to remember his voice. Can they really believe that he will come back for them? To do so they must have faith-they must see with their hearts, not their eyes.

Will the captain really come back for Arion and Argo like he promised? And will the boys be ready for his return?

My Story Summary (Spoiler Alert!):

Coming Home is the tale of a captain who leaves two brothers (Argo and Arion) on a dismal, gray island to prepare a place for them on the happy, colorful island of Bluestone. The state of the colorless island on which the brothers find themselves is the result of a volcanic eruption which buried the island's colors in soot. The boys are warned to stay away from a forest and mountain at the center of the island because they will "take their color". Their job while the captain is gone is to remind each other that the colorless island is not their home and to help each other be ready for the captain's return. Predictably, this worked for a time. However, when it appeared that the captain tarried, Argo went into the forest while Arion was napping. Naturally, the forest began to have an affect on the disobedient brother; he was no longer interested in talking about the captain or the captain's words. As the wayward brother continued  to venture into the forest, he lost his color, in spite of his brother's encouragement to change. Upon the captain's promised return, Arion was ready and boarded the ship while Argo moved toward the schooner but looked away upon hearing the captain's voice. Coming Home closes with an exchange between the captain and the now colorless brother, Argo. The captain says, "You know now the deceptions of the forest…" to which Argo replies, "Yes...Please, may I come with you?" (pg. 29) At this, "The captain smiled and helped Argo onto the ship", he touches the boy who then, regains his color as "...they feel the vibrations of the volcano erupting" (pg. 31).

My Thoughts:

Coming Home is meant to be an allegory about the return of Christ. However, this book leaves me with more questions than answers. The captain does come back, as promised. Were the boys ready for his return? One boy is ready, one boy is not.  In spite of the fact that Argo goes his own way, he gets on the ship with the captain just as Arion who obeyed. This prompts me to ask the questions: "What is Lucado's understanding of the nature/extent of salvation? Is Max Lucado a universalist? May I live my life however I desire and then, at the last minute, ask God to bring me to Heaven, at my convenience?"

Lucado's allegory is in stark contrast to Christ's parable recorded in Luke 12. When instructing His disciples to remain ready for His second coming, Christ says:

"Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes."

Christ proceeds to describe the blessings for those who are ready for His return and the consequences for those who are not ready. Of those who are not ready for His return, Christ says:

"...the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating" (Luke 12:47-48).

Argo goes his own way and then requests to journey with the captain. Yet, there is no clear repentance on his part. He wants to go to the better island. Who wouldn't?

Furthermore, there is no mention of either boy's sin or their need for redemption at any point in the book. Both boys are taken to the beautiful island. At what cost? There is no mention of cost to the captain.

One final example of the questions that this book raises can be illustrated by directing your attention to the book sample. On Page 11, Mr. Lucado writes:

According to the captain, long ago a volcano had erupted, burying forever the colors of the isle under a blanket of soot.

As a result Terrene was a gray island in the middle of a big gray ocean. Waves with gray tips slapped against beaches with gray sand. Trees with gray trunks sheltered gray-winged birds. Gray animals with gray eyes peered from behind the gray bushes.

Only the boys and the captain were not gray.

A thick forest grew in the center of the island, and in the center of the forest there rose a mountain. The captain told the boys to stay away from both. "The volcano erupted once. It will erupt again. And stay out of the forest," he would say, "for the forest will take your color."
This excerpt prompts me to ask: "What is Max Lucado's understanding of the nature and doctrine of sin?"

The Bible paints a much different picture of the world in which we live and the ugliness within it. All that is broken and ugly in the world is a direct result of our sin, not an external force such as Lucado's volcano. Furthermore, unlike the twins in Lucado's story, we are not left untainted and full of color. As a result, an external force such as Lucado's forest and mountain cannot "take our color". The Bible says that the world is under a curse as a result of our sin and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. "There is none righteous, no not one..." (Romans 3:10).

In closing, the message of Coming Home  is ambiguous. This IS NOT a book that I will be reading to my children nor would I recommend it to others. This book is devoid of the Gospel message, replete with poor theology, and seems to communicate a dangerous message to children.

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending me this book in exchange for my honest opinion!


Unknown said...

Thank you for taking the time to write an honest review! I'm sure it was a tough one to write.

Anonymous said...

an excerpt from Max Lucado’s book Traveling Light:

What of those who die with no faith? My husband never prayed. My grandpa never worshiped. My mother never opened a Bible, much less her heart. What about the one who never believed?

How do we know he didn’t?

Who among us is privy to a person’s final thoughts? Who among us knows what transpires in those final moments? Are you sure no prayer was offered? Eternity can bend the proudest knees. Could a person stare into the yawning canyon of death without whispering a plea for mercy? And could our God, who is partial to the humble, resist it?

He couldn’t on Calvary. The confession of the thief on the cross was both a first and final one. But Christ heard it. Christ received it. Maybe you never heard your loved one confess Christ, but who’s to say Christ didn’t?

We don’t know the thoughts of a dying soul, but we know this. We know our God is a good God. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

He wants your loved one in heaven more than you do. And he usually gets what he wants.
--Excerpted from Max Lucado's Traveling Light

Throughout Lucado’s book, Cure for the Common Life, he quotes other mystics and contemplatives: Saint Thomas Aquinas,Thomas Merton, Eugene Peterson and Richard Foster.

Vivian said...
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Vivian said...
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Vivian said...
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Vivian said...

Thank you for posting this review. i was concerned when i read your review that my friend Max had strayed from his beliefs. i emailed him, and he said that no, he is still preaching God's grace to anyone who will listen. :) Max is a big speaker about grace. God has given him much grace and he just has to speak of it.
That being said, we need to keep Max and all our Bible preaching pastors in our prayers. There is so much temptation to gloss over the truth, and so many atheists who would love to see a pastor fall from grace. In these last days, it is more important than ever to lift up our pastors before the throne. We need to pray that their words will remain true to The Word.