Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

God boggles the mind.

Written by: on April 9, 2024

thinking hard

Understanding the complexities that Matthew R. Petrusek explores in ‘Evangelization and Ideology’ requires more than a mere week’s dedication to reading. He digs deeply, providing a guide to finding God within the political culture that surrounds us.”

He writes to analyse four of the major secular ideologies of our day, namely, Utilitarianism, Classical liberalism, Progressivism (wokeism) and Non-theistic conservativism. The book is heavy but offers insightful thoughts as he plumbs the depths of the ideologies above to posit his view that these ideologies make evangelism possible. His book encourages the evangelist to steel their nerves[1] whilst offering tips on how to “have a decent shot at conversing with detractors in a way that doesn’t leave hearts (including our hearts) more hardened.”[2]

Before looking at a few aspects of the book that motivate the Christian in active, healthy debate, I was struck by his placement of God in the mix of political culture. My Dad, an excellent preacher and theologian, often declared that God “Boggles the mind.” By that, he meant that the more you get to know God, the more there is to know, and the more impressive you understand Him to be. Quoting Robert Barron, Petrusek writes, “Authentic faith is not… infrarational, it is suprarational.”[3] The definition of God in the suprarational perfectly places Him in the middle of the political culture while maintaining his pre-eminence “Far above all things.”[4] I love that Petrusek acknowledges the Suprarational nature of faith amid the gritty, political, and ideological debates. Not only does this honour God in the middle of all things, but also, for those who need it, it provides an opt-out in dialogue, a resolution to all discussions that finishes with “God boggles the mind!”

One of the great lessons Petrusek delivers in his book is successfully engaging in argument. His conviction that we can argue better has several facets.

At first glance, the idea that we should engage in more arguments[5] might seem concerning, yet it holds considerable merit. In a society fraught with identity politicking and offence-taking through ideas/words that challenge someone’s personhood, perhaps more, not less, arguments will enable society to become more resilient. The fear is that “speaking your mind will carry some risk,”[6] but as Petrusek supposes, “We’d be fighting less if we are having more arguments with each other.”[7]

Secondly, Petrusek introduces a foundational concept for constructive argument, presenting four initial choices: “You can run. You can submit. You can bloody your knuckles. Or you can craft a better argument to make your case boldly.”[8] Reflecting on these choices through my own experiences, I’ve embraced each option at different times. Among these strategies, “crafting a better argument” emerges as the most virtuous, fostering personal growth and potentially benefiting others. This method also naturally leads to opportunities for evangelisation.

Thirdly, it is helpful to know that a well-researched idea presented during an argument allows the respondent to follow one of the options outlined above similarly. They can run (you win the argument but not a friend). They can submit (which, if done correctly, is the ideal conclusion to the argument). They can bloody their knuckles (in which case no one wins). Or they can respond with a better argument (in which your life is enriched if you are wrong and they are correct).

Fourthly, argument and emotion usually go together. It is difficult to discuss issues surrounding political culture (or any issue for that matter) without the inevitable emotional outburst from one of the respondents. Emotions are often rooted in the failed view that we must always be correct. Friedman says, “The acceptance and even cherishing of uncertainty is critical to keeping the human mind from voyaging into the delusion of omniscience.”[9] Petrusek’s placement as God and faith as Suprarational here is critical. While we are often wrong, there is One who is always right.

Fifthly, Petrusek’s concept of “thinking in circles”[10] emphasises the iterative process of reflection, discussion, and reinterpretation through the seven domains of politics, applied morality, morality, epistemology, anthropology, ontology and theology, which allows for deeper reasoning and understanding of beliefs and values within individuals and communities. By embracing a non-linear way of reasoning, Petrusek challenges the conventional linear narratives that often dominate ideological discourses, facilitating a more holistic and inclusive engagement with diverse perspectives and creating environments where genuine dialogue and transformative learning can occur.

Considering his background, it is encouraging, but not surprising, that Petrusek acknowledges the place of theology in all things. Theology, which was historically referred to as the “Queen of the Sciences”[11] by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica[12] written between 1265 and 1274, has been relegated by universities and academics alike as the scientific age of reason continues to thrive. In Great Britain, many universities have closed the Biblical and Theological departments or vastly reduced them due to the limited appeal in society. In “Applying gravity”[13] to thinking in circles and with a more traditional hierarchical diagrammatic model,[14] Petrusek rightfully positions Theology as the foundation upon which all the other domains lay. He defines theology as, “What is the nature of ultimate reality, or, put differently, what is the condition for the possibility of existence itself.”[15]

I wonder if society allowed God to boggle the mind again and place theology as the foundation of all discourse; perhaps we would live in a more loving, forgiving world—a new Garden of Eden.

[1] Petrusek, Matthew R. Evangelization and Ideology: How to Understand and Respond to the Political Culture. Park Ridge, Il.: Word on Fire, 2023. 446.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 22.

[4] Holy Bible: New International Version. Ephesians 1:21. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

[5] Petrusek, 21.

[6] Mounk, Yascha. The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2023. 272.

[7] Petrusek, 21.

[8] Ibid, 39.

[9] Friedman, Edwin H., and Peter Steinke. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th Anniversary edition. New York: Church Publishing, 2017. 52.

[10] Petrusek, 44.

[11] Thompson, Claude H. “The Queen of the Sciences.” The Asbury Journal, 1949. https://place.asburyseminary.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2248&context=asburyjournal.

[12] Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica. New edition. Westminster, Md: Ave Maria Press, 2000.

[13] Petrusek, 59.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid, 45.

About the Author


Glyn Barrett

I am the founding, Lead Pastor of !Audacious Church in Manchester, England. I was born in Manchester, but moved to Australia at the age of two. My wife and I were married in Australia and began married and ministry life in England 28 years ago. After serving as youth pastors for 12 years, we moved to Manchester to pioneer !Audacious Church. As a church we now have 7 locations. 3 in Manchester, Chester, Cardiff (Wales), Sheffield, and Geneva (Switzerland). In 2019 I became the National Leader of Assemblies of God in Great Britain. We have over 600 churches in our movement and have planted 50 new churches since May 2022 with a goal of planting 400 new churches between May 2022 and May 2028. I am the European Lead for MM33, which is the church planting ministry for Assemblies of God Global and also chair Empowered21 Western Europe. I'm happily married to Sophia, with two children, one dog and two motorbikes. I love Golf, coffee and spending time with friends. Looking forward to meeting you all, and creating new friendships.

8 responses to “God boggles the mind.”

  1. Jeff Styer says:

    Great job on Monday with answering your questions. I appreciate your on Petrusek’s book. This was a difficult book for me to read and probably one on which I spent the most time. As you and Petrusek use the word argument, I have to keep reminding myself that the arguing being talked about is a good thing. We do need to thoughtfully engage with more people, agree to disagree, but really understand why they believe the things they do. This is a book that I want to digest more over the summer. Also I think what you are seeing in the UK is also happening here in the US regarding Religion and Philosophy programs being shut down at universities due to under enrollment.
    After reading a book like this one, may I ask you, hopefully, and easy/light question. In what way has God boggled your mind the most?

  2. mm Glyn Barrett says:

    Ha, wow impossible to answer my friend, depends on the day, time, and season. Here’s three.
    1. How can he keep loving us?
    2. How can He show the world continued grace?
    3. How He works behind the scenes when we don’t know it, proving that all things work together for the good of those who love Him.

  3. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Glyn, I really enjoyed understanding the “argument” from Petrusek’s perspective. It seems that some of this has been lost in American culture. We have lost the ability to make a solid argument, or even recognize that our fighting is lacking in the substance of an argument.

    What does this look like in Europe? Do you see more retention of the ability and awareness to argue?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Hi Christy. Sadly no. I think globalisation in the digital age has brought about a similarity within Western cultures. Sadly, in Europe, we have lost the ability to argue. Maybe we have never had it, especially considering the number of European wars there have been.

  4. Elysse Burns says:

    Hi Glyn, I greatly appreciated your post and loved your challenge to society to allow God to boggle the mind and place theology at the foundation of all discourse. I also resonated with your thoughts on crafting a better argument. I have found this method invaluable especially with people of different faiths. I am sure in your position you receive some interesting arguments from individuals. What determining factors help you decide whether it is fruitful or not to engage in certain arguments?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Hi Elysse. I’m ashamed to say it (or maybe I’m not), but I argue if I care about the subject or can be bothered. There are so many opportunities to argue, and with so much to do, sometimes I just can’t be bothered engaging. I would rather do something else. However, if the subject is close to my heart, and I have a well-considered argument, I am very happy to engage (especially when I think my argument is convincing).

  5. mm Kari says:

    Hey Glyn, I cannot agree more with your statement “argument and emotion usually go together.” What have you found helps you reduce your emotions to better engage in arguments?

    • mm Glyn Barrett says:

      Kari. The only way I have found is to take a dep breath and pause before responding/engaging. I am naturally an emotional/exciteable/boisterous person, so it is always a challenge for sure. What about you?

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