Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power by J. P. Moreland was a very thought provoking book.
In this blog post I’ll reveal many of the great things about this book. In the next post, I’ll show some of my concerns that Moreland’s Kingdom Triangle resolves more around us as believers and not enough around the King Himself.
His main thesis is the following:
The shift in worldview from a Judeo-Christian thick world to a naturalist or postmodern thin world has brought about … a cultural milieu that lacks the resources needed to resist the drift towards the proliferation of empty selves. In this context, men are empty selves gorged on and dulled by seeking happiness and, as a result, are individualistic, narcissistic, infantile people who approach others as objects that exist merely to make them happy. Slowly but surely, the contemporary Zeitgeist is killing our lives, our religious fervor, and our relationships. (page 105)
His answer to our (post)modern predicament is the Kingdom Triangle of:
1. Recovering the Christian Mind,
2. Renovating the Soul
3. Restoring the Spirit’s Power
He compares a “thick” world versus a “thin” world.
A “thin” world is one with no objective value, purposes, or meaning. (page 26) … There are three disastrous implications of a thin world. First, nothing is important enough to rise above the level of a custom. … Second, absent of objective and ultimate meaning, purpose, and value, there can be no real drama in a thin world. (page 27)… Third, in a thin world there is no objective difference between Mother Teresa and someone who devotes this life to being the best male prostitute he can be. (page 28)
His analysis of the empty indicative a “thin” world is quite penetrating.
When people live for pleasurable satisfaction, they become empty selves and, because God did not make us to live for “happiness,” their lives fall apart. … Seligman has noted repeatedly that when people lie for “happiness,” they turn their attention inward and become shriveled selves who are anything but “happy.” In 1988, Seligman found that in the span of one single generation—the Baby Boom generation—Americans experienced a tenfold increase in depression compared to earlier generations. (page 25)
Regarding his interactions with an expert on Islam, Daniel Pipes,
Religion is a hobby to be subsumed under the demands of secular democracy, not something to be taken seriously. Assessing the truth claims of any religion … is beside the point. … The implicit framework that underlies [Pipes’] approach… is a naturalistic worldview. But if a thin world is the most plausible implication of naturalism, then Pipes’ own sense of drama for his work done on behalf of the Bush administration does not really matter at the end of the day. (page 31)
I thought his understanding of worldview was refreshing, though perhaps misleading in some ways.
While a worldview affects what one sees, it is a mistake to compare a worldview with a set of glasses. Here’s why. Glasses stand between a person and the external world such that a person’s access to reality is mediated through the glasses. One does not have direct access to reality itself. But it is wrong to place things between knowing an experiencing subjects and the real world, things like one’s cultural, historical location, one’s tradition, or one’s worldview. One troublesome implication of such a model is that people can never correct their beliefs by comparing them to things. Yet … people, including little children, do this all the time. A better way to describe the role of a worldview in seeing reality is to depict it as a habituated way of direction our attention or inattention, as they case may be. (page 33)
Here is great summation of naturalism.
Naturalism implies that the physical world is all there is; that knowledge occurs only or most ideally within the bounds of the sense and the methods of science; that the good life is whatever you freely choose for yourself, for example, a life of social recognition and success (most likely, financial, academic, or artistic success); that a really good person is one who is true to his or her own ideals (whatever they are) and is tolerant of others; and there is virtually no advice given for how to become a good person. (page 59)
In response to the charge of naturalism theistic evolution is more than a copout.
Many theistic evolutionists simply fail to provide a convincing response to the question of why one should adopt a theological layer of explanation of the origin and development of life in the first place. Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids toward placing nonscientific claims in a privatized, make-believe realm in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined. Thus, inadvertently … those of [this] persuasion contribute to the marginalization of a Christian worldview. (page 46)
Concerning the rise of postmodernism,
Given that knowledge is limited to empirical since, realms of public discourse outside science—especially religious, ethical, and political discourse—are not aspects of life in which truth can be known. Thus, decision-making in these areas cannot be guided by any hope of cognitive success. As a result, tolerance and pluralism must prevail and rhetoric, image and their kin trump reason, ideas, and knowledge. The makeup man is more important than the speech writer.
… The public square, along with debates about religion, ethics, and politics, turns out to be about power (the ability to enforce compliance) and not about authority (the right to believed and followed based on possession off the relevant knowledge).
This same reason why political correctness is about power, not truth, and this is why the media, university, culture, and political interactions have become secular. Radicals and activities in the 1960s sought to change the world, but given their perhaps unwitting adoption of scientism, the only way they could accomplish their aims was through power and not through the promotion of nonemperical knowledge. Cultural power is available in university, media and political careers, and having absorbed scientism, when the activists of the sixties stormed these social structures, the inevitable result was their secularization and the emergence of coercive, political correct utilization of power. In a naturalist world, the will-to-power is all there is; authority is unavailable. (page 65-66)
Reality for postmodernisms either does not exist or we have no direct access to it. Claims to have knowledge are power moves designed to dominate those judged not to have it. More modestly, knowledge is what you community’s experts will let you get away with saying without having to defend yourself further. The good life and the nature of a good person are whatever your community arbitrarily takes them to be. Moreover, there is no clear advice given as to how to become a good person. Instead, we get mantras about being tolerant and doing whatever you want as long as you harm no one else. (page 85)
Moreland’s charge to avoid the charge for Christians to avoid the dangers of “pomo” is powerful.
Postmodernism is a form of intellectual pacifism that, at the end of the day, recommends backgammon while the barbarians are at the age. It is the easy way out that removes the pressure to engage alternative conceptual schemes to be different, to risk ridicule to take a stand outside the gage. But it is precisely as disciples of Christ—even more, as officers in his army—that the pacifist way out is simply not an option. However comforting it may be, postmodernisms is the cure that kills the patient, the military strategy that concedes defeat before the first shot is fired, the ideology that undermines its own claims to allegiance. As followers of the Lord Jesus, the postmodern option is a concession to our culture that goes too far, however well-intentioned it is. We can and must do better than this if we are to be up to the teaks of responding to the crisis of our age. (page 88)
Finally, I loved his assessment and thoughts on how the concept of freedom has made a mega-shift in our culture.
Classically, freedom meant the power to do what one ought to do. Thus, one is free to play the piano if one has the skills, training, and knowledge necessary to play it. Similarly, one is free in life if one has the power to life the way one ought to live. Sexual freedom in this context means the power to live a chaste, holy life and to engage skillfully in sexual activity in the way in which we were designed by God—in heterosexual marital union. Classic freedom is liberating, indeed, but a necessary condition of such freedom is the availability of the relevant sort of knowledge. Absent such knowledge, freedom ahs come to be understood as the right to do what one wants to do. Sexual freedom in this context means the right to satisfy one’s desires in any way one wishes, with the possible exception of not harming others.
… Christians should understand that in the thin atmosphere of contemporary secularism, if freedom means the right to do whatever I want, any attempt to limit freedom, especially if such a limitation is grounded in a substantive moral claim, will be greeted with a burden of proof that is hard to meet in a thin world. (page 98-99)
As I said, I’ll go on to critique his Kingdom Triangle for not putting in its epicenter the Gospel. But a highly recommended book nonetheless.