David and Goliath

The underdog little boy defeats the giant warrior. A story about how the underdog can win. David and Goliath.

I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk about his latest book, “David and Goliath,” on my drive from Chicago yesterday. Gladwell tells a good story. He hits on a point that I’ve often thought about. But then he falls into the storyteller’s trap when it comes to fact by going off on a rabbit trail of speculation.

There is a saying, “Never bring a knife to a gun fight.” Gladwell is right that in some ways it could be considered that David brought a “gun” (that is, sling) to a fight that was expected to be fought closer together–a knife fight.

I’ve wondered since I was small how we could consider David that much of an underdog since he had a significant weapon that obviously gave him a huge advantage. Sure, he was an adolescent not completely filled out into adult musculature. But he never seemed that much of an underdog to me.

David had two things going for him. One of them Gladwell ignores for the point of his story–or maybe his theological leanings. The first thing is that having guarded the family flocks for years, David was accomplished with a weapon–the sling. The second thing is that David had unswerving faith in God.

Any of the “sling-ers” in Saul’s army could have done what David did. But, they didn’t. Why not? Because they did not have David’s faith. It took both elements for David to succeed. Gladwell ignores the latter.

If you listen to the talk that I linked to, watch for the transition when he says (in effect) many medical researchers speculate that Goliath suffered from “giantism” (or the medical terms I don’t know). When a story teller goes off into the realm of speculation, we have left reporting and entered the world of fiction. Interesting story, but not scholarship.

And if you read the book because you think it’s cool that a popular writer chooses a religious subject–be on guard.

The real moral of the story of David–know your strengths and have faith in God.

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