My paper was read at an academic conference for an audience of professors. Thus, precision was a premium. It was not intended for a lay audience because lay folk have a tendency---and this is not meant to be harsh—of running with ideas beyond the context in which they were originally given. A professorial friend of mine preached at a church I used to attend and argued that, while he was totally against condom distribution in the public schools, nevertheless, a widely used argument by Evangelicals was a bad argument, and he showed why. After the service, I personally heard several parishioners criticize him for promoting condom distribution in the schools!
While I am sure it was well intended, the CT editor’s summary of my paper is generally fair (though the use of “bibliolatry” in the title is a bit sensationalistic—I used it once in my paper and clarified it’s meaning by the over-commitment claim), but it is still a summary, and as such, did not and could not provide the needed context for understanding my paper. What followed was a large number (but by no means all) of misleading, irrelevant and tangential comments that had little and, often, nothing to do with my paper.
In the paper, I make clear that no one could be over-committed to the Bible (the inerrant Word of God) in loving, promoting and seeking to obey it. By over-commitment, I mean specifically that too many Evangelicals do not believe we can have extra-biblical knowledge or justified beliefs about God, morality, and other important, related matters: e.g., the existence of God and some of his attributes; the nature of the moral law and some of the absolutes that constitute it; the nature of the human soul and its functional relationships to the brain, parenting, defense mechanisms, childhood development, etc.; the reality of demons and important information about how they work in a specific culture along with important and effective ways to deal with them; and God’s guidance and speaking though impressions, circumstances, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom, dreams, and so forth. In all these cases, information that is contrary to scripture is to be rejected, but extra-biblical truth and the knowledge thereof is very, very important.
We are harming people terribly, we are embarrassing the cause of Christ, and we are failing to help people appropriate and wisely use these sources of information when we are over-committed to the Bible in and only in the precise sense I define in the paper. It is time for us to mature as a community in this way and overcome the secularist socialization that lead to our over-commitment, a position that I claim in the paper cannot be justified biblically or theologically. Does anyone seriously think that non-Christians who have never seen a Bible have no knowledge of God or the moral law? That folk in Brazil have no knowledge of how demons work even though they have never seen a Bible? That God never speaks to people and guides them in ways that carry an appropriate degree of authority in their lives (under scripture and to the degree they are justified in believing it was God who was guiding them)? Are there abuses in all these areas? Of course, but that was not part of my talk which was, after all, a mere 40 minutes including Q & A!! Besides, the proper response to abuse is not Ostrich-like denial of the reality of these areas of knowledge, but rather, wise and mature usage. Am I becoming a Catholic? I am a Protestant Evangelical of the Third Wave sort, and I have no inclination whatever to change my views on that. Finally, my paper should not be faulted for not addressing things for which I had no time or which I was simply not addressing. Nor should people fault me for a lack of clarity or charge me with “having plenty of explaining to do” when my paper is, in fact, quite clear within the limited scope of my intentions. And please do not attribute to me views or implication that I do not hold or draw.
I am posting a version of my paper on the website for my book: www.kingdomtriangle.com. I would also recommend reading my book Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan; just released about 6 months ago) for additional discussion and bibliography about how to avoid abuses in employing the sorts of extra-biblical knowledge I mention in the paper.
... after carefully reading Kingdom Triangle, I cannot help but think in terms of comparison and contrast to the latter ministry efforts of the late Francis Schaeffer. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me that Kingdom Triangle is parallel in certain ways to Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto, notably in the probing cultural critique it provides roughly a generation after Schaeffer’s piercing and passionate appeal.
However, there is also a huge difference between the two authors and their two timely volumes. Schaeffer’s appeal was for evangelicals to proceed to reclaim the culture from the standpoint of having the proper view of truth and the gospel. Moreland rightly says the church not only possesses the truth and the gospel, but also the power of the Spirit.
As I close, it is worth asking: Was Francis Schaeffer’s challenge in A Christian Manifesto largely greeted by yawns because the evangelical church had become so worldly and comfortable, or because it had become so fleshly (i.e., out of touch with the Holy Spirit)? My answer is “Yes”–it was worldly and comfortable, without a doubt; but it was, and has largely remained, under the control of the flesh, not the Spirit.
Like Francis Schaeffer before him, J.P. Moreland has laid out why our culture is philosophically bankrupt and religiously confused. But, unlike Schaeffer, he has offered not just a clarion call to get off our collective spiritual rear ends, but also a power source that can sustain any individual and corporate transformation that must take place.
I salute this Spirit-led calculated risk of one of evangelicalism’s great minds and hearts (thank you, J.P.!). He has spoken the truth in love, knowing full well that, since those who short-sightedly cling to the fleshly status quo cannot adequately answer his powerful message, they will (and already do) savagely attack the messenger. Why has he done so, then? Because he is trusting the Lord to use his Spirit-led message to awaken many others who will choose to walk in faith, in the power of the Spirit, seeking to be spiritual transformation agents in the spheres of influence where the Lord has placed them. May the Lord multiply their–our–tribe!
While I find many of the biblical and theological arguments of cessationism compelling, I would be the first to admit that the primary reason I remain a cessationist is because I have never experienced any miracles, signs, or wonders and I have never seen or heard of a legitimate prophet. If someone were to ask me if I believe that God is still speaking through prophets and giving the gift of healing, I would confess my tentative cessationist beliefs. I have never seen nor heard of a prophet or divine healer, but this does not mean that God is not or cannot work in such a way today.
"Recovering the Christian mind, renovating the soul, seeing again the Spirit's power: in a world grown thin, Kingdom Triangle offers real substance. I expect that twice through this book will not be enough for me--I'll back in it again before much time goes by."- Interesting reviews on Amazon.com
"I highly recommend KINGDOM TRIANGLE to anyone sensing that something is lacking in modern American churches and who wish a new perspective on how to renovate their own hearts individually and the church corporately. In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that its thesis was the primarily topic in a sermon I recently preached as a guest speaker."- Dan Story"This book profoundly disturbed me. It brought to light many things within myself that I had known but managed to never directly addressed.
I am a avid fan of J.P. Moreland, and as such there was not much in this book that I was not already familiar with, including many of the examples. Around pg 130 or so the stuff that distinguishes this book as different from his others crops up. There is one page in that book that I find to be worth the price of the book alone. And that is in distinguishing between what one says they believe and on the surface claims to believe, with what they actually believe. It helped me to realize that for all practical purposes I had been living like a functional deist.
I don't know what to do with some of the latter chapters and it will require a lot of reflection, but I think this is also one of the books greatest strengths, in putting something in front of virtually everyone that will challenge them to analyze themselves, and where they are at with God."- D. Westfall
"We avoided discussing areas of difference between Catholics and us Evangelicals, and for the purposes of the show, focused on the three legs of the triangle. It was a wonderful time and I am sure it will open avenues for Kingdom Triangle into the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox branches of the church."
"As always, Koukl did a masterful job of directing the interview towards the central themes of the topic. We spent a good bit of time on the worldview issues surrounding the impact of naturalism and postmodernism and the acceptance of non-empirical knowledge and we talked about how to recover the idea that Christianity is not only true, but it can be known to be true. This subject is the focus of three chapters in Kingdom Triangle and, to my knowledge, the salient points are not available currently in other books, including my own. It was important for Koukl to focus on this as he did. We went on to talk about spiritual formation and Kingdom power in ways that respond to mis-informed criticism of Evangelical appropriation of these matters."
"First, believers from the Third Wave and Charismatic/Pentecostal branches of the church are open to and hungry for the life of the mind. Too often, however, those who value the intellectual life ridicule or are antagonistic towards folks in these branches. This has to stop. We can have principled disagreements but don't need to get nasty. Moreover, those outside these branches who value the life of the mind can minister to these believers if they will reach out to them in spite of difference theologically. Second, People are not used to seeing Christian intellectuals who are also interested in and actually practice spiritual formation and ministering out of the supernatural aspects of the Kingdom. Several told me that it was refreshing and, indeed, paradigm-altering to see a book - Kingdom Triangle - that breaks stereotypes and embraces all three legs of the triangle.
"Why can't one be intellectually careful, emotionally together, and comfortable with a life of intimacy with God and a vibrant inner life, and one who is learning to be naturally supernatural?" (page 196)How do you respond? How does this quote rub you? (The comments feature is enabled on this blog post).
"If you only read one book by a philosopher this summer, read Kingdom Triangle. You’ll be impressed by J.P.’s grasp of the issues, the sweep of his critique of contemporary thought, and the laser-like focus of his recommendations. You’ll also be amazed to hear a philosopher speaking so personally, clearly, and boldly about the practical way out of our contemporary intellectual, moral, and spiritual morass."
"Moreland is his usual straight-up-get-a-life self in calling the followers of Christ to stop making excuses for insipidity in the spiritual life and roll up their sleeves and get to work on the disciplines needed to renew our souls."
"When J.P. and I were in college together, I suppose he would have been right above me in my list of guys least likely to do anything really too serious in Christian work. His life is proof that God can change anyone who has a willing heart. What a delight it is to see him standing forth as an accomplished voice of reason, spirit, and truth against the fleeing darkness of radical unbelief. J.P. Moreland has much to teach us, and Kingdom Triangle is as good a place to begin going to school with him as any he has written yet."
"[Moreland] takes the reader on a journey to pursue a life that is well lived, consisting of virtue and character, and one that manifests wisdom, kindness, and goodness."
"For many years, JP has been known for his commitment to restoring clear thinking and the importance of the mind to evangelical Christianity - so he has a lot of credibility when he speaks of the other legs of the triangle. First of all, its clear that he's thought these issues through carefully. Second, anyone who's been interested in apologetics and clear thinking (or encounters such people) has to take care to keep a tender heart and emotional balance. In this regard, JP's insights and exhortations are much appreciated. Third, I think Christians appreciate a way to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Body today that doesn't leave behind clear thinking and is not superstitious or sensational."
"The time was shockingly wonderful. I love the dear folks at Rock Harbor and have the utmost respect for Mike Erre and the other staff--they are all so dear to me. I had rich interaction with dozens and dozens of folks, and I believe the Lord Jesus was pleased with the time. I am encouraged that we sold 800 copies of Kingdom Triangle because this is sure to impact the church and spread from there to other churches."
In the book of Acts and the first four centuries of the church before she became too "successful" and too "organized," the three legs of the Kingdom Triangle were the central aspects to church planting, evangelism, spiritual growth, and discipleship. And it's extremely important that all three are valued, wisely practiced, sought, and taught as part of the church's self-identity. If we have a recovery of the Christian mind and of theology as a source of knowledge and not merely true belief without the cultivation of an inner tenderness and an affective, mystical spiritual life, we become arrogant, we live in our heads, and we try to control things too much. If we have inner-life spiritual disciplines and formation without Kingdom power, it can degenerate into a Christianized self-help program. If we have Kingdom power without the life of the mind, it can become anti-intellectual, extremist, and harmful.
Over 400 copies of the book were sold at the event. Several people purchased multiple copies for group study and to give as graduation and Father's Day gifts. JP stressed the importance of not merely reading Kingdom Triangle, but actually studying it, arguing over its ideas, and strategically finding ways and means to implement its ideas into our individual lives and churches. The end-of-chapter study questions aid in this endeavor.
Kingdom Triangle is not just a manifesto to the church, but it reveals the sort of values and priorities that will occupy JP Moreland for the rest of his life. For example, he intends to spend the rest of his life calling the church to "recover her confidence that she is in possession of spiritual and ethical knowledge about reality." He stressed that we should read scripture and study theology because it actually gives us knowledge about reality and not merely the means to form privately held true beliefs. Moreland also intends to spend the rest of his life encouraging us to pay attention to the formation of our heart in cooperation with the Spirit's work "so that we don't become people who are content to live in our heads" while our souls and relationships remain unformed or even malformed. Finally, yet importantly for JP, "restoring the Spirit's power" to our individual lives and our gathering as the church is absolutely essential if we are to meaningfully live in the fullness of God's Kingdom.
"Each year, I ask myself this question: How much of my life and ministry last year required the existence of the Christian God to explain it? How much would have happened if God did not exist? Here's the point: Life in the Kingdom - corporately in our churches and individually - is a supernatural collaborating with God in which we both matter. I matter because God wants to use me and you. But I should also expect and look for where the Kingdom is breaking out around and in my life and I should expect that the effects produced by my life and efforts should not be explainable solely by my talent."
The evening ended with a brief time for Q&A and a book signing. But as people were leaving the event, some people were receiving healing prayer and encouragement from some of JP's closest friends who fellowship at his home church, the Anaheim Vineyard. In one sense, offering opportunity to receive prayer at a "book release" event is unconventional. But then again, JP's Kingdom Triangle is not a conventional book about the "cultural crisis" or the solution to that crisis. Giving people opportunity to be encouraged in prayer complimented the heart of the event, which was about casting a vision of the Kingdom that includes a confident expectation of God to "show-up and demonstrate his power and presence in our midst."
The 5/29 event was hosted by the Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University. JP acknowledged that they are a first-rank source for maturing and being equipped as a disciple in the Kingdom. They also have the largest collection of JP Moreland audio. For a listing of their audio collection, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ultimately, the vision for Christianity that Dr. Moreland outlines–a vision, he points out, which is not original to him–demands that each of us grow in our areas of weakness. We are, I think, better at some legs of the triangle than others. But Dr. Moreland challenges us to recognize that having one or two of the legs is not enough if we wish to be robust and effective proponents of the Gospel. We must recover all three if we wish to rescue the Church from cultural impotence, and discover the sort of dramatic lifestyles for which we were created.