Thursday, June 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Batterson's book gushes pop psychology

Mark Batterson's book, "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day" (published by Multnomah) is a well-written, mediocre book with some good content.

That sounds contradictory, and to some degree it is.

I think it's important to give Batterson credit for some of the good qualities of his book. It's well-written, although the chapters are quite long for a paperback. There are numerous good, even insightful, points he makes throughout the book.

BUT, there's a huge negative to the book: the content of the book is the result of a preacher taking a single verse from the Bible and stretching it so widely and broadly that he makes a book from it.

The book highlights what we know of Benaiah from three verses found in 2 Samuel 23. The title of the book, and the author's primary point, come from the second half of a single verse (v. 20). And that's what's wrong with preaching today: preachers who find a simple verse to use as substantiation for many more thoughts and ideas they have than are found in the Bible passage itself.

Batterson stretches, widens, and broadens his scripture text far beyond its actual content. The points he makes are usually quite good, but it is going beyond what the scripture passage is teaching. Batterson's guesses about Benaiah's thoughts, character, actions, and source of bravery are just that: guesses. He's probably right about most of them. But when preachers try to make a book out of a single verse (in this case, half of a verse), you'll find a lot of extra-biblical information.

The author fills a lot of his space with pop psychology. Again, even much of that is fairly good stuff, but there may be as much pop psychology in this book than there is theology.

Finally, even most of the really good points Batterson makes are unoriginal. Many can be found in several other books, and are even common thoughts in blogs, Twitter tweets and Facebook posts. It's more a conglomeration of current "how to succeed when times are tough, overcoming adversity, do something great" platitudes. In this case, it's about chasing your lion.

I can appreciate the very real insight Batterson brings to a remarkable event in the life of Benaiah that's barely mentioned in scripture. But he stretches a little too far, a little too much, and a little too long.

That's bad preaching. And it's mediocre book writing, even if some of the content is good.


I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers 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.”

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