Kingdom Triangle Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit's Power
From the Back Cover
Western society is in crisis, the result of our culture’s embrace of naturalism and postmodernism. At the same time, the biblical worldview has been pushed to the margins. Christians have been strongly influenced by these trends, with the result that the personal lives of Christians often reflect the surrounding culture more than the way of Christ, and the church’s transforming influence on society has waned.
In Kingdom Triangle, J.P. Moreland issues a call to recapture the drama and power of kingdom living. He examines and provides a penetrating critique of these worldviews and shows how they have ushered in the current societal crisis. He then lays out a strategy for the Christian community to regain the potency of kingdom life and influence in the world. Drawing insights from the early church, he outlines three essential ingredients of this revolution:
- Recovery of the Christian mind
- Renovation of Christian spirituality
- Restoration of the power of the Holy Spirit
He believes that evangelical Christianity can mature and lead the surrounding society out of the meaningless morass it finds itself in with humility and vision.
Table of Contents
- Foreword by Dallas Willard 8
- Acknowledgments 11
- Preface 12
- Part 1 Assessing the Crisis of Our Age
- 1 The Hunger for Drama in a Thin World 17
- 2 The Naturalist Story 38
- 3 The Postmodern Story 64
- 4 From Drama to Deadness in Five Steps 91
- Part 2 Charting a Way Out: The Kingdom Triangle
- 5 The Recovery of Knowledge 111
- 6 Renovation of the Soul 141
- 7 Restoration of the Kingdom's Miraculous Power 165
Conclusion: Confronting the Crisis of Our Age 191
- Postscript: Making New Friends 200
- A Selectively Annotated Bibliography 203
- Endnotes 218
- Indexes 226
The Hunger for Drama in a Thin World
Helen Roseveare is a physician from Northern Ireland who has served as a medical missionary in Zaire, Africa, and the surrounding region for some time. Here, in her own words, is an eyewitness account about a hot water bottle. I would love to sit down with you and ask your honest, unfiltered reaction to this story. Your response would tell me a lot about you-specifically, whether you believe the naturalist, the postmodernist, or the Christian story. But I'm getting ahead of myself. These vastly different perspectives will be the focus of the next three chapters. For now, here is what Dr. Roseveare heard and saw. It's a bit long, but as you will soon see, it's well worth the time.
One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "... and it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. "All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm." The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with many of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chilled. I also told them about the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died. During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt consciousness of our African children. "Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, the baby'll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon." While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, "and while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?" As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything: The Bible says so, but there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator! Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time that I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel! I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone; so, I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then, there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children began to look a little bored. Next came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas-that would make a nice batch of buns for the weekend. As I put my hand in again, I felt the ... could it really be? I grasped it, and pulled it out. Yes, "A brand-new rubber, hot water bottle!" I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, "If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!" Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone: She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, "Can I go over with you, Mummy, and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?" That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday School class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. One of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child-five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "That afternoon!" "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear." Isaiah 65:24
What do you make of this? Your answer will depend, in part, on your worldview. If you are a naturalist, you're likely to think that the story is a fabrication. Dr. Roseveare is either a bald-faced liar or someone with such a desire to promote her religion that she is prone to exaggeration and the selective employment of a self-serving, faulty memory. Or maybe it's just a big coincidence. But a miracle? Nonsense! Such things are unscientific relics of an age gone by.
If you are a postmodernist, you may think that this is just wonderful for Dr. Roseveare, Ruth, the baby, and others close to the story. It's great that these people have their truth, but we all have our story that's true for us, and no one has a corner on this market. It would be intolerant and downright bigoted for Dr. Roseveare to force her beliefs on other people. The story may confirm Dr. Roseveare's truth, but there are lots of other truths out there.
If you are a Christian, you are either incredibly touched and encouraged at this kind act of God, or you are wearied by it. These things happen to other people, you may reason, especially to those on the mission field. They don't happen to my friends or me, so I can't really relate to the story.
Regardless of your worldview, if you read the story carefully and with feeling, there's something about it that's hard to dismiss-it is filled with drama.
We Hunger for Drama
It doesn't really matter who you are or what you believe. You love drama. In fact, you hunger for it. God made you-yes, you-to lead a dramatic life. No doubt you've had this experience at the mall: You are walking by the electronics section of a department store when you come upon a crowd of people gathered around a TV set. It's the bottom of the ninth inning, the home team is down by a run, the bases are loaded with two outs, and the team's leading hitter is at the plate. There's drama in the air and people are compelled to stop to see what happens. From romance novels to Harrison Ford movies to athletic events to tense moments on the evening news, people love to experience drama, even if only vicariously.
I got a taste for drama my senior year in high school. In ninth grade, I was the quarterback of the Grandview Junior High School football team that had one game left on the schedule. A victory-and we would have been the first undefeated team in school history. Though we had the best team, we lost the game on one fluke play to a school we hated: Lees Summit. Our senior year was payback time, and we had worked and waited three years for revenge. We always played Lees Summit the week before the last game of the season, and in my senior year, going into the game, we were tied for first place.
Since it was the biggest game of the week in the Kansas City area, the stadium was packed. As if we weren't excited enough, we learned before the game started that several players from the Kansas City Chiefs were in the stands. Talk about drama! In the face of all this excitement, we managed to stick to our game plan, which worked to near perfection. Lees Summit moved to within two points of us in the first play of the fourth quarter, but we tightened our defense, and they managed to run only two more plays the rest of the game-an incomplete pass and an interception. We went on to win 32 - 18 in, well, dramatic fashion.
Until my junior year in college, I remember longing for that kind of drama again, and I kept the game's memory alive and fed off it. I remember thinking: If only life were like the Lees Summit game. If only there were a quest, a cause, a war, a real and important theater that commanded all I have and for which the stakes are high! Oh, how I wish life could be like that! Why is life so mundane? Why can't daily life be dramatic?
My guess is that in your life you have had your own Lees Summit games, and I suspect you have had this same longing for drama, faint though its realization may seem when your life appears boring and you feel trapped. Many of us have seen a good movie, finished a great novel, or left an invigorating sporting event, only to return to a life we may consider drab compared to the supposed drama we have just experienced vicariously. It is precisely this convergence of two factors-a persistent hunger for drama and a feeling of boredom with our own lives-that creates an addiction to dramatic stories, media-driven celebrities, sports, or other vicarious substitutes for our own authentic drama. This tells us two things: We were made for greatness, but there is something about our culture that undermines both its intelligibility and achievement.
While the hunger for drama gives pangs to us all, our culture is unable to satisfy them. To repeat: The current addiction to the cult of celebrity and professional sports, along with our preoccupation with happiness, tells us something about our true nature and the bankruptcy of our culture. Allow me to explain.
Happiness, Drama, and the Crisis of Western Culture
In 1941, Harvard sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin wrote a book entitled The Crisis of Our Age. Sorokin divided cultures into two major types: sensate and ideational. A sensate culture is one in which people only believe in the reality of the physical universe capable of being experienced with the five senses. A sensate culture is secular, this worldly, and empirical.
By contrast, an ideational culture embraces the sensory world, but goes on to accept the notion that an extra-empirical immaterial reality can be known as well, a reality consisting of God, the soul, immaterial beings, values, purposes, and various abstract objects like numbers and propositions. Sorokin noted that a sensate culture eventually disintegrates because it lacks the intellectual resources necessary to sustain a public and private life conducive of corporate and individual human flourishing. After all, if we can't know anything about values, life after death, God, and so forth, how can we receive solid guidance to lead a life of wisdom and character?