By Mark Batterson
“There has never been and never will be anyone else like you. But that isn’t a testament to you. It’s a testament to the God who created you. You are unlike anyone who has ever lived. But that uniqueness isn’t a virtue. It’s a responsibility. Uniqueness is God’s gift to you, and your uniqueness is your gift to God. You owe it to yourself to be yourself. But more important, you owe it to the One who designed you and destined you.”
So begins Soul Print, a book that undertakes the task of helping you discover what your soulprint, what your unique destiny, is. Batterson uses David (of David and Goliath fame) as a model to help discover not where ego might lead, but where God leads. He teaches the reader to value his or her individual gifts.
Batterson uses David’s life as an example of someone who knew their gifts and used them to glorify God. David did not pretend to be Saul by putting on his armor; rather, David was himself: a simple shepherd that knew how to use a sling. Next Batterson looks at Lifesymbols, objects that remind us of God’s faithfulness. David saved Goliath’s armor, which served as a lifesymbol for him. David’s conscience is examined, and the reader is encouraged to fine-tune his or her conscience to what God displays in Scripture. Just as David was not embarrassed to be himself and dance before the Ark of the Covenant, we should not be embarrassed to praise God however our talents come. Finally, just as David had to repent, we, too, need to repent when we sin.
This book does not spell out its intended audience, though the subject matter is aimed primarily at Christians who are already at least somewhat familiar with the Bible. Batterson does explain the stories he quotes, but never outlines anything about the plan of salvation. This knowledge is, presumably, assumed.
What appealed to me:
There are a number of great “ah-ha!” moments in this book for me. The articulation that imagination is a gift from God that calls for stewardship was welcome. Likewise, the call to stewardship of our own use of memory was great.
Batterson’s treatment of lifesymbols shone; it helped me to realize the need of such reminders in my own life. I know I’ve been baptized; what need to I have of a baptismal certificate? Yet to see that and have a visual reminder really does make it more “solid” and give me a mental kick to ponder it more often.
The book discusses how God honored David after he died. Several times Scripture says, “for the sake of David” God kept an unbelieving king on the throne. The author said “The prayers of your grandparents are being answered in your life right now.” This truth struck home for me.
Overall, his discussion of individuality and how God has designed each of us as unique creatures spoke volumes to me. I reside in a church body that at times at least seems to beat down anyone who is unique. Growing up, I honestly thought I had to fight against the forces of banality. Now, as an adult, I do see there are both dynamic and static forces within my church body. However, this book helps me to recognize that God did truly design individuals. I’m disappointed there wasn’t more Scriptural support, but choosing the story of David was a wise move. He does illustrate the truths that Batterson chose to emphasize.
I just mentioned that there wasn’t more Scriptural support. Batterson does speak well of the Bible. He points to it as the norm for consciences; we should not align our consciences with our own reason. However, he misses a lot of verses he could have used to make his point so very well. What of Paul’s discussion of the various gifts in the body of Christ in I Corinthians 12? What of the discussion of the gifts given to the church in Romans 12? Instead, Batterson focuses almost exclusively on the stories of the Bible. These are certainly good to use; however, he could very well have used more beside that more directly speak to the issue.
Speaking of Scripture, Batterson misuses it in several spots. It’s nothing so bad as “Jesus is not God,” but he does mislead. For instance, when David denies Saul’s armor before fighting Goliath, Batterson claims David’s motivation was that he wasn’t Saul, and needed to be himself. What about the simple reason that it was a dumb tactical move to go into battle using armor he wasn’t used to? What about the confidence that David had in God? Similarly, he says that David kept Goliath’s armor as a reminder of this day. Sure, that may be true, but it was typical of conquerors to keep the armor of the vanquished. This was a cultural norm, not a statement that David was making! Now, these might be excused as simple slips or ignorance.
However, Batterson quotes Scripture, stating that Jesus said from the cross, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus said no such thing on the cross. On the way there, sure. Not while hanging on the cross, though. Batterson misquotes, and frankly, he could have made his point without even mentioning “as Jesus hung on the cross.”
Perhaps the biggest problem I have with this book is the nearly absent Gospel. Batterson alludes to it, true, but he never out-and-out deals with sin and grace. He does not address sins as things that need to be forgiven, or that they are forgiven. He drives a lot at what must be done. This book needs a clear statement saying, “God made you an individual, and he has freed you to pursue the gifts he has freely given you. And when you turn from him, when you get selfish with those gifts, know that Jesus died for those sins, too.” Without this forgiveness, the book could easily create a guilt trip. “I’m not pursuing who God made me to be. What now?”
Frankly, I’m a little torn on this book. As I paged through it to prepare for the review, reviewing my notes and highlights, I was blown away by how many good insights there were. And then I looked at the lack of Scripture, misuse of Scripture, and lack of Gospel.
A Christian grounded in Gospel and knowing the pure grace of God could profit much from this book. A Christian struggling with guilt should not touch this book. The prescriptions to “go and do” would only add more guilt without any lightening of the load.
Batterson has published a number of books. Perhaps he has treated salvation in one of those other volumes and assumes that others have read his other works. I’d like to give him the benefit of a doubt. Considering this book on its own, though, I have to wonder at his wisdom. He’s a gifted writer and has good insight into certain passages of Scripture. It’s too bad that he doesn’t use those gifts to further our appreciation of God’s gift of individuality, rather than laying out a guidebook.
Legal nuts and bolts: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.