In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
|In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day Publisher: Multnomah Books|
I wanted to like this book. And, to be honest, I do like this book. On the whole, it is a book written to challenge you to overcome your fears and live a bold life. As a self-help, motivational book, Mark Batterson has produced a good one.
Except that he does not claim to have just generated a self-help book. In fact, he puts forth his book as based in Scripture. He takes the title from the story of Benaiah in 2 Samuel 23:20-23. Benaiah was the captain of the bodyguard of King David of Israel. This passage is the introduction to Benaiah, who is also instrumental in establishing King Solomon's reign and whose father was Jehoiada the chief priest (1 Chronicles 27:5).
In the 2 Samuel passage, Benaiah's feat of killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day is recorded. Batterson cites the New Living Translation that renders Benaiah's action as “chasing” the lion into the pit. That's the only major translation I can find that uses “chase.” The rest use “went down.” Which is probably more faithful to the original Hebrew. That, though, poses difficulties for Batterson's entire hypothesis. His view in this book is that good, courageous Christian people chase lions, pursue the danger and overcome it.
If Benaiah only “went down,” then it's a totally different lesson. That lesson is this: do the job in front of you as best you can, no matter how terrifying.
Here is my problem: Batterson has taken a good idea and then searched Scripture for a story he considers obscure, picks the translation that supports his hypothesis, and then presents the book as normative for the Christian life. He fills the book with stories of people going out of their comfort zones and how the experiences are priceless for them. He refers, consistently, to wanting to encourage people to be lion chasers.
That is not, however, what following Jesus is about. Whether you chase the lions or just do what you have to do, following Jesus is about just that: Jesus. And following Him. By focusing on the lions or chasing exciting experiences, we miss the point. There are ten thousand ten thousands of followers of Christ throughout the centuries that have lived, died, and left no name in the history books. Yet they are the strong cord of the faith. They are the churches to whom Paul wrote, the nameless scribes who copied the Word of God, the faceless masses that circulated copies of the 95 Theses or A Practical View of Christianity, the small stations on the Underground Railroad or the hiders of Jews in Europe.
Batterson's work encourages people to face their fears, but in the long run for a book based on Biblical principles, he falls short. The Christian life long knows lions are not to be feared: slingshots kill them and angels shut their mouths. Our forbears in the early centuries knew the lions and were often executed by them, but there remained little fear, for the lion only took them to Jesus.
In all, is it worth the reading? It is. Some parts sound more like an adrenaline junkie's travel journal, but other parts have some good thoughts. But don't make it a life-changing must read.
This book was received from WaterBrook/Multnomah in exchange for the review.