J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Primal Book Review by Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson’s 3rd book “Primal” was released this week, and he continues to find depth and meaning with his usual wit and style.  The pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, Mark’s book s make for great reading in that they deliver a healthy punch of meaning in a concise form.

“Primal” is about the church’s need to return to the early values and practices of Christianity.  It asks the question, “What would your Christianity look like if it was stripped down to the simplest, purest faith possible?”  The answer is you would have more not less.

Divided into four sections (the heart, soul, mind, and strength of Christianity), Mark discusses the essential elements of the faith that have not been completely forgotten by this generation, but they are often overlooked.  We can see them less and less because so many more things have been added on top of them.

For example, in the heart of Christianity, Mark speaks about the primal characteristic of compassion and how every element of the life of believer (money, time) should be geared towards the showing of it.  Now, this is obviously not groundbreaking territory, but Mark’s gift is making the obvious relevant.  His illustrations to either set up or bring home a point are fantastic.  I’m sure many a preacher has borrowed a few of these for their sermons.

For example, in speaking of becoming more compassionate, Mark talks of “sympathy breakthroughs” where the faceless become personal in our hearts.  He details how the author George Orwell during the Spanish Civil War had a face to face encounter with someone he’d come to kill.  When Orwell found him, the man was half naked, holding his pants up by his hand.  Orwell couldn’t shoot him, “because of the detail about the trousers.  I had come to shoot fascists, but a man who is holding up his trousers isn’t a fascist; he is visibly a fellow-creature, similar to yourself, and you don’t feel like shooting him.”  Mark’s point?  We won’t return to being and possessing a compassionate faith until we see those that need compassion face to face.

Similar stories are told about the power of God and the power of the scriptures, hearing God’s still small voice, and on and on.  But I think the best summary of returning to the primal nature of Christianity comes from Mark himself near the end of the book.  He says,

Here is the great irony when it comes to loving God…in and of ourselves, we’re not capable of loving God.  We cannot manufacture love for Him.  We can only respond to His love for us.  And I hope that sets you free.  Religion is all about doing things for God.  Christianity is all about receiving what Christ has done for us on the cross.  And what we do for God is a reflection of and response to what God had done for us.

Not a theology book or primer on the nature of God, but incredibly practical filled with great illustrations of the nature of Christianity, “Primal” is a recommended read.

This review also appears at the Raleigh Examiner.  Read it there and help me earn a penny.


December 28, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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