Author Interview & Book Review!
Our lives are woven together in such a way that the choices each one of us makes have an effect on the lives of others, both for good and for bad. Because much of the pain we endure in life is in the context of relationships, this truth often strikes us as unfair. Why should a child suffer because of the poor decisions of his or her parents? And on a grander scale, why do we all suffer the curse of Adam’s disobedience? Why should anyone be judges for someone else’s sin?
In BOUND TOGETHER, Chris Brauns explains the biblical truth that we are bound to one another. He calls this reality the “principle of the rope” and explains why it is both bad news and good news. Grasping this foundational principle will help you better understand your married, your relationship with others, and how one person’s choices can affect many others. Above all, it will help you understand more deeply the truth of the gospel.
Brauns, Chris. Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.
“In BOUND TOGETHER, Chris Brauns cleverly unpacks two key theological concepts — union with Christ, and original sin — and manages to explain them in a way that any reader can understand. Highly recommended.” – Michael Horton, Westminster Seminary.
Chris moves through the concept of the rope with easy to understand dialogue. The text opens with the principle of the rope and his own personal testimony of how one person is tied to another person, whether we realize it in the moment or not. Before he expounds on this concept and how it affects your life and the lives of those around you, Brauns (wisely) goes to Scripture to explain how it all started (original sin) and where it is all going (union with Christ).
Brauns moves from the discussion of the original rope just as the apostle Paul describes original sin and the second Adam (Ro. 5:12-21). To the second Adam, to the new King, we are bound in solidarity. Through the Gospel, we are intricately connected and even united. As Brauns transitions from the biblical exposition of the “rope,” he moves into the application of this concept. Rightly so, as exemplified by Christ and his bride, the Church, Brauns starts with unity in marriages before discussing hurting families (both one’s immediate and the global Christian family).
Then, in an almost abrupt manner, Brauns discusses the impact that the “rope” plays on one’s view of death. Though abrupt, the chapter proves a rewarding read as Brauns proclaims, “We can fall from the highest cliff, yet we need not fear. The rope that binds us to Christ is the unchanging reality of his incarnation and the good news of his atoning death on our behalf.” (p. 159) Furthermore, we share and will share in that final scene which is his resurrection. Brauns concludes the text (prior to some appendices) with what appears to have been hours spent in studies of society. How does the ideology of the “rope” play into our lives in this country and the stirring call to “radical individualism”?
I was hooked from the first page. Well, technically, from page seven where you’ll find the table of contents. This is not a book simply about being nice to your neighbor and, in return, your neighbor will be nice to you. This isn’t a biblical exposition of a worldly karma way of life. Bound Together is a down to earth, theologically packed discussion of the doctrines of original sin, corporate solidarity and union with Christ, and how all of this actually plays out day to day, moment to moment. That’s the global Gospel (not in whole, but in part).
Brauns writes very well. His thoughts are not hard to follow and a reader will take note that this text is written with confident assurance in the promises of the Gospel. In that, I mean that Chris appears to be responding to a generation or a collection of conversations in which faith, both in Christ and in the promises of the LORD, is filled with doubt. It is as though the word and work our our Savior is fleeting and Brauns wants to remind everyone, through his own stories and through Scripture, that you can rest assured in your union with Christ. You can take Christ at His word. “Christ’s rope to save is stronger than Adam’s rope is to condemn.” (p. 182)
A well-written, engaging, and significant conversation to be had this day in age (or any day in age), Brauns does a great job in reminding us how our tie to others, especially Christ, affects others.
**This book was provided free from Zondervan with my promise to post an unbiased review
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS BRAUNS
1.Hey Chris, for the reader’s sake, what’s the crux message of your book? If someone was to only give you two sentences to sum up your book – what’s it about? (put simply, what is its thesis & call to action?)
Jason, first, thanks so much for your interaction with Bound Together. As an author, getting to dialogue with people who have read the book is the fun part.
Before I forget, I would invite your readers to stop by my web site (www.chrisbrauns.com). In the month of May I am giving away the last of some books as well as some free Nooks (see the Bound Together Quiz). The goal of my web site is to post material that would be helpful to people in our local church. But it ends up being helpful to a lot of other people as well.
Back to your question, in order to give the crux of my book I need to define a term I invented: “the principle of the rope.” The principle of the rope is a metaphor that references corporate solidarity: the idea that we are not islands unto ourselves but that we are bound together with other people. As I explain in Bound Together:
Our future and place in this world isn’t simply the sum of our own individual choices. On varying levels, we are roped together with others. When someone we are roped to is lifted up, we are lifted up with them. When he or she jumps off a figurative cliff, we are pulled over with them. This is what I refer to as the “principle of the rope”: the simple truth that our lives, choices, and actions are linked to the lives, choices, and actions of other people. To put it simply, as I have in the title of this book, we are “bound together,” tied to others in our good and bad choices.
There are endless illustrations of this principle … We talk a lot about the principle of the rope in our church and at home. Recently, when I was out for a walk with my ten year old son, I asked him, “Benjamin, what do I mean by the principle of the rope.” He responded quickly. “Oh, I think about that a lot. Here’s the best example I can give. Today a couple of kids in my class got in trouble. So, none of us got to go out to recess. That’s the principle of the rope.”
This definition of the principle of rope in mind, the thesis of Bound Together is that the principle of the rope (corporate solidarity) is more powerful in the Gospel than in Adam’s sin.
In order to develop that thesis, I first had to defend that the principle of the rope is real. We are truly are bound together. One person’s action can affect many others. To make this point, I gave a number of examples from both real life and Scripture. For example, everyone died in Sodom and Gomorrah including the children. They were bound together as a culture. I then gave the ultimate negative example of the principle of the rope: the doctrine of original sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled their guilt was imputed not just to themselves but to all their descendants.
Considering how all were bound together with Adam and Eve sets us up to be amazed by the Gospel. The ultimate positive example of the principle of the rope is union with Christ. The wonderful news, per Romans 5 is that union in Christ is greater than sin in Adam.
2.Who has been most influential on this topic (you seem to be leaning on evangelically reformed concepts – am I wrong?) and what’s the most helpful stepping stone from BOUND TOGETHER for people who want to really dig into this idea?
On my site, I gave a list of the books on corporate solidarity or the principle of the rope that most influenced my thinking.
You are right that I lean on evangelically reformed concepts. John Murray’s writings were a signicant influence including The Imputation of Adam’s Sin. However, a wide range of others also helped my thinking. C.S. Lewis was a tremendous influence. In the Problem of Pain, Lewis wrote:
Everyone will have noticed how the Old Testament seems at times to ignore our conception of the individual. When God promises Jacob that ‘He will go down with him into Egypt and will also surely bring him up again’, this is fulfilled either by the burial of Jacob’s body in Palestine or by the exodus of Jacob’s descendants from Egypt. It is quite right to connect this notion with the social structure of early communities in which the individual is constantly overlooked in favour of the tribe or family: but we ought to express this connection by two propositions of equal importance – – firstly that their social experience blinded the ancients to some truths we perceive, and secondly that it made them sensible of some truths to which we are blind. Legal fiction, adoption, and transference or imputation of merit and guilt, could never have played the part they did in theology if they had always be felt to be so artificial as we now feel them to be.
… the separateness – – which we discern between individuals, is balanced, in absolute reality, by some kind of ‘interanimation’ of which we have no conception at all. It may be that the acts and sufferings of great archetypal individuals such as Adam and Christ are ours, not by legal fiction, metaphor, or casuality, but in some much deeper fashion. There is no question, of course, of individuals melting down into a kind of spiritual continuum such as Pantheistic systems believe in; that is excluded by the whole tenor of our faith. But there may be a tension between individuality and some other principle. C.S. Lewis, emphasis added (page 83).
The “other principle” to which Lewis alludes is what my book is about. I call it the “principle of the rope.” I recently pointed out in a post (see C.S. Lewis and his Last Hurdle to Belief) that one of the final hurdles Lewis dealt with before becoming a Christian focused on this subject was the question of how what Christ accomplished could have significance for us today.
John Donne’s poetry inspired me. I remember reading Donne’s poem in the forward of For Whom the Bell Tolls decades ago. It has been in my thoughts ever since.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Alan Jacobs book on original sin as well as Robert Bellah’s, Habits of the Heart were also very influential.
I will stop here, but I really recommend that those interested look at the recommended reading list on my site. There are some wonderful books there.
3. It’s a wonderful concept, recognizing the unity in the body of Christ and how the entire world is intrinsically tied together, but, Chris, how do you live this out? [Maybe summate the second part of your book as if you’re just having a conversation] Life gets busy and, if we’re honest, we get distracted and forget that we’re all in this together. What’s your practice for living out the exhortation of your book?
First, as a family we are committed to our local church as extended family. That may seem obvious for a pastor, but it is possible for a pastor to keep themselves at arms length. In the case of our family, our lives are intertwined with our church and community. Recently, I celebrated a milestone birthday. (As I have now sojourned this earth for 50 years). One of my favorite cards was from a little girl in our church. She wrote, “I love you. You love me. Love Elaine. Meow.” I asked her parents about the significance of “meow.” They explained that she just likes cats and so she put that in at the end. Cats aside, I pray that Elaine’s summary is true of all of our relationships in our church family. If we are “bound together” in Jesus, then we should expect nothing less.
Of course, it is in intertwining our lives with other believers that we can be most joyfully Christ-centered and celebrate about our unity in Him. I am already looking forward to communion this Sunday and the opportunity to remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood.
My family is also very involved in the life of our community. We invite people into our home. We try and express the love of Christ for as many people as possible in as many ways as possible. As I am writing this, I just finished meeting with the president of the senior class in our high school. She wanted to talk to me about speaking at baccalaureate. She does not attend our church. But she and the other class officers know how much we care about them.
One of the central ways that I have sought to show solidarity for young people in our community is through photography. I enjoy sports and special events photography. I take a lot of pictures. I can then share those pictures with young people through social media. It is a small way to repeatedly tell young people that I care bout them.
The picture to the right is of an important touchdown in a high school football game. The young man does not attend our church. But I made sure I got him a copy of the picture. I think it is a small way to tell families that we see ourselves as bound together with our community. Over time those small ways make a difference.
Daniel Darling recently wrote a helpful post, How to Build Community in Your Church. He offers 5 practical suggestions and his post is worth reading.A couple of weeks ago a young man, whose picture I have taken many times, visited our church. He came by himself. He spent time chatting with my wife and me at the back after church. I know that part of the reason he is comfortable visiting our church is because he knows that we care about him.
Thanks so much for your message – for tangible image of the Church. We are all tied together, bound by the life, death and the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
Thank you for keeping the discussion going. Books come and go. But we need to keep talking about the reality that we are not islands unto ourselves. People are bound together.