Occasionally someone will ask me to review a book they have written. Recently, an author asked me to read sections of a new book that quote me extensively. He wanted to be sure I approved of the way he had used the quotes.
I speak of Gary Schmidt, and his unpublished manuscript, The All-Means Attitude. In his letter of inquiry, Gary wrote, “In case you were wondering how your book became such an important part of the book, it is because I read your book (Discipling Nations) in Vietnam in the summer of 2011, while I was in preparation for a seminary level course I was going to teach in Hong Kong that Fall. I used your book heavily in the course … and the material from that course became the core of this book.”
I am always amazed how far a idea will travel once you give it away, how a shared concept can impact individual lives and entire ministries. So it was a delight to hear from Gary about the impact Discipling Nations had on his life and thinking. More than that, it prompted him to write his own book, which means the ideas will continue to spread.
Here’s one of Gary’s references to Discipling Nations. In this case, he’s writing about the roots of poverty:
We not only need to understand the external dynamics faced by the various nations of the world, but it is important to understand the internal dynamics of the underlying values and beliefs of the societies being governed. I credit Darrow Miller with helping me bring clarity to a number of vague ideas that have formed over the years of working with and watching people as they pursue their dreams. Miller named his book about development Discipling the Nations. His insight is as profound as it is controversial [Gary’s emphasis]; he asserts that unless people change how they think, truly lasting change for the better in their material circumstances is unlikely. He then goes on to address what some of the fundamental lies are that exist in many cultures that need to be exposed and addressed with Biblical truth before the basic structure of many societies can be truly redeemed.
I responded to Gary by acknowledging that both highlighted adjectives—“profound” and “controversial”—are correct. Many people have found the insights in Discipling Nations to be simple and profound. For many the ideas are life and ministry changing.
On the other hand, the ideas are controversial because many poverty fighters are functioning from an atheist/materialist set of assumptions. Sadly, this is true of many Christians as well as secularists. From a naturalistic perspective, poverty is a physical problem that demands a material cure. The idea that culture or mental strongholds can cause poverty is heresy to many in the poverty-fighting industry.
The historian Thomas Cahill, in his book, The Gift of the Jews, argues that it was the Jews who gave us our world. Cahill says that when God called Abraham, he called him from the grinding poverty and fatalism of the animistic worldview that dominated the ancient world. Abraham not only followed the Voice from Ur of the Chaldees to a desert wandering, he followed the Voice from the prison of animism into the Inner and Outer world of what has become known as the Judeo-Christian worldview. It is this worldview that allows nations to develop not only economically, but socially and politically. I call this metaphysical capital, the wealth of ideas and virtue. It is the capital of the spirit. Metaphysical capital has a greater impact on a nation’s development than material capital.
The Jews gave us a whole new vocabulary, a whole new Temple of the Spirit, an inner landscape of ideas and feelings that had never been known before. Because of their unique belief – monotheism – the Jews were able to give us the Great Whole, a unified universe that makes sense and that, because of its evident superiority as a worldview, completely overwhelms the warring and contradictory phenomena of polytheism. They gave us the Conscience of the West, …
The Jews gave us the Outside and the Inside – our outlook and our inner life. We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes. Most of our best words, in fact – new, adventure, surprise; unique, individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope, justice – are the gifts of the Jews.
Relative to the rest of the world the West has flourished, but not because of more bountiful natural resources; Africa and South America have more abundant natural resources than either Western Europe or North America. No, the West has flourished from the effects of the Judeo-Christian worldview. Gary Schmidt came to understand this. And now he is telling others the secret hidden in plain sight.
- Darrow Miller