J P Moreland
ISBN 9780310274322 (031027432X)
Zondervan, 2007 (237pp)
Every so often a book hits my desk that screams out, “Read me”. I have to admit this happens rarely these days but when it does, it is worth the wait. This is exactly what happened when I got Moreland’s Kingdom Triangle. I’ve been waiting for this kind of book to be published for a while now and am not disappointed. Moreland is an incredibly clear thinker and a superb writer — and more — he manages to combine a pastor’s heart and a prophet’s eye to boot. In addition, each chapter ends with a series of really helpful and not-cheesey questions, thus making it an incredibly good book for a group of folks to study. I have to warn, though, that this book will both thrill and annoy. It will thrill the non-charismatic who likes anything that offers a robust defence of one’s faith but will challenge and even annoy the same reader because of its insistence on the ongoing in-breaking of God’s Kingdom. It will thrill the charismatic for the latter but challenge anyone who is not used to using his or her brain in the process!
In essence, the book falls into two parts. The first is a diagnosis of our western scene — and for those of you who are tired of reading critiques of western culture, this will be a breath of fresh air. I really enjoyed Moreland’s presentation of the western worldview as most of us experience it, whether it be naturalism or postmodernism. At the end of the day neither is able to produce a context within which human beings can live and flourish. Rather, they end up in a kind of ‘deadness of soul’. What I found refreshing was Moreland’s ability to identify (Ch. 4) and describe five paradigm shifts we have all experienced and which shed light on why Christians feel increasingly alien within their own culture.
The second part is Moreland’s response to the problems described in part one. What he does offer are three strategies — or, three aspects of the Kingdom triangle. The first is the recovery of the Christian mind (Ch. 5). I love this — for too long Christians have acted as though the mind is not important – odd thing, really, given that biblical and contemporary opinion is that the only way people change is if they start thinking differently! As such, it is a brilliant rejoinder to mindless Christianity. However, this is not egg-head stuff — Moreland is also interested in the soul — thus Ch. 6 engages the reader with the necessity for spiritual discipline. If you like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, you’ll love this book. The third strategy is what makes this book different from all others like it. Moreland argues for the restoration of the Kingdom’s miraculous power — in plain language this is simply learning to live in and use the Spirit’s power and the authority of the Kingdom of God.
What is especially good about this book is the fact that it does lots of things — it provides a reasoned critique of our culture as well as a robust defence of what Christians believe; it challenges rationalist Christians that their faith has to work, and challenges experiential Christians that their faith has to be reasoned; it reminds us that our minds, our souls and our actions are all part of the Kingdom; and best of all, it really does leave the reader feeling encouraged and inspired once the book is put down. Why not give it a try yourself?
Graham McFarlane, April 2008
Dr Graham McFarlane is Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology at London School of Theology. He says, “I have a passion for getting people to think about what they believe rather than just believing. I also believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only antidote to the problems I see around me but in order for that Gospel to get out and do its stuff there need to be biblically and theologically informed thinking people who don’t mind getting their hands dirty in the process.”