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J. P. Moreland: Kingdom Triangle

To this end, J.P, seeks to raise awareness about some major ‘paradigm shifts’ in the thinking of Western society—shifts that have ‘greased the skids from a thick world to a thin one’. The first Moreland discusses is the demotion of religious knowledge to the deliverances of a non-rational ‘faith’. It is commonly believed today that religion ‘is not a domain of fact’ in which one can acquire knowledge, or become expert. Unfortunately Christians, to some extent, have allowed themselves to be coloured by this perspective. J.P objects, for instance, to talk about ‘the integration of faith and learning’—as if the insights gathered from Chemistry or Physics, say, were ‘learning’, and the insights gathered from Scripture and Christian theology were ‘faith’. ‘Christians must stop talking about “belief” in life after death, heaven and hell’, he urges, ‘and must reexpress their views on these and related matters as expression of knowledge of reality’. A second shift J.P identifies is the downgrading of the good life as a life of human flourishing, ‘constituted by intellectual and moral virtue’, to simply the satisfaction of desire. As it was formerly understood, happiness was ‘a life of virtue’ and ‘the successful person was the person who knew how to live a life well according to what we are by nature because of the creative design of God’. It involved ‘suffering, endurance and patience because these are important means to becoming a good person who lives the good life’. All of this, of course, presupposed ‘the availability of the moral and spiritual knowledge needed to grasp the nature of human flourishing and the journey required to achieve it’. The first two shifts are connected, then. And so are the remaining three. ‘Loss of moral knowledge’ has brought about a third ‘shift from a view of the moral life in which duty and virtue are central to a minimalist ethical perspective’, a fourth shift from a ‘classical’ conception of freedom as ‘the power to do what one ought to do’ to freedom construed as ‘the right to do what one wants to do’, and a fifth shift to a new understanding of ‘tolerance’ that is pluralist in nature and ‘fosters moral relativism’. All five of these moves are the concomitants of a more substantive shift away from a Judeo-Christian worldview to a naturalist and postmodern one, proliferating a culture of ‘empty selves’ and producing the Zeitgeist that is ‘killing our lives, our religious fervour, and our relationships’.

The second part of the book seeks to redress the problem, presenting the Kingdom Triangle—and you will have to read the book to get the details! Moreland’s discussion of the ‘recovery of knowledge’ (the first prong of his tripartite vision for the Christian Church) is another philosophically meaty section for the reader to master, discussing the problem of philosophical scepticism, defining knowledge and faith, confronting popular misconceptions in these areas, and laying out a plan for strengthening them both. ‘Appropriate faith’, Moreland explains, ‘is grounded in knowledge and it is as good as its object… It is on the basis of knowledge… that one is able to exhibit the confidence in the respective object or possess a readiness to act as if the relevant proposition is true’. Among other pieces of advice, Moreland urges believers to ‘be ruthless in assessing the precise nature and strength of what you actually believe and develop a specific plan of attack for improvement’.

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Spring 2008

About the Author: W. Simpson, PhD (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), is a physicist and writer with an interest in theology, currently engaged in scientific research in the middle-east.

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