6. Renovation of the Soul

kt.jpgMoreland, 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.

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In chapter six Moreland presents his remedy to the “empty self” which he defines as: (1) infantile, (2) narcissistic, and (3) passive.  The empty self is opposed to things such as patience and hard work, but instead wants instant gratification.  It is concerned first and foremost with itself, exalting itself above God.  The empty self would rather do nothing than get involved in life.  Moreland’s solution to the problem of the “empty self” is the art of Christian self-denial.  He bases his presentation on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:24-27.  Such a task is concerned with the classic sense of happiness (see review to chapter 4).  Moreland assures us that:

Self-denial in Matthew 16:24-27 does not mean living without the things that bring pleasurable satisfaction. Self-denial certainly does not mean adopting the attitude of putting one’s self down, nor does it mean to get rid of any personal desires. [p. 146]

What self-denial is concerned with, is finding your place in God’s plan and giving yourself over to others for Christ’s sake.  Moreland’s position here is poignant, and Jesus makes the same point when he says that there’s no greater love than to lay down your life for friends (John 15:3).  Often we read that statement and think of Jesus’ death on the cross, which is entirely appropriate, but there is another sense in which we all can lay down our lives for those around us: by setting aside our desires in order to meet the needs of others.

Moreland than gives some instruction for fostering spiritual discipline in ourselves.  His foundational text is Romans 12:1, which is clear enough when read on its own (in my opinion), but Moreland saw fit to offer a redundant example of learning how to play tennis, in order to make the point that Paul made so simply.  I found myself less than impressed with the example, as it actually made it more difficult to understand what Paul was saying.  The redeeming quality of the section is Moreland’s list of spiritual disciplines that he believes we should practice regularly:

disciplines of abstinence: solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy, sacrifice

disciplines of engagement: study, worship, celebration, service, prayer, fellowship, confession, submission [p. 153]

These disciplines help us to address both sins of commission and sins of omission.  Moreland closes the chapter with some tips for cultivating emotional sensitivity to the movement within your soul.  He recommends some books that he considers essential reading on the subject of spiritual formation, as well as expressing the belief that we need to encourage Christian counseling and therapy.  His last point of consideration deals with facilitating meditation in our hearts (as opposed to our heads alone).

To be quite honest, I was very bored with this chapter.  I had to put the book down numerous times and pick up something more stimulating, because I was falling asleep.  When it comes down to it, I think that many of Moreland’s tips are helpful and can be put into practice, but his presentation in this chapter is not as engaging as it has been in the rest of the book.  In a book that I think has been progressively getting better, this chapter stopped the momentum as far as I’m concerned.  Let’s hope that it will pick back up in the final full chapter.


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