Book Review

How to handle life’s most pivotal moments

A review of D. Michael Lindsay’s "Hinge Moments"

July 20, 2021

Life is one big rollercoaster ride of change. Milestones, graduations, and transitions, more often than “staying put,” are the norms that follow us through our lives. And despite the frequency of change we encounter, we find ourselves ill-prepared for these inevitable occurrences. So, how can we better ready ourselves for the moments of change that we are sure to encounter?

This is the central question that D. Michael Lindsay deals with in his recent book, Hinge Moments: Making the Most of Life’s Transitions. Lindsay, no stranger to change himself, is the eighth president of Gordon College and a former member of the sociology faculty at Rice University. He’s also the author of two highly-acclaimed books, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite and View from the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World. Lindsay’s pedigree makes him precisely the right person to write a book such as this. 

Though change can be abrupt, interrupting our lives and confusing everything that we were once certain of, Hinge Moments puts language to this confusion and articulates a path forward for those undergoing the challenges that come with life’s transitions. 

Navigating the seven stages of a healthy transition

Sometimes we can see change coming a mile away. Sometimes it sneaks up on us and uproots nearly everything. From the coronavirus pandemic that has changed all our lives, in one way or another, to being fired from a job you love, hinge moments, whether we choose them or not, are “opportunities to open (or to close) doors to various pathways of our lives” (3). And, whether we have chosen them or not, Lindsay is intent on preparing his reader for handling these moments well. 

The narrative of Hinge Moments revolves around a seven-stage model of transition that walks readers through a step-by-step analysis of its various stages: discernment, anticipation, intersection, landing, integration, inspiration, and realization. Lindsay reimagines each of these stages, rearticulating the model’s terms and ideas in such a way that, for me, puts language to much of what I’ve personally experienced in my own hinge moments, helping to make sense of some of the more disorienting seasons of my life. Moreover, Lindsay does a masterful job of coaching readers forward, laying the groundwork for a healthier response to change and preparing them to navigate each of these stages successfully and in a healthy way. 

No matter the origin of your “hinge moment,” nor the stage of transition that you currently find yourself in, Lindsay offers you a sort of pastoral matter-of-factness to shepherd you on your way through the process.

Virtue as the hinge that all hinge moments hang on

Navigating change and transition well really boils down to what Lindsay calls “hinge virtues.” These virtues, historically called cardinal virtues, are “the constants that keep you steady and stable when you have to make changes” (102). More than serving as a strategy or philosophy to be implemented, these virtues are “the necessary hinges on which we should hang our lives.” In other words, navigating change, and doing it well, requires you to be a certain kind of person.

So, the primary question is not, “What should I do to prepare myself for change?” The central question is, “What kind of person should I be/become so that I can endure, and even thrive, no matter what changes and transitions are thrust upon me in the future?” Virtue is the “robust, reliable hinge” that gives answer to the latter.

Therefore, Lindsay argues that life’s hinge moments will either be wasted “or, worse, will waste us” without the exercise of these virtues: prudence (applied wisdom), fortitude (courage), temperance (self-restraint), and justice. It is these virtues, this way of being, that forms us into the kind of persons that are prepared for changes and transitions, that can endure these changes and transitions successfully, and can look back on them and recognize God’s providential care in walking us through them.

Hinge moments and the providence of God

“The challenge with life is that we have to live it moving forward, but we really only understand it looking back” (7). Though change and transition are normal, they are rarely easy. Whether you’re a high school graduate heading to college or that graduate’s parent experiencing your first night in an empty nest, life’s transitions are confusing and disorienting. Because we are creatures, a life lived “moving forward” exposes our relative lack of competence and our utter dependence on God to lay a path straight before us. So, Hinge Moments, in a very practical way, is an acknowledgment of the providence of God and a helping hand encouraging us to put one foot in front of the other on that God-laid path.

Hinge moments are coming. Change is coming. To be undone by change is our way of reckoning with our ultimate lack of control — with the providence of God. And though change is hard, and even painful, the providence of God is God’s fatherly care of his creation, as Michael Reeves describes it. Though we may not understand it until we “look back,” we can be sure that the transitions we must navigate are being worked together for our good (Rom. 8:28). As creatures, then, we can respond in one of two ways to these moments in our lives, however hard and painful they may be: we can either “make the most of them or we can waste them” (100). 

“The wonderful thing about God is that he chooses to accomplish most of what he wants in the world through ordinary people like you and me” (144). Lindsay, in Hinge Moments, is calling readers to “make friends” with God’s providence. And in our life’s oncoming hinge moments, he calls us to set our face to accomplishing the tasks God has placed before us. The first task might just be reading this book. 

Jordan Wootten

Jordan Wootten serves as a News and Culture Channel Editor at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and a writer/editor at RightNow Media. He's a board member at The LoveX2 Project, an organization seeking to make the world a better place for moms and babies. Jordan is a graduate of … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24