Wholeness Revisited

My article in the latest issue of Reformed Faith and Practice is adapted from a talk I gave about the theological themes that undergird the thesis of my book The Wholeness Imperative. What does Deuteronomy 6 anticipate about the future and how do later prophets receive its teaching?

The original talk was given at the Paideia Conference in RTS Orlando this past January.

Fragmentation is a problem in today’s culture, isn’t it? It’s not just in the large intellectual property reboots that we see going on the big screen, reboots that create new universes that may not continue or even corroborate the narrative of the told in the previous universe (e.g. what does Sony’s Spiderman have to do with the MCU? What does Rogue One have to do with A New Hope? These are life’s pressing questions). More seriously, however, we see fragmentation troubling us at every level of society. This can happen in new and innovative ways.

Here are a few more significant examples. If you’ve paid attention to the conversation about gender and sexuality these days, you know about this idea that who I am on the inside is not who I am on the outside. that reality has created some kind of irreconcilable conflict or “dysphoria” – the inner person and the outer person being two different people. It’s a common trope in our daily conversation and sort of incipient Gnosticism at that. Fragmentation can show up in other ways, in typical technological innovations. We talk about our virtual lives, maybe our social media handles, and then we compare that to how we are IRL, “In Real Life.” I heard someone refer to it as the “meat world.” How I am in the meat world is very different from how I am in social media. And you start creating a bifurcation of the self between your virtual presence and your physical, carnal body.

It can happen to all of us, particularly those of us in ministry. How can I keep myself sane and protect my family when I go home to my wife and five daughters, the youngest ones still running to the door to greet me, after counseling someone who is undergoing deep personal stress? How do I receive them after just having had that conversation? There’s got to be some kind of blocking mechanism. I’ve got to compartmentalize. It’s a technical solution to a basic problem of finitude. And yet we shouldn’t forget when we fall into those habits, even if something like compartmentalization or multitasking, we set ourselves on a trajectory that we need to be mindful of. It’s easy to become fragmented.

We know where fragmentation came from. It’s no mystery. We can go back to the garden and we can see what happened right after that first moment of fragmentation, where the man and the woman living in perfect harmony with the kingly-creator turned away to create a little fiefdom of their own. It is at that point that we actually learn something very important about fragmentation in the human: fragmentation regularly and necessarily results in concealment and deceit. Following your first parents, where do you go? You hide, you obfuscate when you are questioned, you blame others. We are going to see these questions come up over and over and over again in Scripture. It’s the problem of fragmentation.

Read the rest here.