Katherine's Reviews > Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity

Primal by Mark Batterson
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's review
Jul 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: religion, waterbrook-multnomah-publishing-rev
Read from July 11 to 13, 2011

- I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. –

You can find the first chapter available for preview here:

If I were to ask you to break down Christianity into the simplest form you could, to simplify the message as much as possible, how would you respond?

Mark Batterson’s answer to this question is to remind us of what many call The Great Commandment:
Mark 12:30
New International Version (NIV)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”
(Quoted from BibleGateway.com)

Even Jesus himself said that there is no law greater than this (and the adjoining commandment to love our neighbor). All of the laws, all that we are to do, all that it means to truly follow Jesus, to obey God, hangs on this Great Commandment, we are told.

In Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, Mark Batterson breaks down exactly what it means to follow God with *all* our heart, soul, mind, and strength, by giving each of these dimensions (as he calls them) of loving God their turn in his explanation. He has divided his book into four parts, each relating to a different dimension of the way we are to love God:
Part One is the Heart of Christianity
Part Two is the Soul of Christianity
Part Three is the Mind of Christianity
and Part Four is the Strength of Christianity

He tells us, though, that this book "is not a strict exposition of the Great Commandment. It's a reimagination of the four primal elements detailed by Jesus in the Great Commandment:
The heart of Christianity is primal compassion
The soul of Christianity is primal wonder
The mind of Christianity is primal curiosity
And the strength of Christianity is primal energy" (page 7)

By taking the time to really reflect on what the Great Commandment means, Batterson says that “the end result will be a renewed love for God that is full of genuine compassion, infinite wonder, insatiable curiosity, and boundless energy.” (page 8) And when thinking about it that way I realize that if I were asked what the spirit of Christianity is I wouldn’t have been able to have put it any better than he has. Compassion, wonder, curiosity, energy – these are all what I personally believe it comes down to, and even though the book reads so easily the message is so much more profound than I could possibly do justice.

Each section, each “spiritual love language”, as he calls them, is a cornerstone of my personal faith. I can’t convey to you how deeply rooted my beliefs are in the ideals of compassion, wonder/awe, curiosity, and energy/action, the first three especially. So the attention he gives them, the importance he places upon them, it’s almost as though he was speaking directly to me in my own conviction and constant cultivation of each of them.

The very fact that curiosity is even one of the “big four”, as I’ll call them, is something of great importance to me, personally. In an age where anti-intellectualism so plagues Christianity it is always a triumph when anyone encourages even the least bit of questioning and educating within the Christian faith. His quote, “There should be no disconnect between spiritual and intellectual pursuits. The mind and soul are not enemies. They are allies.” (page 103), and his speaking of critical realism was a welcome change from the usual way we see Christians condemn any sort of intellectuality so as to best support the religious status quo.

“The status quo is not good stewardship” he tells us on page 113. And I agree.

He continues:
“Let me tell you what faithfulness is not. Faithfulness is *not* doing it the way it’s always been done. Faithfulness is *not* holding the fort. Faithfulness is *not* defending the status quo. Faithfulness is the courage to incarnate the gospel in creative ways. Faithfulness is experimenting with new ways of doing discipleship. Faithfulness is playing offense for the kingdom even if some Pharisees find it offensive.” (pages 113-114)

As he brings his book to a conclusion, in the final chapters, in reference to the idea of strength and primal energy, he seems to tie it all together by reminding us that it’s not just about feeling compassion, not about how much we come to learn in our insatiable curiosity, it’s about what we *do* with it.

The quote (from 134) says it well:
“We’ve explored what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. But compassion, wonder, and curiosity aren’t enough. Strength is the final frontier…. A heart that breaks for the things that break the heart of God is where love begins. But it doesn’t end there. Energy completes the equation.”
“Christianity was never intended to be a noun” he tells us (on page 135)

One of the greatest problems within Christianity today is that “we're not so great at the Great Commandment" (page 7). Through this book, though, Mark Batterson calls us to understand what the Great Commandment really… well, commands; what it means to truly understand and apply it. In doing so, he invites us to be a part of a reformation, one that is based upon the Commandment that is so great.

“When you descend the flight of stairs into the soul of Christianity and everything is stripped away but its primal essence, what you’re left with is the Great Commandment. Just as the medieval church rediscovered justification by faith, so our generation must rediscover the Great Commandment. The rallying cry of the last reformation was “Sola fide.” The rallying cry of the next reformation is “Amo Dei.”
Translation : “Love God.”” (page 169)
Amo Dei, they will declare. Will you join him in being one of them?

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Reading Progress

07/12/2011 page 97

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