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The Mulberry St. Blog is a review and writing blog. I review mostly fiction/science fiction/fantasy sorts of books, with the exception of the occasional YA or nonfiction book. The blog is updated daily, excluding Mondays.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday Review: Primal

Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity
Our generation needs a reformation. 
But a single person won’t lead it.
A single event won’t define it. 
Our reformation will be a movement of reformers living creatively, compassionately, courageously for the cause of Christ.
 
This reformation will not be born of a new discovery.  It will be the rediscovery of something old, something ancient.  
 
Something primal.

It is my belief that there are two kinds of Christian nonfiction books. There are the read-it-in-one-sitting books and the break-apart-every-word books. There is nothing wrong with either, and both have pros and cons of their own. With the first kind of book, its easy to breeze through and miss some very important truths, but its much easier on the mind and often even on the heart. With the second, we might find that we are discovering deep spiritual truths that we needed here, all the while we could be missing the little things that are just as important. Some books balance the two very well, most miss it by just a little.

Primal is the second kind of book. Mark Batterson is a brilliant author and a great pastor. He quickly cuts to the heart of the issue at hand: Christianity at it’s heart, what it really is, what we really are, and we really have the potential to be. I read this book in several sittings, but only because I didn’t have time during the first couple. It’s easygoing as far as the writing goes, though don’t get me wrong; Primal is a convicting read. It really makes me think about the Christianity I know, the Christianity that was, and the real significant differences between the two. As Batterson said himself in the book, there is nothing inherently wrong with Christianity today. Worship must develop to suit culture. There is, however, a primal nature of Christianity – and, essentially, of God – that we are missing in our culture, and this is one Primal is all about.

The essence of the book is best summed up in the first chapter, “I couldn’t help but wonder if our generation has conveniently forgotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Christ. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have diluted the truths of Christianity and settled for superficialities. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated and less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced.”

Mark takes Christianity and disects it into four parts: its heart, its soul, its mind, and its strength. He discusses the importance of each, referencing the Greatest Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” [Luke 10:27] Even in the midst of hundreds of different denominations and disagreements over theology, this is the primal core of Christianity, this is what we all believe and know to be at the heart of our faith, so it is absolutely appropriate that it is this verse that is used as a basis for the book.

There’s a feeling I get at the end of many Christian books that I read. It’s a feeling of pity, of fear, and absolute confusion. I know what I’ve been messing up or not doing and I know what I need to fix it, or where I need to be for it to be “right”. However, I have absolutely no idea how to get there or where to begin. The suggestions are vague and understated, always as if the author himself only knows the end result, and not the path there. This is the biggest issue I had with the book. Primal is enlightening, convicting, and fascinating. It calls to a deeper part of me that wants what it offers. The end, however, left me wanting and wishing for more.

But, then again, maybe that’s what it was supposed to do.

Review copy obtained from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers through Blogging For Books. 

Recommendation: Older teens and up. For those with a strong - or stable - foundation looking for a deeper understanding, or just needing encouragement for a faith that seems a bit stale (as was the case for me).
It's surprisingly hard to rate a Christian book on the typical scale. It just doesn't work. My heart feels heavy and wants a low rating, but my mind feels revived and wants a higher one. It's awkward and I don't know what to do with it. So, for the future, for my new Wednesday Christian non-fiction book reviews, I'm instituting a recommendation system. It makes more sense, since more often than not, my ratings are judged on the quality of writing, characters, plot, and so on. There is none of that to base it on here, and so no reason to follow the same pattern.

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