Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Review of "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Company - 2013)

Reading Gladwell’s description of the Biblical tale of David’s battle with Goliath, I began to have a bit of trepidation about where the book would led. This, along with the story of Noah’s ark, is one of the most commonly told story in Sunday School classes and often many details of the story are omitted or smoothed over for young ears (David chopping off Philistine’s head with his own story isn’t usually exactly highlighted.)

I have enjoyed all of Gladwell’s other books, so I wasn’t concerned that the book would not be well written or interesting.

But I was concerned that Gladwell was going to turn a story about a boy’s faith in God into a story primarily about tactics. He points out that ancient armies often divided into cavalry, infantry and shooters (with slings or bows), and that infantry man would often lose out to a man well trained with a sling at a distance. He also speculates that Goliath’s great height may suggest a disease or aliment that would have put him in to less than fit fighting shape. These are reasonable suppositions, but what does the story really have to say or teach if we leave out the element of faith in God.

Fortunately, Gladwell’s book is not lacking in the vital spiritual element. He obviously was concerned about issues of faith. In fact, in the acknowledgments, he credits his “theological consultant, Jim Loepp Thiessne of the Gathering Church in Kitchener, Ontario”. He prefaces each section of the book with an appropriate passage of Scripture.
And most significantly, he presents stories of people from history and the present whose battles with giants relied greatly on their faith in God. From the last century, he highlights people of faith (including Fred Shuttlesworth, the “swearing preacher”) in the civil rights movement who mobilized churches to do God’s work against segregation. He highlights the work of the Huguenots in France who saved thousands of Jews from the Vichy (and Nazi regiemes.) And ordinary people like Wilma Derksen who obeyed God’s call to forgive the man who murdered her daughter.

The book is full of wonderful stories about people who took on odds that seemed too great to achieve personal success, but more often fought for the good of others. Not only does the book give a perceptive look at the battle of Elah, it also provides many illustrations of people living out the Sermon on the Mount.

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