Paul M. Gould & Richard Brian Davis, eds., Loving God With Your Mind: Essays in Honor of J. P. Moreland. Chicago: Moody, December 2013. 272 pp. Paperback, $19.99.
Buy it: Amazon
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Moody for the review copy!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love a good festschrift. If you’re not familiar with German, a festschrift is a collection of essays presented to a scholar on the occasion of his (or her) 65th birthday. Sometimes it’s also on the occasion of retirement, or some other milestone late in a scholarly career.
In this case, the honoree is J. P. Moreland, and the occasion is his 65th birthday (in 2013). The collection is edited by Paul Gould and Richard Brian Davis, and features contributions from Paul Copan, Doug Groothuis, Klaus Issler, R. Scott Smith, Scott B. Rae, and others. The contributions are divided into three parts which correspond with the broad divisions of philosophy. The first section is essays related to metaphysics (“The Building Blocks of The World”), and focuses on Platonism and the soul among other topics. The second section turns to epistemology (“Thinking For Christ in The World”) and deals with a range of topics from natural theology, to rational apologetics, to epistemic virtues. The final section closes with ethics (“Living for Christ in The World”) and discussion ranges from Jesus as a guide to spiritual formation to the importance of self-disclosure in cultural apologetics.
As a whole, this collection has much to offer people interested in philosophy in general and the development of J. P. Moreland’s thought in particular. The latter is seen both in the contributor’s engagement with Moreland’s ideas as well as the fact that he had a significant influence on the contributor’s themselves. I’m not completely on the same page as Moreland, but his Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview significantly influenced my interest in philosophy. I’d like to go back and read it now whenever I get a chance (probably not happening soon), especially after reading some of the essays in this collection.
What I actually found most interesting, and challenging, was some of Moreland’s advice in the afterword. In a section called “The Christian Thinker, Spiritual Formation, and The Cultivation of a Tender Heart,” Moreland suggests that some Christian scholarship is “too self-promoting” and suffers from a deep seated spiritual problem. It seems like he is talking more about Christian scholars who “jump the shark” and try to court the mainstream unbelieving academy, but his advice applies to anyone trying to do Christian scholarship. In fact, it dovetails nicely with some recent blogosphere conversations (like here, here, and here).
Moreland suggests that we need “to engage in serious self-examination on two fronts: commitment to the Lordship of Jesus and the supremacy of His cause, and efforts to sustain one’s first love” (237). Toward this end, Moreland says he regularly looks at Matthew 16:24-27 to examine himself. He also seeks to examine a tender, affectionate heart toward God. He does this several ways:
- Calling God Abba
- Envisioning himself on a blanket in a field and picturing Jesus walking toward him, reaching him, and grabbing his face and telling him that he loves him
- Talking to God hundreds of times a day whenever there is a minute here and there
- Listening to and singing along with praise music in his car
- Spending 5 years in good Christian therapy to learn to live in his heart and feel his feelings
In addition to this, Moreland says that he also tries to regularly practice the disciplines of solitude and secrecy. The solitude he practices 4-5 times weekly for short time periods. As far as the secrecy, he will often refrain “from sharing victories (e.g., a good lecture or something published) with others, even though it would be permissible to do so” (238). In the context of recent conversations on Twitter and blogs (see above), the question isn’t really whether or not you can retweet (or republish) compliments. Rather, I would say it is spiritually healthy to intentionally not share some of what you’re up to in ministry even if it’s really great. I’ve tried to practice this for the past year or more, and I’ve found it beneficial. I’ve had speaking opportunities that went un-Tweeted and un-Instagrammed. I’ve stopped commenting on every free book I get in the mail. Here and there I think I’ve overshared, but I never retweet compliments and don’t necessarily share everything I write online. Though it might be going too far to try to say everyone should try to see how much they can keep a secret, I’ve found that it has helped curb my impulse to share and say “look at me!”
This practicing of secrecy goes hand in hand with the last two considerations that Moreland mentions. The first is placing a priority on cultivating deep, intimate relationships with his wife and a group of safe Christian friends. This helps to keep his focus outward instead of overly inward. The second is practicing gratitude, which takes his focus away from his propensity toward anxiety and depression. The full effect is that you can tell Moreland is not a scholar who worships his curriculum vita, however impressive it might be. In the example he presents, I think we can all, especially those of us pursuing Christian scholarship, can follow.