Mark Batterson is the author of a new book called “If” (BakerBooks, 2015), which I picked up at the library the other day just because the title kindled memories of the great Malcolm McDowell movie of the same name.
There are three blurbs on the book’s back cover, by three other “New York Times bestselling” authors, all three of whom I’ve also, as with Mr. Batterson, never heard of. I know, I know, that’s my fault, not theirs.
Batterson’s book is subtitled, “Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities.” The author, in effect, wants us to stop being fuddy-duddies, mooncalves and wallflowers and to start going for the gusto. God does, too, he says.
“In my opinion,” Batterson writes, “it’s the sins of omission that grieve the heart of our heavenly Father most—the wouldas, couldas and shouldas.” As he explains it, the Almighty, having already laid everything out, is able to see and foresee it all—the entirety of history, past, present and future. At the same time He gives us all potential—the capacity to make the decisions He’d like to see us make. And when we don’t, He’s disappointed in us.
“Why?” the author asks. “Because no one knows our God-given potential like the God who gave it to us in the first place!”
But—not to raise too obvious an objection–why would He, God, be disappointed, if He’s already seen what we’re going to decide? How can disappointment enter into it, if our choices are foreordained? Or are there maybe something like alternate universes, where we live out the consequences of other choices we have made? So in some of these universes might we disappoint God somewhat less, or even more? And could there be one particular universe in which we are wholly satisfactory to God, having chosen all the right “what-ifs”? Or could it be—but never mind, it makes my head spin.
But not Batterson’s. “I am my own historian,” he says, and then, in the very next sentence: “It is God who ordains our days, orders our steps…” The author knows exactly what kind of God he’s dealing with. And well he should, since He’s his number-one salesman:
“I’ve been asking Him to put this book in the right hands at the right time. That’s my prayer for every book I write. So when someone apologizes for not having read one of my books, apology accepted. I trust God’s timing.”
I hope Batterson will accept my apology for not reading his book beyond page 14, or just halfway through the first chapter. Maybe God’s timing misfired in my case.
What if I were to cook up a God with my own random ingredients—say a God whose chief attribute is jealousy, for example? (This corresponds to the character of God revealed in the Bible, by the way, much more so than disappointment does.) Then, what if I wrote a book to show how we should act so as not to excite God’s jealous nature?
Why, I might even come up with a New York Times bestseller.