I have finished reading Mark Batterson’s latest book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, and am joining the many other bloggers who have agreed to review the book in exchange for a free copy. Batterson knows bloggers: they will work for books.
I have never read any of Batterson’s other works, nor have I heard him speak. It is hard not be impressed with his ability to communicate. He is able to weave his various life experiences with his knowledge of Scripture and the testimonies of people from his church to create a tapestry of truth that is easy to read, insightful, and dripping with Spirit inspired application of truth.
The book is an effort to return to the primal essence of the Christian faith, and so he focuses on the Greatest Commandment: loving God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. These form the four sections of the book, and with each he offers a succinct definition of what it means to love God and some interesting applications of that kind of love. To love God with our heart means to have a heart that breaks with the things that break the heart of God. And when our heart breaks, this compassion will move us to action. Batterson then focuses on serving others and giving money towards the needs of the hurting world. While acts of compassion are godly, I think something is missed if we define loving God as loving others. After all, the greatest commandment is to love God, the second is to love others. Loving God means delighting in the beauty and greatness of who He is and not just demonstrating compassion to others.
To love God with our soul is to rekindle a sense of wonder at the beauty of God. Too often, Christians reduce God to a set of propositions instead of a wonderful divine Being. Batterson encourages us to develop a sense of wonder through meditating on Scripture. To love God with our mind is exercise our God given ability to continue to learn, to question, to seek to know more about Him and everything God created. Batterson reminds us that as we expand our God given imagination and our appreciation of who God is and what God has made, we must continue to freely admit our non-omniscience. We do not know everything, and much of what we think we know needs to be rethought. One of Batterson’s greatest observations in this section is the positive application of 2 Corinthians 10.5 (“take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”). While we usually apply this to sinful thoughts, he reminds us that this also means to capture the “God ideas” that the Spirit puts in our heads. Obedience to Christ involves capturing these visions and living into them.
To love God with our strength means to expend tremendous amounts of energy for kingdom causes. God ideas take work and perseverance to become realities. Batterson suggests that the reason many churches are stuck in petty disputes is because they are not expending all of their energy towards a God idea, so they create petty problems to keep them busy. He is quick to remind us that we do not work for God, but God works through us. Afterall, it is not what we can do for God, but what God can do through us. God ordained dreams cannot be accomplished in our own strength and wisdom.
Batterson states his goal in writing this book:
I hope this book has taken you back to some of the sympathy break throughs that have broken your heart and the epiphanies that have shaped your soul. I hope it’s unleashed a holy curiosity to know God more. I hope it’s renewed your resolve to devote your energies to kingdom causes. I hope this book has taken you down that flight of stairs, all the way back to the primal place where loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all that matters (171).
For the most part, Batterson has accomplished his goal. He uses science, history, and personal testimonies in an inspiring and thought provoking way. And in the end, readers will find themselves somewhere in the pages of this book. They will hear the Spirit speak a word about loving God with their mind, soul, heart, and strength. And hopefully, they will be called back to the primal essence of the Christian faith.