Home      Podcast      Subscribe
Hello fellow wayfarers … How to live in a world that seems increasingly angry and resentful … Why people get bored with God … What you want said in your eulogies … a combo Desert Island Bookshelf and Playlist that goes from Mozart to Petra … This is this week’s Moore to the Point.

Russell Moore

Why the World Seems So Resentful—and How to Find a Way Out

A friend told me about a mutual acquaintance who was always a happy, kind person, but who now—at least in some contexts—seems filled with anger and fear. “It’s like I’m hearing the same voice,” my friend said, “but now he seems so resentful that I sometimes wonder if I’m talking to the same person I always knew.” Almost everyone I know has experienced something like this—in churches, in workplaces, even at family dining room tables. The whole world seems to be seething with resentment.

Anyone who’s encountered someone in a fit of rage knows that one thing that usually doesn’t work is to say, “Calm down.” That’s like saying to an insomniac, “Go to sleep.” The more the person tries to fall asleep, the more likely he or she is to stay awake. That reality, though, might give us insight into why our culture seems driven with resentment, and how we can counter it.

Falling asleep is, as German philosopher Hartmut Rosa puts it, “non-engineerable.” The more you try to master it, the further away it becomes. Sleep requires a kind of surrender—a letting go of the frenetic whirl of the mind. Rosa compares the situation to the way a child feels when looking out the window at the first snow of winter. You can engineer that, Rosa concedes, in his book The Uncontrollability of the World. The child’s mom and dad could buy snow cannons and blast icy flakes outside the window of a house in Pasadena in July. But that’s not the same experience.

The experiences of looking out into a snowy field, standing on a mountain range or at the foot of a waterfall, or meeting the gaze of your newborn child all find their meaning specifically because they are not controllable, predictable, and engineerable. Rosa calls this type of experience resonance.

To understand this, just think about the language you use for those truly meaningful moments in your life. You might say, “Standing at the Grand Canyon at sunset really spoke to me.” There’s a sense in which something almost calls out to you, and echoes somewhere deep within you.

If you ask people to tell you the important turning points in their lives, Rosa argues, those points are almost always unexpected encounters: “Then I met this person, I read this book, I ended up joining this group, someone brought me to this place, and it changed my life.” He contends that people (even those who don’t believe in anything outside the material) will often use the language of being “called” to something—again with the metaphor of personal address. And the common factor of these moments of resonance is that they must be reachable but can’t be made calculable or manageable.

“It is not enough that I have access to and can take hold of the world,” Rosa writes. “Resonance demands that I allow myself to be called, that I be affected, that something reach me from the outside.”

Rosa doesn’t mean this in a Christian sense, of course. I would probably disagree with him on almost every major theological or political point. But at this point, I think he’s on to something the Bible does tell us about the way the world is. “Deep calls to deep,” the psalmist tells us (Ps. 42:7). In describing the way of discipleship, Jesus uses the imagery of a sheep with a shepherd—specifically speaking of the way the sheep respond to (resonate with) the shepherd’s voice (John 10:3–5). And the Apostle Paul compares conversion to seeing a light and hearing a voice (2 Cor. 4:1–6).

Scripture tells us that at the core of who we are, human beings are created to resonate with a Voice that calls to us—as though from a burning bush—in a way that we cannot engineer for ourselves. We call a seminary degree a “master of divinity,” but there’s no such thing—and it’s a good thing too. A God we could quantify, a Jesus we could engineer or master, would be an idol. “They have mouths, but do not speak,” the psalmist says of the idols we engineer with human hands or imaginations (Ps. 135:16). Rosa doesn’t recognize idolatry, but he, probably unwittingly, describes it perfectly.

In this moment in the modern world, he argues, we expect the world around us—including our own lives—to be predictable, manageable, and useful. Our smartphones seem to reinforce that. We have access to everything. The irony is that this “drive and desire toward controllability ultimately creates monstrous, frightening forms of uncontrollability.”

We lose a sense of resonance in that kind of culture, and the world seems dead to us. The world is then, in Rosa’s words, “muted” for us. We want resonance—even if we don’t know how to describe it—but we just can’t get it the way we get the sort of stuff we can engineer. One really can’t have the experience of intimacy with a chatbot that says everything you would want your perfect mate to say.

“Where ‘everything is under control,’ the world no longer has anything to say to us, and where it has become newly uncontrollable, we can no longer hear it, because we cannot reach it,” he writes.

Again, the Bible tells us to expect such. Mouths we construct ourselves can’t speak to us. Idols we can carry can’t deliver us (Jer. 10:5). And even worse, Scripture says that once we turn to our engineerable idols, we become like them (Ps. 135:18)—mute and unable to resonate with a world of meaning.

This, he argues, is the answer to the question of why—despite living in more affluence and technological advance than any generation before us—we live in a time of generalized resentment. Our insistence on controllability and resonance at the same time leaves us with neither, and leaves us unreachable by that which actually could give meaning and purpose. We either become “cool”—unaffected by anything and thus numb to wonder, joy, and love—or we become “hot,” driven by our libidos and then angry or terrified when the world—or our institutions or our culture or our families—can’t meet those expectations.

Paul tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). Which is to say, sometimes you can’t do much about the anger around you. What you can do, though, is to seek a different way. A life of resonance is one in which you make yourself reachable: you cultivate “ears that hear and eyes that see” (Prov. 20:12).

You can cultivate what makes for true meaning: worship, prayer, community, service, immersion in the Bible—knowing that such things can’t engineer meaning or holiness by your own power, but they can put you in a place in which you can say, as the boy Samuel did from his bedroom, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9).

And as C. S. Lewis once wrote, the moment you start to find yourself mastering all of that is the moment you lose it, because “it is like taking a red coal out of the fire to examine it; it becomes dead coal.”

If you become the sort of person who seeks, you will find. And if you give up the expectation of a controllable world, you will find yourself less anxious about a world that seems all the more uncontrollable. If you don’t seek ultimate meaning in your career, politics, your relationships, or your culture, you will find that you are less enraged when those things don’t deliver the results we demand. And you will find the freedom to pursue that which truly resonates.

That seems like a contradiction. But remember, Someone once told us that “whoever seeks to pursue his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33). Those who know they are blind are the ones who can see.

We can choose one: mastery or meaning, controllability or calling, resentment or resonance. But pursuing the one means sacrificing the other.

Why We Get Bored of What We Can Control

Speaking of the “deadness” that comes with controllability, I recently came across this reflection from E. Y. Mullins (1860–1928), the president of my alma mater, Southern Seminary. In 1917, Dr. Mullins wrote in his book The Life in Christ:

We grow weary of things which we master. When we have mastered the contents of a book, it no longer interests us. We put it away on the shelf. When a man is working at an invention and completes it, he turns from that to something else. It is said of Edison that he spent years of devotion to the problem of producing the electric light but that when he had mastered it he would walk around a square to avoid passing one. I do not know whether that is true or not, but in any event, it is true to human nature. We turn away from the thing that we have mastered, but we can never master Christ.

I think Dr. Mullins was right. I wonder if one reason so many people grow cold to our “first love” in the Lord Jesus is precisely that—we believe we have “gotten it” and so we start to believe, without even recognizing it, that Jesus is our disciple and we are his lord.

That’s not only wrong; it’s also boring.

Stop Protecting Your Name

Last week, we kicked off the fall session of the Sunday seminar that I teach at my church, Immanuel Nashville. After finishing Genesis last year, we are picking up with Exodus. Teaching through chapter one, I was struck once again by something that amazes me every time I teach it.

Pharaoh saw himself as a kind of god—and part of the “glory” he sought was the desire to be renown. Pyramids, sphinxes, and cities are all efforts to preserve a name, to be remembered eternally. And yet the Book of Exodus never once tells us by name which pharaoh we are reading about. He is simply “Pharaoh” or “the king” all the way through, and in every reference thereafter in the Bible.

Named, though, are two midwives—Shiphrah and Puah, who might in other contexts be assumed to be minor characters. They, after all, have no power or glory. And yet their obedience in caring for the most vulnerable around them, even at the risk of their lives, is noted by name in Scripture. Since the “Word of God endures forever,” this means that these two women are named forever, even into eternity. That lasts longer than monuments, mummies, or pyramids—infinitely so.

This really ought to matter to us. Jesus, after all, told his disciples not to rejoice in what they could do—even in working miracles—but instead to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). This is the way of Christ. Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that Jesus humbled himself to the point of death, “even death on a cross.” The result is this: “Therefore God has exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8–11).

We spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people, thinking about our place in whatever status system is around us. That’s really about guarding our “name”—trying not to be overlooked, forgotten, or disrespected. As with every other aspect of fallenness, that’s rooted in something created to be good. God promised our forefather Abraham, “I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2).

Like life itself, though, that only happens when we give it up.

The Life and Legacy of Tim Keller: A Special CT Issue

If you are a Christianity Today print subscriber, you should receive an additional special issue commemorating the life and ministry of my dear friend Tim Keller (along with the September issue). It explores some ways Tim changed the landscape of American life and of the life of the global church. It’s also an act of gratitude for someone who taught us and showed us what it means to live convinced—both intellectually and existentially—that the stories are true, Jesus is alive, sins are forgiven, and all of this really is good news.

If you are not yet a print subscriber, you can read many of the articles online or purchase a PDF of the issue.

A Combo Desert Island Playlist and Desert Island Bookshelf

Every week, we ask one of you to share what books or songs you’d want to have on hand if you knew you’d be stranded on a deserted island. Unlike usual, this week’s submission is a both/and. I decided to run both because they are short, and because anybody with a list that includes Mozart, Gilgamesh, and Petra is my kind of person, and so I couldn’t say no.

This list is from reader Patrick, who did not include his last name or city. If that’s intentional (you’re a missionary in a closed country or a CIA undercover agent or an SBC entity head, etc.) then that’s great. If unintentional, let me know. Everybody, be sure to include your hometown if possible, and if sending a bookshelf, a photo (from your phone is fine). Here’s Patrick’s lists, in no particular order:



Thank you, Patrick!

Readers, what do y’all think? If you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life and could have only one playlist or one bookshelf with you, what songs or books would you choose?

  • For a Desert Island Playlist, send me a list of up to 12 songs, excluding hymns and worship songs. (We’ll cover those later.)

  • For a Desert Island Bookshelf, send me a list of up to 12 books. If possible, include one photo of all the books together

Send your list (or both lists!) to, and include as much or as little explanation of your choices as you would like.

Quote of the Moment

“But that which did not a little amuse the storekeepers was that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares. They cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,’ and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic were in heaven.

“One chanced, mockingly, beholding the actions of the men, to say unto them, ‘What will you buy?’  But they, looking gravely upon him, said, ‘We buy the truth.’ At that there was an occasion taken to despise the mean all the more.”

—John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

Currently Reading (or Re-reading)

Join Us at Christianity Today

Founded by Billy Graham, Christianity Today is on a mission to lift up the sages and storytellers of the global church for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why don’t you join us as a member—or give a membership to a friend, a pastor, a church member, someone you mentor, or a curious non-Christian neighbor? You can also make a tax-deductible gift that expands CT’s important voice and influence in the world.

Ask a Question or Say Hello

The Russell Moore Show podcast includes a section where we grapple with the questions you might have about life, the gospel, relationships, work, the church, spirituality, the future, a moral dilemma you’re facing, or whatever. You can send your questions to I’ll never use your name—unless you tell me to—and will come up with a groan-inducing pun of a pseudonym for you.

And, of course, I would love to hear from you about anything. Send me an email at if you have any questions or comments about this newsletter, if there are other things you would like to see discussed here, or if you would just like to say hello!

If you have a friend who might like this, please forward it, and if you’ve gotten this from a friend, please subscribe!

Russell Moore

Russell Moore
Editor in Chief

P.S. You can support the continued work of Christianity Today and the public theology project by subscribing to CT magazine.


Join Russell Moore in thinking through the important questions of the day, along with book and music recommendations he has found formative.
Delivered free via email to subscribers weekly. Subscribe to this newsletter.

You are currently subscribed as Subscribe to more newsletters like this. Manage your email preferences or unsubscribe.

Copyright ©2023 Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy | Advertise | Subscribe to CT | Give Now

Christianity Today is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.