Tuesday, January 12, 2010

WILD GOOSE CHASE, by Mark Batterson

I was sent a free copy of Wild Goose Chase, a gift from others. The following comments speak to why it put me a bit off...

Book: The Celts called the Holy Spirit the "Wild Goose...."

Me: If we're going to talk about how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, I think our starting point on the Holy Spirit ought to be God's Word, not a maybe-unprovable claim about what the Celts called the Holy Spirit. A Christian brother recently said to me that the phrase "Wild goose chase" still carries a negative connmotation, regardles sof how one might try and use it in a positive way. Wild goose chases are exercises in futility, just a wild running around in circles.

The Holy Spirit descended on Christ at the Jordan "like a dove." The Holy Spirit Himself never takes the form of a dove. Wind and fire are the normal manifestations that the Spirit assumed. This bird thing is way overdone. He is -not- the "Heavenly Dove." This wild goose thing is reaching the stage of becoming a cliche. And certainly we shouldn't think of God's Spirit as an erratic bird whose wild fluttering-around makes Him unpredictable.

Book: "Most Christians are bored with their faith"

Most Christian writers make too many generalizations. This is akin to Christian social theory writers who say things like, "The Church in America is...", as if they really knew. Brother Batterson likely should say, "I have often been bored with my faith...", since the spirit of the book is quite auto-biographical. Maybe he knows several bored, lukewarm Christians. I do, too. But are most Christians bored with their faith? I don't believe that most Christians are bored with their faith. But this is something that nits at me whenever a writer does it. We preachers often seem to do this sort of thing, too. This just sounds similarl to the emergent-church straw men charicatures of American Christianity that I've read elsewhere.

Book: Jesus was trying to lead the rich young ruler into a fulfilling life of adventure.

Me: Rich, fulfilling life of adventure? Jesus was trying to get the rich young ruler saved. To make him a true disciple. It disturbs me when writers force Bible stories into an agenda like this. I don't think Christ's goal was to tear the rich young ruler loose from his boring existence, and get him involved in a God-given adventure.Isn't this an example of using a Scripture story to push your own idea?

Book: God doesn't usually act in logical, linear ways.

Me: o rly? Then why did He communicate with us through a book written in SENTENCES? I feel no sympathy with the sort of mysticism implied here. It isn't Scriptural. Paul the apostle said that God gave us a spirit of a sound mind, and the book of Proversb says that sound thinking is a gift from God.

Book: Whoever came up with the idea that Jesus died on the cross to keep you safe?

Me: I don't know. Who? I've never heard that, and I've been a Christian 36 years.

Book: When is the last time you asked God to make you dangerous?

Me: "Dangerous"? I don't want to be dangerous. I want to be kind, truthful, and effective. I can't imagine Jesus wanting us to be "dangerous" to anyone but the devil. I remember Him saying we should be as harmless as doves.

Book: Jesus was the most passionate man on earth. After all, His last days were called "The Passion."

Me: Learn your Latin! The word "passion" comes from a Latin word that means suffering, not "intensely emotional." Couldn't we retire the word "passion" for awhile? The English lit guy in me feels it's worn out -- like TV reporters who use the word "devastating" in every story.

Book: "It's laughable that a cupbearer should undertake such a task..."

Me: If I'm remembering my past Old Testament sermon prep right, "cupbearer" was the title for "imperial palace manager". Nehemiah wasn't just a guy who walked around carrying a cup. It's important to research the historical background to Bible words from which we draw lessons.

Are we supposed to first be Biblical, or be bold, convention-breaking, mystical xistentialists who use the Bible to validate our Existentialism? This book reminds me very much of Eldridge's Wild At Heart, which also seemed to cram the Bible into an Existential mindset. I didn't like Wild At Heart, either, because it seemed to come to God's Word with a philosophy of life already in place, and then manipulate the Bible to support that philosophy.

So...I never got into Eldridge before, and his appeal still escapes me. So maybe this book reminds me of Eldridge. It all seems really "fluffy", and not adequately grounded in carefully interpreted Scripture.

Our EFCA pastors group is going to read through this book, starting next week. It'll be my second time through it, and I'll be optimistic that I can learn from the other guys some good features that I haven't seen in it.


  1. I haven't read the book and your critiques may be correct. However, your blog would be much more credible if you knew the author's name

  2. Yes, it's Mark Batterson, not Battinson.