I don’t typically watch DVD-based studies for small groups. But I had seen the book Primal by Mark Betterson lining the local Christian bookstore and I figured the DVD would give me the gist of the book without having to read the whole thing. My initial thoughts were confirmed by the videos.
Batterson has a lot going for him. He wants to clear out the fluff of what we associate with Christianity and get back to the basics, back to the center. In doing so he has latched on to a powerful verse in the New Testament that Jesus identified as the greatest commandment:
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important? ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” Mark 12:28-30 NIV
Many a pastor has taken this verse apart and analyzed what it means to love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. There is definitely some benefit to us to pause and reflect, but we need to remember that Jesus’ point was not to delineate all the ways we are to love God. Rather, He was saying that all we are, all that we do, our very essence and being, should be to love God.
Batterson makes things interesting with his stories. He is a storyteller and finds power in that. I guess he’s trying to love God with his mind (curiosity, according to him).
I’m taking it for granted that the DVD serves to bring home the most basic or primal points of the book Primal. If that is really the case, I’m afraid his book is just another exhibition of fluff without mining to the primal element.
For one, in Batterson’s attempt to go primal, he becomes too vague. Apart from talking about Jesus and referencing the New Testament, there is nothing that prevents this book from carrying the subtitle “A Quest for the Lost Soul of Judaism.” Batterson doesn’t enumerate the gospel. He assumes it. And when the gospel is assumed, eventually it is denied or forgotten.
The first question on the DVD is “Has your relationship with Christ become too complicated?” He doesn’t give us a framework to answer this question. What makes the relationship too complicated? Theology? Doctrine? In one breath Batterson says we have added creeds, traditions, and doctrines to the primal element of Christianity, but he doesn’t give us a framework for determining “what needs to be stripped away to help [me] get back to a primal love relationship with God.”
Batterson fails to recognize the difference between “reducing” the law to one commandment and “summarizing” the law in one commandment. Jesus didn’t do the former, He did the latter.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this DVD-based study free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of the blogger review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."