Today I want to begin a series of posts dealing with Kingdom Triangle by J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. The three points of the triangle are: Recover the Christian mind, renovate the soul, and restore the Spirit’s power.
Chapter 1 is entitled “The Hunger for Drama in a Thin World”
Chapter one is about our desire for drama. We like it. We crave it. We desire it. We’ll do much to have it. Often times we fall short. It fuels our passion for great movies, good novels and exciting sporting events (or… artsy stuff too I suppose). We watch, read and attend, but then go back to a life that quite frankly seems boring and dull. J.P. Moreland writes:
It is precisely this convergence of two factors – a persistent hunger for drama and a feeling of boredom with our own lives – that creates and 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, (pg. 21).
Herein lies the problem – we live in what Moreland describes as a “sensate” culture in the West. This is where people only “believe in the reality of the physical universe capable of being experienced with the five senses.”
Contrast that with an “ideational” culture which embraces not only the sensory world, but goes further and accepts the idea that an extra-empirical, immaterial reality can be know as well. This would consist of spiritual and abstract things.
Out of this sensate culture comes the rejection of any empirical knowledge not gained by “hard sciences”. Non-empirical claims are regulated to the level of private feelings.
Moreland also notes that there is a three-way struggle between three prevalent worldviews: ethical monotheism, postmodernism, and scientific naturalism.
Scientific naturalism takes the view that the physical cosmos studied by science is all there is. It has two basic components – a view of reality and a view of how we know things. Postmodernism represents a form of cultural relativism about such things as reality, truth, reason, value, linguistic meaning, and the self. To someone who holds a postmodern view there is no such thing as objective reality. Under the influence of naturalistic and postmodern ideals, Moreland contends, many people no longer believe that there is any meaning to life that can be known.
The pursuit of happiness becomes the focus of life, but people who live this way, who live for happiness become “empty selves.” A question lingers when the focus is on this pursuit. Where’s the larger purpose? Drama is lacking. This leads to what Moreland calls, “a thin world,” a world where there is no objective value, purpose or meaning.
The implications of this world according to Moreland are:
- Nothing is important enough to rise above the level of custom.
- Absent of objective and ultimate meaning and purpose and value there can be no real drama in a thin world.
- No objective difference between Mother Teresa and someone who devotes his life to being the best male prostitute he can be.
In contrast, a thick world is a world in which there is such a thing as objective values, purpose and meaning. In this world some things matter and others don’t. Some things are right and others are wrong.
There is one worldview that is true and therefore superior to all others – thick or thin – and it provides the only hope of living in a thick world, I’m speaking of a Judeo-Christian worldview – more specifically, the worldview of mere Christianity, (pg. 29).
Moreland contends the centers of power in Western culture and dominated by naturalism and postmodernism, they can not sustain the drama necessary for their own work to have the meaning they so desperately desire. Western culture lacks the resources necessary to diagnose and properly solve the serious spiritual, economic, political, and moral problems of the age.
In a thin world, religions is not the sort of thing that can be true. Religion is merely a cultural, social phenomenon to be analyzed by sociologists.
So understood, religion is a hobby to be subsumed under the demands of secular democracy, not something to be taken seriously, (pg. 31).
Moreland claims that the only way the we can break free of the confines of a thin world and experience the riches of the only thick world that is true is to reject naturalism and postmodernism in favor of the perspective of the Kingdom of God and the worldview of Jesus Christ and Scripture, (pg. 32).
There are five questions that Moreland states should be put to any worldview:
- What is real?
- What are the nature and limits and knowledge?
- Who is well-off? What is the good life?
- Who is a really good person?
- How does one become a really good person?
We can see the reality of the worldview battle when we look at the origins of life debate – proponents of evolution dismiss the theory of intelligent design saying it lacks “hard sciences”.
I also have seen the reality of “empty selves” with kids that I have worked with in detention. The pursuit of happiness, of immediate gratification, has left kids shallow, empty. It is often at that time where they realize that there has to be more to life than this endless pursuit. That was true of me when I was in college and realized there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing. It was then I started looking into the claims of Jesus Christ.
Why do you think we crave drama? Do you agree or disagree with Moreland when he says that true drama is impossible in a thin world? Why? How would you answer the five worldview questions in light of your worldview?