Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Review: Primal by Mark Batterson

The name Mark Batterson is one that I have been hearing more and more come up within the evangelical universe. So, when I received word that I could receive a copy of Mark’s new book Primal through WaterBrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program I naturally jumped at the chance.
Batterson is the lead pastor at National Community Church in Washington D.C. and he blogs at Evotional.com.
In this his third book, Mark identifies his purpose right up front in the subtitle, “A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity”. I understand that catchy titles help move books, but honestly those words troubled me at first. It sounds a lot like the kind of book that promises to reveal the ‘real secrets of Christianity,’ secrets that you won’t find anywhere else. But it is always good to read on and not judge a book by it’s cover (or by it’s subtitle for that matter).
Without giving too much away (because I would recommend that you read this book yourself), the author identifies the ‘Lost Soul of Christianity’ as what is often referred to as the ‘Great Commandment’. God’s people are to love Him will all of their heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5).
Mark does an excellent job demonstrating that love of God goes far beyond attitude; love of God is to be lived out in actions. He has clearly meditated deeply on these things and has taken concrete steps in his own life and ministry to enflesh the Lord’s commandment. For example, here is a statement that jumped off the page for me:
“I think it’s easy to talk about things like faith and obedience and compassion in abstract terms. The more abstract, the less convicting the truth is. So let me get concrete. Faith equals God-ordained risks in the face of fear. Obedience equals God-honoring decisions in the face of temptation. And compassion equals Spirit-prompted generosity in the face of greed.” (p. 32)
I do have one major concern with this book. I am troubled that the gospel is largely absent from this book. I am not suggesting that Batterson denies the gospel, rather that he seems to assume the gospel. That is something I believe to be too dangerous in an age when even among self-professed Christians the gospel is largely misunderstood.
What I mean is that apart from the gospel or with a distorted gospel, the ‘Christian’ will find what Batterson challenges the reader to do (love God wholly) to be virtually impossible. Much of what was said in this book could just as easily been rooted in Deuteronomy 6:5 rather than it’s New Testament counterpart. That’s not to suggest that the Old Testament command is somehow less authoritative. What I was hoping the author would have brought out more clearly was to identify what about the Great Commandment is distinctly ‘Christian’.
My concern should not prevent the reader from picking up a copy of Primal and seeking to be challenged by it. There is much within these pages that can be mined for the reader’s benefit. Primal is on bookstore shelves today and is available for order directly from WaterBrook Multnomah or from your favorite online book retailer.
This book was provided by WaterBrook Multnomah.

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