Kyle Strobel brings an insightful critique of the exercise of power in the church today and spells out the way of Jesus as the radical alternative. Join Scott and Sean for this interview with Kyle that will change the way you view leadership and power.
Kyle's book, with his co-author Jamin Goggin, is titled The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that Has Abandoned It.
Kyle Strobel is Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He is a prolific author and popular speaker and teacher.
Scott Rae: Welcome to Think Biblically; Conversations on Faith & Culture, podcast from Talbot School of Theology here at Biola University. I'm your host, Scott Rae, dean of faculty and professor of christian ethics. We're here today with a very special guest, one of our own colleagues here at Talbot, Dr. Kyle Strobel, who's associate professor of spiritual theology. He has more degrees than a thermometer, and he has degrees in philosophy and New Testament and a PhD in theology from the University of Aberdeen. He's been teaching here for several years and is a prolific author. It sort of runs in the family I think, but we just got recently revised edition of his terrific book on leadership and power, particularly in the church.
Scott Rae: It's entitled The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb; Subtitles Searching for Jesus' Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It. So Kyle, welcome. Great to have you with us and congrats on the revised edition of the book coming out. We'll talk in just a moment about why you had to revise it, because there's a story behind that too. So first tell us about the imagery that formed the title of the book, what are you trying to communicate with that?
Kyle Strobel: Yeah, yeah. Now, thanks Scott. It's so good to be here with you. And yeah, the image of the dragon and the lamb, it's a particularly kind of sharp one and it's imagery that shows up in the book of Revelation. And one of the interesting things that scripture continually does is it always presents two paths for people and those paths are set up in different sorts of ways. And so you have the world or you have the kingdom, you have the flesh or you have the spirit, you have in this case, the dragon or you have the lamb. Or one of the favorite images we use is from James 3, which is you have the way from above of which is the way of Jesus, and you have the way from below. And the way from below is interesting in James 3, because he names it earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. What we've come to call the world, the flesh and the devil.
Kyle Strobel: And so what James articulates there in scripture continually does this, is that the way of God is one kind of way that's totally contradictory from every other way, and that includes the demonic. And so if we live in the flesh, we're actually living in a dragon like sort of way, a demonic like sort of way. And we see this being named all throughout scripture. I think sometimes we confuse when Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind me Satan," as if he's just being rude or something. And he's actually naming what Peter's doing. And it's interesting in that context, he actually says, "You're setting your mind in the things of man." And so he links the things of man with the things of Satan.
Kyle Strobel: And so we wanted to try to use this imagery because it's the way scripture paints a very sharp picture that we have to choose. And the danger is the fantasy I think most of us have is that we think as long as we're good intentioned, as long as it's for good ends, that of course it's the way of the lamb. And what we've discovered is the exact opposite is the truth. Is that because we have good intentions, we often actually employ the way of the dragon to try to further the kingdom. And of course, as scripture reminds us, God is not mocked, what you sow, you will reap.
Scott Rae: All right. So let's cut to the chase here right away. How would you describe what the way of the dragon is? The way of the lamb, that may be more easily recognizable for most people, but succinctly, what is the way of the dragon? What is the way of the lamb?
Kyle Strobel: Yeah. Way we delineate between the two. So the way of the dragon is power and strength for the sake of control and or domination.
Scott Rae: Do I say that again.
Kyle Strobel: Power in strength for the sake of control and usually domination. Whereas the way of the lamb, which is probably most clearly articulated, obviously on the cross. But by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, 9 10 is power and weakness for the sake of love. And I think what's important about that is that it's still a powerful way. It's not like Christians are called to be weak, and it's in fact we're called to be powerful, but it turns out that the kind of power that we find in Jesus is an entirely different economy than the one we find in the world.
Scott Rae: Okay. So power in weakness, all right. Spell out a little bit more what you mean by that? What does that look like?
Kyle Strobel: Yeah. So when Paul learns this lesson, one of my favorite and one of the most fascinating kind of scenes in the New Testament I think is when we're told that Paul is given this very weird gift from God of a messenger of Satan. And so because Paul has this ecstatic vision of the risen Lord or he's called up to the third heaven, it's going to be ambiguous. Whatever happened in that moment, it didn't cure his character. And so the Lord gives him a thorn in the flesh, what's called a messenger of Satan to keep him humble.
Kyle Strobel: Paul praise three times, "Lord take this away from me," which seems reasonable. And the reason Lord tells Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness." What's interesting then is Paul goes on to say, "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of God might tabernacle upon me." We usually translate that rest upon me. Although, tabernacle obviously is a significant biblical term. The whole notion there though is power does not come from within. And I think this is important when you listen to Jesus talk about the, and particularly in the parables about the kingdom.
Kyle Strobel: Why does the widow when she puts her might in, why does she give more? Because she obviously didn't give more, right? And we could read that I think superficially and say she gave more of what she had. So percentage base, she gave more. I think what Jesus is actually saying there is Dallas Willard would say is that because there's a kind of realism to the kingdom in the sense that no, that money will do more actually in the kingdom because of the nature of the kingdom economy. And so if we give ourselves to embrace our weakness, to receive God's power that it may tabernacle upon us, then what we discover is the way of power as Jesus actually offers it to us.
Kyle Strobel: I think the danger and if you want books of scripture that really spell this out, I would say all of Paul very clearly does, but the two epistles to Corinth, first and second Corinthians, and in Philippians really spell this out very clearly. And what's interesting about those cities is those cities are cities that are very similar to American life. The Corinthians in particular were obsessed with the visible and what looked powerful.
Scott Rae: So image maintenance.
Kyle Strobel: Image maintenance, platform building, like all sorts of this stuff. This is what they wanted. And so Paul attacks what he called the super apostles, right? What we would call celebrity Christians. He attacks these folks and he basically says, "You think this is what power looks like? Let's look at the cross." And this is what... I should say upfront, I am convinced that the most important question and conversation that is not being had in the church today is about what power is.
Kyle Strobel: I think it is more important than questions about vaccines, I think is more important than our politics. It is the most important question because it funds every other thing you believe, everything you do is funded entirely by your view of power. But I didn't get into this project, and my co-author didn't get in this project because we thought we nailed this. We got into this because we came to seminary as young men who wanted to be great.
Kyle Strobel: I came to seminary, I didn't have fantasies about praying by someone's bedside while they're dying. I wanted to be awesome. I wanted to be on stages. I wanted to have a platform. I wanted to be great. And then I ran into Jesus consistently and He kept pointing to a different way. And so for us, this book was a real journey of our own to wrestle through Jesus, what does this mean? Because we looked around and we just didn't see it. But we also looked around and we saw the evangelicalism we knew falling apart the seams, because everyone that looked powerful growing up for me has lost their ministries.
Kyle Strobel: And it has been such an astonishing reality over the past, even just five years. And I think what we're seeing is we're seeing what happens when God judges His church, but we're also seeing what's happens when the church tries to sow in the way of the world and reap in the way of the kingdom and that just doesn't work.
Scott Rae: I suspected that some of the impetus for writing the book came out of your own experience, some of the things you observed, like you mentioned, but also I appreciate just your own personal journey in this which comes out in a lot of places in the book. So it's a bit autobiographical and you don't try to sugarcoat it. You and your co-author are pretty honest about some of the stuff you wrestled with as younger men entering pastoral ministry based on some of the models you've seen. And we've got a lot of pretty well known folks who have stumbled pretty badly. And your point in the book, I think is it's not hard to see the connection between some of those stumbles and an unbiblical view of power. So how widespread do you think this is in a lot of our churches?
Kyle Strobel: It is everywhere. It's interesting, if you just take that line from 2 Corinthians, Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness." I rarely meet a Christian who believes that's true. I rarely meet a pastor whose church is governed by that principle. And if you think, it's not like that's the only place. How often when I live my life, do I believe that the first will be last and the last will be first that govern the choices I make. Is that the thing that guides how I consider how our church is doing? And I think this is the problem is the modern church has embraced a very secular vision. And we didn't sugar coat. We felt very called not to, both in our own lives but also in the church as a whole.
Kyle Strobel: And I think what we wanted to say in our flesh was it's not great out there, there's some unhelpful things going on, or yeah, maybe some things that go on we call bad. But what became clear biblically is the church has tried to wield demonic power for the sake of the kingdom, and it's warping its soul from within. And unless we do something about it, right now we're reaping decades of this. The real question now is, well, what are we going to start sowing now? Because I think even worse compared to the '80s and the '70s and '60s, we're even feeling more pressure today I think of the world closing in on us, rejecting us, and now we're even more tempted to respond by confronting worldliness on its her rather than embracing the way of Jesus.
Scott Rae: Kyle, let me tease some of this out a bit, because I think our listeners, maybe by this point, they've got the point here and I think it's with the number of really serious stumbles that have been well publicized, I don't think it's hard to get the point. But how it plays out in practice what a church that's built on this would actually look like.
Kyle Strobel: Totally.
Scott Rae: And one question that comes up is we're admonished to regularly to work on our weaknesses to fix them as best. We're not called to wallow in our weakness, we're called to fix the weaknesses that we can. And I think you may hit a point at some point at a certain age where you stop worrying about fixing those things and you operate in your strengths, but it sounds like you're suggesting something a little different. So what's the balance here between fixing the things that you can fix that you know you're not good at and taking advantage the path of power by weakness?
Kyle Strobel: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let me go back first to 2 Corinthians 12. So when Paul responds to the Lord, he actually names what kind of constitutes. He says weakness. So he gives his broad category of weakness, but then he includes things like persecutions, like calamities, like insults and he boast in these. It's funny because I read that passage and I'm like, "I'm not quite there yet." I get attacked online from time to time and I've never boasted in it.
Scott Rae: I'm not sure I want to be there.
Kyle Strobel: That's right, yeah. Totally. And persecutions I can get. I obviously, would never like but calamities, posting and calamities. And again, this is a different vision. And I think if we take seriously the fact that it is in our weakness, that the power of the Lord is discovered. Again, it's not somehow saying that we accept our weakness and we just say, "Well, this is who I am." But it's in our weakness that we come to embrace because it's again, it's be by grace alone. It's going to be something we receive.
Kyle Strobel: So let me turn to an example that I think clarifies some of this, and it's the spiritual gift question. I think the question of spiritual gifts is really interesting. I grew up in the middle of a revival of spiritual gifts. So I grew up, this is when everyone was recovering 1 Corinthians 12, we always talked, I can't tell you how many times I heard about spiritual gifts growing up.
Kyle Strobel: What was interesting though is the way that I was taught about spiritual gifts growing up in the evangelical mega churches was there was nothing spiritual about them. So we just got rid of that word. So what we actually meant was you have a bunch of natural abilities and here's the irony that came out of that whole conversation. We helped people figure out their natural giftings, we then told them to focus on those. So in the middle of a book of, to the Corinthians, an entire two volume series of books that Paul writes solely focusing on the cross and power and weakness. We trained people to never actually minister in weakness and to only actualize their natural giftings.
Kyle Strobel: That is how sharp of a blindness we've embraced when it comes to the biblical material. I think what's clear about 1 Corinthians 12 is you don't have spiritual gifts. Paul reiterates time and time again, ad nauseam, these are the spirits, the spirit, the spirit, the spirit. Is going to constantly to returns to the spirit there. These are things you don't have, they're not natural giftings. As one of our biblical colleagues here, Ken birding would say, "They're more like callings actually."
Scott Rae: Yeah, more like ministries.
Kyle Strobel: And ministries that you're to enter into. They're not things you turn to yourself and say, "What do I want to do?" You actually have to discern these in community, because they're based on being a part of the body. And so that is a good example of reality that I think we just accept these natural constructs. Now, what I'm not saying is this, because here's the problem. So a lot of people hear me say things like this and say, "Okay, so what do I do? I just look at what I'm bad at. So I'm not good at math, should I become an accountant?" No. The answer is no.
Kyle Strobel: Right Now what's interesting about this is that I think the Lord more often than not for good reason, calls us into places where we have natural abilities. It actually isn't for your good though. You actually don't want that to be true. We'd rather be Moses. We'd rather say, "Well, all I know, Lord is I'm bad at speaking." And have the Lord say, "Great. You're going to be my mouthpiece." Because in those places we're desperate.
Kyle Strobel: We're going to throw ourselves on God. We're not going to rely upon ourselves. But more often than not, I find there's people I meet who are brilliant repetitions who are called into ministry and pastoral ministry. But now they have to hear Paul say there's a style of preaching that he says in 1 Corinthians that undermines the power of the Cross. And so if you're a pastor and you go into the pulpit and you wield yourself, you wield your natural abilities, you are emptying the Cross of its power because you're wielding your natural gifts.
Kyle Strobel: So now your weakness is actually your temptation to self actualize. And so I'd say for most of us, let's take the accountant who's a brilliant at math, knows how to do their job. And in many ways maybe does their job and goes into cruise control. It's actually you do your job absent from God. You do your job absent from the love of neighbor. You do your job absent from humility. And what ends up happening is you're cultivating the virtues of the flesh instead of cultivating virtues that are distinctively Christian-like humility. And so we can see that it's not merely saying, like I don't think we have to go looking for our weakness, I think it's everywhere. And-
Scott Rae: And that should not be difficult to discern.
Kyle Strobel: And if it is difficult to discern, that's another layer of problems we have. And now humility becomes the chemo.
Scott Rae: But you're not suggesting that churches should go out and hire bad teachers.
Kyle Strobel: Well and that's right.
Scott Rae: Plus pastors.
Kyle Strobel: Totally. No, no, no. It's not like we take someone who can't play the guitar and say, "You lead worship." Right? And so now it's really helping people discern their callings. I would say though, and here's something that Dallas Willard pushed us on and we'll get I imagine to a little bit of the... The way we wrote the book was a little unusual and it included sitting at the feet of people that we consider sages in the way of Jesus. And as we sat at Willard's feet, he said to us, at one point he said, "You know, up until a hundred years ago, you could have been seen as a very faithful pastor and been a bad preacher."
Kyle Strobel: And he just stopped and pauses. He said, "You know, I'm not sure that could be true today. And that really did strike me as interesting where we now primarily understand ministry in performative terms rather than in terms of Christian faithfulness. And that's interesting. I think that's something to really consider that actually there are a lot of people that we may think of as mediocre preachers who would be vastly superior pastors than a brilliant rhetorician would be.
Scott Rae: Well, I think you had a interesting conversation with Eugene Peterson in the book that you sire. He pastored small churches in rural Montana for a lot of his life, and there were a lot of years that he pastored in almost total obscurity until he started writing. Even you were unfamiliar with him when you first stumbled.
Kyle Strobel: Totally.
Scott Rae: Totally. Almost by accident.
Kyle Strobel: That's right.
Scott Rae: Stumbled onto his books. I think he might be a good example. I don't know, I've never heard him preach or speak before, but the way he writes is all about faithfulness and not performance.
Kyle Strobel: Yeah. Well, all the people we interviewed, I'm not sure you would say any of them follow the archetype of the dynamic speaker. Willard, he stopped getting invited to conferences because people said he was too boring early in his career. It's interesting when you think how many pastors conferences like you take a look at or not just pastors, which conferences in general, are they looking for wisdom or are they looking for young and exciting? It's interesting. Most of them follow the world to a T in that regard.
Scott Rae: Yeah. I remember. Dallas Willard was one of the, he's in my view, the most Christlike person I've ever known.
Kyle Strobel: Totally.
Scott Rae: There are a lot of churches that he would never get hired at.
Kyle Strobel: That's right. Yeah. And I'm, yeah. I had a publisher once tell me, "I'm not sure Dallas would be published today if he was starting out." We really need to sit and think about-
Scott Rae: How tragic would that be.
Kyle Strobel: Some of these things, right? You wonder, is the next Willard not going to be published because they can't play a game of platform building. And it's interesting to think about what has happened to the constructs and evangelicalism about what is valuable and what is meaningful.
Scott Rae: Let me ask you about The Way of the Lamb, because in a church that I wouldn't say the church is persecuted in the United States because my wife works for Open Doors and she knows real persecution. If you think you've seen persecution, you need to update your passport and go to Afghanistan and some of these other places. But where does The Way the Land fit with advocating for things like religious freedom or political advocacy on behalf of the unborn. For example, how does that fit together?
Kyle Strobel: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let me start with something very simple actually, and this would include any political action. Any action in the world today, let me say right up front, we have to start with the claim that as a Christian this is a profoundly difficult question. My biggest word is that on left and right, both sides seem to think on almost all of these issues that the response is obvious and clear. It is not, these questions are profoundly hard and I worry that we embrace these cliche, social media stances on these sorts of things. The scriptures don't really have an immediate idea of a voting citizen, right? It's hard to do these. We have to do quite a lot of theology to understand public action.
Scott Rae: Yeah. There was no voting in the first century.
Kyle Strobel: Yeah, of course not. Yeah.
Scott Rae: And somehow render to Caesar under Caesars. I'm not sure that's what it involved.
Kyle Strobel: Totally. Yeah, it's right. Yeah. And so I think it's clear. One of the things that we reiterate in the book is one of the callings of the Christian in an evil age as Paul calls, it is to bear witness to the way. So advocacy for the unborn for instance, is going to be the bear witness to the way of life consistently against the way of death. And that's going to show up in all sorts of ways, but what's interesting and to bear witness to the way of life is always to do so, not just according to the teachings of Jesus, but the way of Jesus.
Kyle Strobel: To quote Willard, "We can't just do Jesus things, we have to do them in Jesus' ways." And according to Paul, that's the way of the Cross as Philippians 2 very clearly argues. One of the interesting things about Philippians 2, as well as James 3, when you get to the way of the dragon, it's interesting to see what attributes that way has. I would think if you just said to me before I wrote this book, "What is the way of Satan?" Murder and anger and deceit. James 3 says, "Well, the two main attributes are selfish, ambition and jealousy." And that's really interesting. What would our politics look like without selfish, ambition and jealousy?
Scott Rae: Be unrecognizable.
Kyle Strobel: It would be utterly unrecognizable. What would it look like for our just political action in general? I would say our pastor's conferences would be unrecognizable without selfish, ambition and jealousy. And so what's interesting is take someone, this is a weird example, but take someone like Martin Luther King Jr. For this book, I did a study of kings. I'd known him of course, read his speech of course, but I never really gone into a study of him. One of the things I thought was fascinating, he develops this view of nonviolent resistance because he recognized from a Christian frame of reference, we're never standing against mere people, we're standing against the evil forces, what scripture calls the powers and the principalities.
Kyle Strobel: And so he would say, "If you're going to resist someone non violently, the only possible way you can do that is if you don't hate them in your heart." And again, I wonder what would advocacy for the unborn look like if there is no hatred in your heart for the other person, because you see them caught up been evil. It reminds me of one of the sages we interviewed for this book was John Perkins and Perkins is an astonishing human being. And I remember talking to him and I was reading his work and we were chatting with him and sitting at his feet.
Kyle Strobel: And I noticed at one point my fists were clenched because I was so angry at what people had done to him, that police had beaten him into an inch of his life because of nonviolent resistance. And like Martin Luther King Jr, he knew that nonviolence is always for the sake of violence, interestingly enough. Nonviolence is meant to awaken violence so the demons can no longer hide in secret, but you're meant to expose them to the world so the world knows the truth.
Kyle Strobel: And when Perkins was being beat to death, he thought he was going to die. He said, he looked up into the face of those police officers and he said he saw white devils. And he knew in that moment he needed a gospel that was big enough to save them too. And I was so dumbfounded because all I could think about is justice. And by justice, I meant revenge. And he recognized, "If I embraced hate like they did, it would do the same thing to my soul." And I think it epitomized the way of the lamb.
Scott Rae: So this is what you mean by power in weakness being the solution to issues of race.
Kyle Strobel: That's exactly right.
Scott Rae: And in your view, King has modeled beautifully the way of Jesus.
Kyle Strobel: That is exactly right, and Perkins after him. Perkins was not as well known, King becomes well known because he was a brilliant rhetorician and of course, these massive nationwide movements. Perkins really epitomizes for me. Here's a man who got out of the system that oppressed him and moved back because he felt called by Jesus. He didn't seek out recognition, he led Bible studies. He found ways to foster community development and feeding the people that didn't have food and caring for them. And for standing against and bearing witness against evil, he almost had to pay his life. He almost had to give his life for it and he was imprisoned, and he was oppressed, and he abused, and he turned to love. It's astonishing.
Kyle Strobel: And I think this is for Jamin and I, when we felt called to write this book, our first turn to it was, "No." Because it took us about a decade. We started early 30s and like early 30. People are like, "They shouldn't be writing a book on power." And we very quickly knew that we had to be the bad guys in this book. We had to be very honest about our temptations. We had to take people on a journey of discovery with us because we weren't writing a, sometimes you write a book from expertise. In this sense, we weren't. We were writing a book from people who had hard questions that we needed answers to and it became very clear we needed to alum in others, sages in the way of Jesus, elders. And so we went on a mission to find the holiest and most profound and powerful Christian people we can discover. And we sat at their feet and it has to this day has been the most profound thing I've ever done.
Scott Rae: And my guess is that for our listeners, if you name their names, some of them they won't have heard of.
Kyle Strobel: And that's exactly right. I think of someone like James Houston, who mentored by CS Lewis. He'd be talking about CS Lewis, I'm like, "Man, how old are you?" I put Lewis so far back. And it's like here is a guy that was mentored by CS Lewis. And there were several times when we're sitting in his living room and he looks at us and he spoke to our souls. James Houston started Regent up in Vancouver, a seminary. It wasn't a seminary when he started, that's not what the original goal was. It's a original goal was simply to train men and women to be mere Christians wherever they are.
Scott Rae: Yeah. Yeah. He left Oxford.
Kyle Strobel: And he left Oxford to do that with there's a handful of students. And what's funny is in its early days, I had friends that were there in its early days. And they would say, "Whenever you walked by Houston's office, you heard a weeping." Because a student would go in there for some question about theology or vocation, and he would say, "Oh yeah, that's all nice. But what about this?" And he would tear open their souls and he would do that with us in astonishing ways.
Kyle Strobel: And we tell the story in the book. I remember his wife, Rita who's now passed sadly. She had Alzheimer's at the time and dementia, and every time she left the room, she'd forget we were there. So she'd come back and chastise James for not introducing us. And we asked him at the very end, we'd spent three days with them. Some of the dearest people you'd ever met. We asked James at the very end, "Talk about just the hardest part of your life when you realized I have to embrace the way of weakness."
Kyle Strobel: And Rita, who was very sharp and witty and she would always be interjecting things. She would often tell James, he'd say something profound and brilliant. And she'd say, "You just said that because you think it sounds good." The two of them were hilarious and under her breath she muttered, I could tell you in a couple years. And we knew she was referencing, "I could tell you about my weakness because it's this," she knew her memory was failing and James stopped.
Kyle Strobel: And he looked at his wife and he looked at us and he turned us and he said, "You see guys, Rita's losing her memory. And as she losses her memory, she's very worried she's going to forget Jesus." And then he turned to her and he just said, "But I constantly remind my wife, it is not that you remember Him, but that He remembers you." And we're just sitting there in this silence, in this profound moment where we see a life lived well and lived faithfully. And later he told us, he said, "People tell me all the time it's so tragic what's happened to you."
Kyle Strobel: He goes, "This is not tragic." He goes, "Everything that we've used as a crutch has been taken away. Now, all we have is love. And I love my wife who is forgetting things left and right, and I meet her there because she is mine and I am hers." And it's like this is a view of humanity under the Cross that is unworldly in its best terms. And we sat with Dallas Willard before he died, we sat with Eugene Peterson. We sat with Marvin Dawn. We sat with John Perkins. We were sitting with people and you mentioned earlier that this is the second edition.
Kyle Strobel: One of the people we sat with was someone who I'd considered a mentor, who was the mentor of Henry now and for those folks who knew him, who to this day is probably the most important person who's ever lived for people with disabilities. His life left a legacy that is astonishing. And we risked a lot actually going to interview him. He was the farthest theologically from where we were at. And we weren't interviewing because we agreed with theology, we were interviewing because the way he lived his life and his name was Jean Vanier.
Kyle Strobel: And several years after the first edition came out, actually we had finished a pastor's conference of The Way of the Dragon and the Way of the Lamb, and it was a beautiful time. I had closed the conference somewhat ironically with a talk on how to discern wolves in sheep's clothing. And that evening I get a call from my co-author Jamin who led the conference with me. And he said, "Have you been looking at Twitter?" And I said, "No, just been home with my family." And he said, "Jean Vanier abuse sexually several women." And we sat for an hour in silence looking at these stories, that was Friday evening. At Monday morning, we asked our publisher to pull our book out of print.
Kyle Strobel: And that was a no brainer for us, obviously seeing that being pulled was hard. But we couldn't allow it to be in existence knowing there's women out there that were abused by him that were in his spiritual care. And we had presented him as a sage in the way of Jesus. And so it's interesting. The second edition is an attempt to wrestle through that issue specifically in our own struggles with what you do when a hero in the faith falls and lets you down so dramatically. And it's interesting, my whole life is lived against the backdrop of this.
Kyle Strobel: My whole family became Christians and Bill Hybels Ministry. I left and went out Willow Creek as a young man and went to a church with a toxic and abusive leader. Ravi Zacharia has been a hero of mine for years. I could go on and on and on. And John Vanier was another one and he never fit any of the cliches. He never abused any of the people in his care with disability, praise the Lord. And he had a profound life and you know it's interesting because the struggle now is how do I weigh that? Because he did teach me things about the way of Jesus, and yet I have been devastated.
Kyle Strobel: There's whole centers around the world named after Vanier, I can't tell you how many academic books use him as the primary example of the way of Jesus. I've talked to other authors who say, "Our publisher won't let us pull this book from print and I'm horrified that my book's out there." But I hope that what that chapter could do now is really help people navigate. Because I was surprised at what I felt. I was surprised at how much of the sin I took upon myself.
Kyle Strobel: It's funny, when it came out about Vanier, all these people reached out to me online and said, "Kyle, you need to know we don't blame you." And I actually didn't know I needed to hear that, I was surprised. At first I was like, "I know that." And then I sat with tears in my eyes thought, "Wow, no, I actually need to know that." Because I was beating myself up thinking, "What did I miss? What didn't I see?" And somehow I had taken it upon myself that I didn't do this, that somehow I could have done more.
Kyle Strobel: And I think as the church, we desperately need to the conversation about what power is in the way of Jesus. We desperately need to talk about what does it mean to discern true power from false power, evil power from true kingdom power? But we also need to discern what does it mean to care for the souls who all over the church right now are having to deal with the fact that their pastor or a mentor or someone they valued has ibided a way of evil power. And they are now dealing with the spiritual abuse in his wake.
Scott Rae: Well, Kyle, this has been incredibly insightful and I so appreciate in the book your vulnerability. You and Jamin talk pretty openly about your own struggles and especially your struggles with wanting to be significant when have a platform, wanting to be recognized in ways that the culture says is how we should do it which I think you right to point that out. I think that's somewhat antithetical to the way of Jesus, but I want commend to our listeners, your book, if this has wedded your appetite, then you want to read more? There's there's so much more here than we've been able to bring out.
Scott Rae: The book's entitled The way of the Dragon or the Way the Lamb, subtitles searching for Jesus a path of power in a church that has abandoned it. One of the things we'll do in a follow up discussion is how some of this material relates to the workplace because I know most of our listen, you don't address this here, but most of our listeners are slugging it out in the workplace week after week. And I'm sure would want to know a little bit more about how power and weakness relates to the workplace.
Kyle Strobel: Totally. Oh, great idea.
Scott Rae: Kyle, thank you so much for joining us. And this has been just so enlightening and so helpful and all the best to you as the revised edition gets rolling and gets a wider acceptance.
Kyle Strobel: Thanks so much, Scott. So good being with you as ways.
Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast Think Biblically; Conversations on Faith & Culture. The Think Biblically podcast is brought to you by Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, offering programs in Southern California and online, including the Institute for Spiritual Formation of which our guest Dr. Strobel is a faculty member there. Visit biola.edu/talbot in order to learn more. If you enjoyed today's conversation, particularly about the book, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Land, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening and remember, think biblically about everything.