Run the Mile You’re In – Ryan Hall

raceRyan Hall, Run the Mile You’re In(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 217 pp.

Run the Mile You’re In by Ryan Hall is an inspirational book for athletes who are looking for some extra motivation from one who is a Christian and a seasoned athlete. As the fastest American half marathoner, Hall’s athletic accomplishments are impressive indeed. The book is cleverly arranged in “twenty-six miles”, to match the distance of a marathon (less two-tenths of a mile)! Each chapter includes tips and motivational resources for athletes, most of which point to a faith-based model.

I admire the author’s grit, talent, and desire to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ and prompt others to do the same. Yet an honest review compels me to highlight a few concerns – and they’re significant.

First, throughout the book, Hall makes reference to hearing from God. To his credit, he refers often to the Bible but not always in the context of “hearing from God.” That is, there is a subtle undercutting of the sufficiency of Scripture. I often tell the people in the church I pastor, “If you want to hear from God, open his Word.” 2 Peter 1:3 clearly reveals the sufficiency of God’s Word: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” While the author never makes a claim to extra-biblical revelation, one is left wondering what the purpose of these encounters with God are designed to accomplish. Our direct line to God is found exclusively in his Word. Anything else subtly undercuts the sufficiency of Scripture.

Some may surmise that my objection to Hall at this point leads to dry, abstract Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Notice how Jonathan Edwards refers to his experience with God:

And as I was walking there, and look up on the sky and the clouds; there came into my mind, a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction: majesty and meekness joined together: it was a sweet and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.

After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of everything was altered: there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything (Works 16, 793-794).

Edwards is communing with God and experiencing his sweet presence here, which is similar but so different than what Hall promotes. While Edwards enjoys fellowship with God, he never claims to hear the voice of God apart from Scripture.

Second, the author encourages readers to “declare” the dreams of their heart. Such a practice is very similar to what is promoted in the Word of Faith movement, i.e. “name it and claim it.” The author even compares this approach to a dangerous book associated with a new age book: “To some, the concept of declarations may seem eerily similar to a popular book called The Secret, whose premise is that you can get whatever you want in life if you just envision it and wish for it. Though I do not believe that to be totally true, I think there is some truth to the power of declarations.” Hall continues, “If I am made in God’s image and likeness, having His powerful Spirit inside me, so too I am able to speak with declarations and create life in any hopeless situation.” These admissions reveal a lack of biblical discernment that readers must take into account. At best, this kind of approach to the Christian life undercuts and compromises the sovereignty of God over all things. At worse, it elevates the creature to a level that is only designated for God.

Run the Mile You’re In is not meant to be a theology book – far from it. The intent of the author is to encourage readers to persevere, set goals, and live with the glory of God as their primary objective. But a closer look reveals that the theological foundations are shaky at best. I urge readers to embrace what is helpful here and discard the rest.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

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