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Kingdom Triangle

Here is penetrating analysis and critique of Western society’s dominant worldviews, naturalism and postmodernism, which have also influenced the church. Moreland issues a bold call to reclaim powerful kingdom living and influence through recovery of the Christian mind, renovation of Christian spirituality, and restoration of the Holy Spirit’s power. “Preachers need to understand the culture, but even more they need to have tools for leading their people out of the cultural confusion that characterizes our age. J. P. Moreland has provided a powerful guide for pastors….This is an important book for church leaders.” ~ Preaching magazine

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

Chapter One

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?

 


In:
Sanctification

About JP Moreland

With degrees in philosophy, theology and chemisty, Dr. Moreland brings erudition, passion, and his distinctive ebullience to the end of loving God with all of one's mind. Moreland received his B.S. in Chemistry (with honors) from the University of Missouri, his M.A. in Philosophy (with highest honors) from the University of California, Riverside, his Th.M. in Theology (with honors) from Dallas Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Southern California. Dr. Moreland has taught theology and philosophy at several schools throughout the U.S. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology.