Moreland, J. P.
Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. Pp. 237. Hardcover. $19.99.
In chapter four Moreland turns his attention to five paradigm shifts that he believes have played a part in deadening our souls to some extent. The first shift is from knowledge to faith. He gives a hilarious example, using Oprah Winfrey and a show she did after the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks to make his point that when dealing with what people recognize as objective fact, they seek the expert opinions of those who know about the suject. But when it comes to Oprah’s urging people to seek God, she urged them to look inside and seek “whatever he, she, it, or they mean to you.” [p. 92] The point that Moreland makes is that in such thinking, “[r]eligious claims are neither factual in nature nor subject to rational evaluation.” [p. 92] Everyone’s feelings are as valid as everyone else’s.
The second shift is from human flourishing to satisfaction of desire. Here Moreland notes that happiness at one time meant (and truly still does mean) human flourishing. It was “understood as a life of virtue and the successful person was the person who knew how to live life well according to what we are by nature [. . .] So understood, happiness involves suffering, endurance, and patience…” [p. 94] This has been replaced by a “feeling close to pleasure.” [p. 95] Such a view of happiness is selfish and narcissistic and is a “result of the loss of moral and spiritual knowledge.” [p. 95]
The third shift is duty and virtue to minimalist ethics. Here Moreland argues that “knowledge of duty and virtue is no longer seen as a possibility.” [p. 96] The minimalist ethic is that “[o]ne may morally act in any way one chooses so long as one does not do harm to others.” [p. 96] He sees the underlying problem as the “loss of belief . . . in the existence of nonempirical, nonscientific knowledge, especially moral and religious knowledge.” [p. 97]
The fourth shift is from classic freedom to contemporary freedom. He states that “classicaly, freedom meant the power to do what one ought to do.” [p. 98] So freedom in life is when one lives how they out to live, which is according to God’s plan for their life. But contemporary freedom is has “come to be understood as the right to do what one wants to do.” [p. 99] He argues that according to this view of freedom, adults should be able to have sex with minors simply because they want to. He acknowledges that some might argue against this, saying that minors are not mature enough to give informed consent, but he counters this argument by pointing out that minors aren’t old enough to give informed consent to things like receiving vaccinations or going to school. His point is that without moral absolutes, it’s nearly impossible to make such judgments. I think his argument is extremely potent here.
The final shift is from classic tolerance to contemporary tolerance. It is on this point that Moreland is at his best. He notes the downfalls to individual moral relativism (subjectivism) and cultural moral relativism (conventionalism) by exposing how such concepts don’t work when one is a part of more than one culture with different morals. For example:
If a man from [society] A has extramarital sex with a woman from [society] B in a hotel in a third society C with a different view from either A or B, which is the relevant society for determining whether the act was right or wrong? [p. 101]
He also brings up a good point in that in such morally relativistic societies, moral reform is impossible because moral reformers would always be going against the grain of the society, which defines the morality. I think Moreland’s arguments are valid, and as such, I believe this is the best chapter I have read so far. He has set the stage for suggesting a solution, the so-called “Kingdom Triangle” which he will spend the next three chapters explaining.