Monday, June 08, 2009

J. P. Moreland Strikes Again

J.P. Moreland, The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2009. Reviewed by Doug Groothuis.

Although J. P. Moreland is a distinguished Christian philosopher who has written numerous academic articles and books at a high academic level, he is also a passionate follower of Christ who wants to ignite that same passion in others. To that end, he has written this remarkable book, which combines philosophical reflection with spiritual instruction.

Moreland begins by reflecting on our quest to be happy and our inability to find genuine satisfaction in life. Social scientists have noted that the incidence of depression has skyrocketed in recent years, even as our standard of living rises. Moreland describes “the empty self” that consumes popular culture in copious quantities, but ends up restless, bored, impatient, and immature. Instead of giving yet more self-help advice, Moreland argues that only a true and rational worldview and wise living based on that worldview can adequately treat the problem of unhappiness.

Therefore, Moreland makes a philosophical and historical case for the Christian God, covering the best of natural theology (cosmological, design, and moral arguments), as well as the historical reliability of the Gospels. But unlike some apologetic approaches, Moreland always has the human subject in view, being concerned to relate the rationality of Christian truth to the individual in search of meaning. Along these lines, his defense of the uniqueness and supremacy of Jesus is closely tied to the human fulfillment found in “the luminous Nazarene,” as he aptly puts it.

The God Question is both warmly personal (featuring a chapter on Moreland’s testimony) and intellectually challenging (although not overly technical). Not content to merely to defend the Christian worldview as intellectually compelling, Moreland beckons the reader to live a Christian life through the spiritual disciplines and an openness to the supernatural work of God. Moreland also gives personal examples of encountering the supernatural power of God and alerts the reader to the realities of spiritual warfare. His excellent discussion of life in the Kingdom of God should inspire and excite the reader to be whole-hearted participant in this wonderful manifestation of God’s rule over a fallen world. (He develops this vital theme more fully in Kingdom Triangle.) The Christian life offers true happiness, in which the entirety of the human person can flourish to the glory of God (see John 10:10).

Moreland calls us to a life of drama and meaning in Christ. He writes wisely about the need to practice self-denial, which can be painful, although it is ultimately the gateway to joy. However, he says little about the Christian’s personal struggle with suffering and evil. While he doesn’t ignore the subject, his practical advice on living the Christian life mentions little about the need for lament, grieving, and suffering well in the presence of God—something we find so often in the Psalms, for example. (This topic is wisely addressed in Michael Card’s book, A Sacred Sorrow.) Of course, one cannot do everything in a medium-sized book, so this is a minor complaint.

May God use this unique and important book to raise up many Christ-followers who desire to develop both a Christian mind and a godly heart.

1 comment:

Dave said...

God bless J.P. Moreland. He's a true champion for the Faith.