1 Star: The Barbarian Way by Erwin Raphael McManus

The goal of this book is worthy: McManus attempts to encourage believers not to limit their Christian lives to living in a safe, comfortable, selfish, superficial, self-righteousness and legalistic life. Mark Batterson's book Primal was a successful, well-written book that provided readers with a biblically accurate view on this subject. Sadly, The Barbarian Way leans closer to the unbiblical teachings of John Eldredges' Wild at Heart book in that in their attempt to sell a concept and capitalize off a catchy book title, both authors end up taking the concept too far, stretching the Bible to say what it does not say and in the end, turning Jesus and his followers into wild men and a barbarians.

It seems that the title "Barbarian" was so important to McManus that he overemphasizes this one word and ends up taking the concept of "getting back to the roots of real Christianity" and turns following Christ into a beastly, macho, wild, crazy religion that scoffs at anything resembling "civilized." McManus takes it too far when he continuously puts down "a normal life" as "predictable, boring, mundane" and pushes Christians to live "an adventurous, dangerous, risky, crazy life" as a barbarian. The book seems to promote thrill-seeking and self-glorification through risk-taking, as McManus encourages rushing into life decisions based on feelings and emotions and the sense that "God is speaking to you". He gives one example of what "living like a barbarian should look like" when he told a room full of men during a meeting "Don't go around the world and make our missionaries mentally healthy. You'll ruin everything. You'll totally mess up the cause. Let's say you have a husband and wife and four kids in an obscure city in Central Asia and suddenly they find themselves in the middle of 2 million people who don't speak a word of English. And each morning, they'll wake up excited and confident that somehow they're going to bring that entire city to faith in Jesus Christ. You go and make them normal, and they'll be on a plane back home the next day." (Pg 81)

Some quotes for thought:
  • When asked if they are Christians, [barbarians'] answer might surprisingly be no, they are passionate followers of Jesus Christ.
  • When Christianity becomes just another religion, it focuses on what God requires. Just to keep people in line, we build our own Christian civilization and then demand that everyone who believes in Jesus becaome a good citizen. It's hard to imagine that Jesus would endure the agony of the Cross just to keep us in line. Jesus began a revolution to secure our freedom. We would delight in God, and He would give us the desires of our hearts. Without hearts burning for God, we would move forward with the freedom to pursue the passions burning within us. (Pg 6-7)
  • My daughter had a dream to give to others but I didn't see it initially, but I was trying to civilize her instead of unleashing the untamed faith within her. After all, I'm her dad. It's okay if I live a life of irrational faith and breathtaking adventure. I want something different for her. I want her to have security and safety - you know, a predictable, boring, mundane life. (pg 10-11)
  • Perhaps the tragedy of our time is that such an overwhelming number of us who declare Jesus as Lord have become domesticated - or, if you will, civilized. Maybe John was alluding to that in the Apocalypse when he told the church of Ephesus that they had lost their first love (Rev 2:1-4). (Pg 12). [McManus' concept of John's Revelation alluding to the church of Ephasus becoming "domesticated" seems to stretch the natural reading of the scriptures far out of context.]
  • Those who are most religious will be most offended and indignant. The way of Jesus is far too savage for their sensibilities. (Pg 15)
  • It is time to hear the barbarian call, to form the barbarian tribe, and to unleash the barbarian revolt. (Pg 17)
  • John the Baptist was a true barbarian with camel's hair clothes. John stands out with his unusual dress and no formal education, and his mailing address was the wilderness.
  • Pg 55: You will hear the voice of Christ and His barbarian call if you listen carefully enough.
  • Pg 77: Later I would go on to seminary and learn that God doesn't speak like this anymore. Essentially I was told that God exchanged the mystical and miraculous for doctrine and ritual. The Scriptures became proof that God had stopped speaking. But I had already experienced God in both the mystical and miraculous.
  • Pg 84: My son asked about the voice of God. He would often hear me talk about having conversations with God (most of us call this prayer), and it piqued his curiosity. On top of that, he heard me teach and share mystical and miraculous experiences with God. When he asked me, "What does God's voice sound like?" I guess when I think about it, God's voice sounds a lot like my voice. After all, the Spirit speaks to us through the conscience as well as through the Scriptures.
  • Pg 88-89: My son, Aaron got in a fight with another boy who called his mother names and refused to apologize. I told my son if he didn't obey God's command to apologize and rejected the voice of God and chose to disobey His guidance, [that Aaron's] heart would become hardened, and his ears would become dull. And if he continued on this path, there would be a day when he would never again hear the voice of God. There would come a day when he would deny that God even speaks or has ever spoken to him. But if he treasured God's voice and responded to Him with obedience, then his heart would be softened, and his ears would always be able to hear the whisper of God into his soul. Aaron chose to stay, I'm grateful to say. If he had chosen differently, he would have begun the path toward domestication. Perhaps he never would have rejected the faith overtly. He might have even chosen to be a faithful attender at a church and been by everyone else's estimation a good man, but he would no longer be a barbarian. [Wow. I thought this was very harsh and fear-driven. Not to mention it sounds like teaching that one can lose their salvation, which disagrees with Romans 8:38.]


  1. I think it's only the barbarians, or those who are called to live a barbarian way that would totally understand what Erwin Raphael McManus is talking about.

    I respect your review but i do perceive his book differently from what i have just read on your page.(God reveals things(scriptures) to us differently)

  2. Barbarians, willing to love others and
    and die to self as Christ did.

  3. I have not even read this book yet, just some quotes from it and a few reviews regarding its contents, and I already can see that those who are so critical of it are misinderstanding what he is saying. They are perceiving it through the thick and distorting lens of decades and centuries of religiosity. I am a female and I have experienced the high of living completely willing to do whatever it is that God asks me to do the very moment he asks me to do it. And I don't care what it costs me, even if that means people think I am crazy or even if it cost me my life! The excitement has NOTHING to do with thrill seeking or wanting to live as pagans or free from biblical constraints. The modern day version of Christianity IS boring and NOT full of abundant life. I refuse to identify as any particular denomination. I want to follow JESUS, not the recognized head man of some other guy's VERSION of what Jesus taught. No, THANK YOU, to that. Glad to be a Barbarian girl. Wouldn't want to live any other way.