We are connected to one another and the choices we make will impact those around us. There is really no such thing as ‘private sin’ or personal piety but all of it spills over into the lives of loved ones and friends, neighborhoods and communities. Author and pastor Chris Brauns calls this the ‘principle of the rope’ and roots it theologically in the biblical account of human fallenness and the hope of redemption found through Christ.
Bound Together divides into two sections. In part one, Brauns describes the ‘principle of the rope.’ Because of Original Sin, Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the garden, all of their descendents were impacted. We are all born with the proclivity to sin because of it and face the consequences. Yet we need not go back to origins to see the principle at work. Braun begins his book with an account of a childhood friend’s drunkenness and the alcoholism and struggles that whole family faced. We have all been directly impacted by the sins of others and that in turn has influenced our own decisions and perceptions of our world. Often the abused becomes the abuser and the cycle continues.
But Brauns doesn’t leave us to wallow in the mire of human sinfulness. He describes the hope we have in Christ. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has untied the rope and set us free. Those who respond with belief are bound together with Christ and share in fellowship with God and one another. The new rope (Christ) is stronger than the rope of Original sin. Jesus Christ has broken the power of sin and death in our lives. All of that is part one.
In part two, Brauns describes how we can apply this ‘principle of the rope’ in living out our lives. He urges Christians to lay hold of the joy that is promised to those bound together in Christ. He describes the hope Christ brings to the sinful, the hurting, and those who are facing the fear of death. Brauns also describes how marriage (for Christians) mirrors our connection to Christ, and how the gospel challenges American styled individualism.
There is a lot I commend in Brauns account. I certainly agree with his broad theological vision, both in his description of how our sin impacts our loved ones and neighbors (even when we tell ourselves it won’t) and his description of the hope we have in Christ. I also appreciated the care in which Brauns described how generational sin impacts us and yet we remain free and our responisble for our own actions (see especially chapter four in the first section). What I really liked about Brauns’s ‘principle of the rope’ is that it gives us a new language to communicate the gospel in a way that is winsome and accessible. I also loved (theology nerd alert) that his book was organized by a ‘gospel grammar’ of indicative-imperative. Part one declares the truth of the gospel whereas part two tells you how to live in light of that truth.
Nevertheless I found this book wanting in places. I agree with Brauns about the ‘principle of the rope,’ but I felt that he insufficiently unpacked the implications. He does talk briefly about abuse and the cycle of addictions but the socio-political implications are never fully addressed. Racism, sexism, poverty, prostitution exist on grand scales are imbedded in cultures because of the ‘principle of the rope.’ The madness of crowds and institutional sin is hinted at but not fully explored by Brauns (though he does draw on the sociological insights of Bellah, Berger, Hunter and others). I honestly think he could have built a more compelling case for our complicity in corporate and institutional sin. I htink the hopelessness of the modern institution makes union with Christ more compelling.
Brauns also draws heavily on Reformed Evangelical sources (and Puritans). I have no axe to grind against Calvinists (I consider myself a .5 Calvinist) but they are not the only one to traverse this ground. I found myself thinking of other authors who have articulated our sharing in Sin and our Sharing in Christ. I wished that other theological voices were brought to the table because I believe they would have enriched Brauns’s text. These include patristic sources like Augustine, and Irenaeus and modern sources like Jacques Ellul, Rene Girard, etc. I realized that Brauns own theological perspective is informed most by the Calvinist crowd, but if it is true that we are bound together in Christ, I would expect a more eccumenical feel to this book.
I also found myself occasionally excluded by Brauns. For example he uses his chapter on marriage to argue for Biblical Complementarianism using Ephesians 5:22-33 and dismisses Biblical egalitarianism as being baseless (tells an anecdote of one mouthy egalitarian to illustrate this). However he fails to put the wife’s submission in the context of mutual submission [note: the word submission does not appear in the Greek of Ephesians 5:22. It is translated literally ‘Wives to your husband as to the Lord. . . .’ The verb ‘to submit’ is supplied by the previous verse, “Submit yourselves one to another.’ The household code that follows is an explication of that mutual submission]. His word to the husband is that they are to serve their wife by leading them. Paul’s words to husbands is that they should love them as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I have no problem with Brauns being a complementarian but his decision to focus on that in this context meant that he failed to expound on the mutual aspects of this passage which speak to his overall theme.
These caveats aside I still think that this book can be read fruitfully. Brauns is on the right track and I loved the gospel focus of this book. This could be a good book for personal study or for a small group study (however a discussion guide is not in the book or on the publisher website). I give it three stars: ★ ★ ★
Thank you to Zondervan and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.