Author proposes ‘viral vitality’ as remedy for pandemic’s spiritual slump
May 7th, 2020 / By: Tim Tune | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
NASHVILLE—Despite layoffs and sell-offs, shutdowns and lockdowns—even heartbreaking disease and death—the author of a new ebook proposes that “there can be a distinct vitality in our souls” amid the bleak circumstances of a viral pandemic.
“A vitality is available in Christ that can enhance our daily lives, even in a time of social upheaval and widespread grief,” says Art Toalston, author of A Pandemic Proposal: Viral Vitality … Hope for the Human Soul. “As long as we have a heartbeat and can breathe, why not venture forward with an optimized view of life? A coronavirus pandemic cannot alter God’s creation of the human soul.”
Seven Texas Southern Baptists are among the contributors of chapter 8, a collection of brief contemplations by 42 pastors and laypeople reflecting on Scriptures that promote spiritual vitality in their own lives.
Toalston, retired longtime senior editor of Baptist Press, acknowledges that in crisis conditions, this “may not be a euphoric vitality.” However, he maintains, “just as our physical bodies, when well, function as they were intended to do, so too can the spirit within us.”
In chapter 4 of the book, Toalston explains how this might be lived out: “Oddly, or perhaps providentially, a gripping pandemic can be an opportune moment to connect your life, your energies, your readiness to pray, and your finances to a cause, a movement that encompasses the totality of the soul in venturing forth in God’s plan and blessing.”
This passage reflects Toalston’s own experience of taking advantage of “an opportune moment” to respond to the pandemic’s disruption of his own life.
Toalston, who describes himself as a “journalistic adventurer and spiritual disciplines advocate,” lives in the Nashville area. In mid-March his part-time job with the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives was suspended when the facility closed to comply with pandemic guidelines.
Toalston began “asking the Lord what I could do to be productive. That’s when and where the thought came to write a book drawing on the Scripture I had memorized over the years.”
Over the next two weeks, he said, “I experienced moment after moment when the Lord took me to various Scriptures that I had copied to note cards over the years and had memorized, meditated upon, and re-memorized whenever they had faded from memory. And it seemed that the Lord gave me the ideas for starting each chapter and ideas for the flow of each chapter. It was a humbling experience.”
The topics covers are:
- Chapter 1 — Your Soul
- Chapter 2 — Your Circumstances
- Chapter 3 — Your Relationships
- Chapter 4 — Your World
- Chapter 5 — Your Future
- Chapter 6 — If You’re Addicted
- Chapter 7 — Our Vision & Vitality
- Chapter 8 – Contemplations – These brief scriptural reflections offer grassroots perspectives to end the book.
Texans who wrote reflections are:
- Joshua Crutchfield, Madisonville; pastor of First Baptist Church, Madisonville; former vice president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention – Revelation 21:1
- Jimmy Draper, Colleyville; former SBC president; former president, LifeWay Christian Resources; former pastor, First Baptist Church, Euless – Jeremiah 17:23-24
- Susie Hawkins, Dallas; author of From One Ministry Wife to Another; wife of O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources of the SBC – John 10:27-28
- Amy Hebert, Amarillo; mom, writer and wife of Andrew Hebert, lead pastor of Paramount Baptist Church – Psalm 37:23-24
- Gary Ledbetter, Grand Prairie; Southern Baptists of Texas Convention director of communications and ministry relationships; editor, Southern Baptist TEXAN – Ecclesiastes 2:21, 24; Matthew 6:33
- Clara Molina, Fort Worth; conference speaker and author; member of the Southern Baptist Hispanic Leaders Council; wife of Bruno Molina, language and interfaith evangelism associate, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention – Philippians 4:8
In discussing his expectations for the book, Toalston says he’s hopeful “the book makes its way to non-Christians” so their lives can be changed as his was. “After I turned to Christ in 1971 on the front porch of my aunt’s house in Newton, Miss., the difference has been night and day,” he said. He pointed out that chapters 1 and 6 include the plan of salvation.
“Second,” Toalston said, “I hope the book makes its way to church members. We need to eradicate anything ho-hum about our faith. We need to optimize our lives by tapping into its supernatural dimension, reflected, for instance, by the fruit of the Holy Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.”
“And third,” Toalston said, “I hope it can join with others in challenging the prevailing secular mindset in our country that is dismissive or ridicules the supernatural things of God. Just because something is supernatural doesn't make it anti-intellectual or nonexistent.
“Christians are intelligent people who are part of an extraordinary heritage of faith through the ages, and that remains viable today and in each new era of the human story. All of life is supernatural, from the cosmos to the tiniest microbes, as is the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.”
Editor’s Note: Toalston’s A Pandemic Proposal is now available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Pandemic-Proposal-Viral-Vitality-Human-ebook/dp/B086Q5GYLW