This Frank and Ernest cartoon captures my aspiration for the Darrow Miller and Friends blog. The chick escapes the confines of its shell to experience the broader world for the first time: “Oh Wow! Paradigm Shift!” I want my readers to experience reality like this chick did.
Years ago, after a good friend watched me teach, she declared, “Darrow, you are a passionate paradigm shifter.” I had never heard that before, but on reflection, I concluded she was right. At least in the public arena, I have an unlikely ability to shift people’s paradigms. This is my passion.
Darrow Miller and Friends is my humble attempt to use the written word to create a space for readers to reflect deeply on important matters, to begin to see things in a different light, to have an “AHA!” moment, like that little chick.
Too often we live in the small boxes of our own minds, minds shaped by our culture. These boxes limit our vision for the life God intended. We were created by God to live in the wide circle of His creation in relationship with the Trinitarian community. We were made for worship.
Unfortunately, individuals and cultures rebel against the Creator and His primary creation, i.e. reality. When that happens, we continue to worship, but instead of worshiping God, we worship the things God made.
As the Apostle Paul boldly proclaims, “They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:23ff) We turn from the worship of the glorious Creator to the worship of man – pagan humanism, or the worship of nature – pagan animism.
Nicodemus needed a paradigm shift
When we worship created things rather than their Maker we live in worlds of our own making, worlds of illusion. These worlds are small compared to the Primary Reality; they enslave and impoverish individuals, communities, and nations. We don’t see the broad world—Jesus called it the kingdom of God. We are like Nicodemus, to whom Jesus said, Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3 ESV). And that includes having a born-again mind.
Reality, created by God, is the environment in which our lives will flourish.
At Darrow Miller and Friends, we use words to try to shift paradigms. We want to help people escape the puny boxes that enslave minds (Paul calls them “strongholds” in 2Cor 10:4) into the broad and glorious world of reality (like the chick escaping the egg). We seek to create a window on an “alternative universe,” that universe where we were hardwired to live and thrive.
The tag line for the blog is “Reflections on the power of truth to transform culture.” That phrase corresponds with the theme of my first book, Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture.
Here’s the story behind that tagline.
When I was a young man, my heart was broken by the plight of the poor. I had traveled to Mexico City, lived in an orphanage for six weeks and saw poverty up-close and personal. I came under conviction that I needed to do something about what I had seen.
So I began to engage in the world of poverty, eventually joining an international non-profit organization. At the time, I considered myself an evangelical socialist: I was a Christian who thought that the problems of poverty were solved by redistributing resources.
Over the course of a number of years of traveling around the world with this organization, I came to realize that the root of poverty was not a lack of resources. The root of poverty was a “web of lies.” When people believe these lies they become enslaved in poverty and under-development.
Nations need a paradigm shift
I came to see that the key to solving poverty had more to do with truth than money, was more about the worldview of a people than their resource base. I recognized that moral and metaphysical capital is more important than physical capital for lifting people out of poverty. I came to see that for nations to develop towards their God-given potential, they needed a paradigm shift.
In reality, truth transforms culture.
Individuals and cultures have slipped their moorings. These need to be restored. We need to see God for who He is and reality the way He has made it.
When we move from an illusion to reality, from lies to truth, we move toward the ultimate objective of human flourishing. Individuals, families, communities and nations have been made to thrive, not fail.
When we witness the failure of an individual who has succumbed to addiction, of families that are broken and shattered, of communities in conflict or entire nations that have failed, my heart is heavy. It brings me great joy to see people reach their God-given potential, a process that begins with a new way of thinking (again, a paradigm shift). It is to see God glorified and “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Here are a few examples of paradigms that need shifting:
One of the greatest causes of poverty in the world is the lie that “men are superior to women.” This lie leads to physical and emotional abuse of women, sex slavery, female infanticide and a world population that is missing 200,000,000 women. The truth is that women and men are both made in the image of God and are thus equal in dignity and worth.
- Another dysfunctional paradigm is what I call the sacred/secular divide. Many evangelical and charismatic Christians practice a way of thinking inherited from the ancient Greeks, a Gnosticism that separates the physical from the spiritual, the secular from the sacred. The church has reduced the Great Commission to simply saving souls for heaven, and has become a place to go for meetings. The church that Jesus sent to disciple the world has been reduced to a Sunday gathering. Christianity has retreated from the public square; it is largely irrelevant to our daily work. This paradigm needs to be shattered and replaced with the comprehensive, biblical worldview. It’s time for a “Monday church” paradigm that equips Christians to live out their faith in the marketplace and public square.
- In the area of poverty and development, we need to distinguish between Need Based Development (NBD) and Asset Based Development (ABD). In engaging a community where poverty is rampant, which is the better question: “What do you need to develop your community? or “What do you have to develop your community?”
NBD creates expectations that a community of poor people cannot develop without outside resources. ABD helps people to see the resources they already have in their community that they can use to develop their own lives. Need Based Development tends to empower the outsiders. Asset Based Development tends to empower individuals and communities to lift themselves out of poverty. This is an example of the power of a paradigm shift.
This blog exists to encourage paradigm shifts. Our desire is not to win arguments, not even to reach agreement necessarily. In one sense we seek emancipation, seeing people set free from those things that diminish and enslave. Ultimately our desire is to see the culture of the kingdom—truth, beauty and goodness—increasingly become the transforming standard of our lives and actions.
- Darrow Miller