Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book Review: Primal by Mark Batterson

By Lauren Yarger
Mark Batterson's latest book, "Primal" (Multnomah, 2009), seeks to bring believers back to the point where they were one with God, to a simpler essence of faith before complicated elements of world and religion mask the "lost soul" of Christianity.

The lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC writes an informative book with many interesting points, but it doesn't really motivate. In fact, it's not all that different from a lot of helpful books being churned out by popular pastors, except this one could use some editing.

Besides taking a rather academic tone, the writing feels redundant. You've heard these points, or ones like them, in other books or sermons by other pastors. The stories seem predictable: interesting illustrations leading to obvious lessons. That's not to say the points have no value; they do. Ironically, they just fail to engage the reader on a more "primal" level.

Some of this might come from the fact that if you don't spend every day experiencing the kind of epiphanies Batterson apparently does, you might not be able to relate to some of the stories, or end up feeling your faith is inadequate.

The book is formatted in four parts: The Heart of Christianity, The Soul of Christianity, The Mind of Christianity and The Strength of Christianity. I just couldn't get excited about some of the more profound conclusions drawn throughout the book like these:

-- "The less you know God, the less you love Him. And the more you know God, the more you love him."

-- "If we are going to have an eternal impact on our culture, we just can't criticize it or copy it. We've got to create it."

-- "God ideas are like melting snowflakes. They are delicate things of beauty, but they have short shelf lives. If you don't capture them, they disappear forever. And the cost of lost opportunities is incalculable."

Instead having "ah hah" moments, I experienced more, "Well, duh..." moments. Perhaps I was expecting too much, given the book's title and was unfairly expecting the writing to ignite a flame in my soul. There is a lot of talk about that, but talking about it (or reading about it, apparently) doesn't make it happen. The part I related to the most was a section making the case that the church should be the most creative place on earth. I related, that is until Batterson asked, "When was the last time you thanked God for your metacognitive ability?"

Well, there I was feeling inadequate again. I never had thanked God for that because I didn't even know what it was. Thankfully a definition (it's your ability to think about how you think) is provided immediately, but it left me thinking that an editor should have suggested he just say that in the first place when apparently I should have been thinking about how I came up with that thought and then thanking God for it.

"Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity" is available by visiting http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074723.

A free reviewer's copy of this book was provided by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

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Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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