Published on July 4, 2019 by Benjamin J. Montoya

Eerdmans, 1998 | 228 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Benjamin Montoya


About the Author

David F. Wells is the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.



Despite all the technological advances of our culture, there are important things that it loses with the secular mentality that accompanies it. One of the major losses is our virtue. What is that? Why does it matter? What should Christians think about it? In this careful analysis of how our culture has lost its virtue, Wells will answer these important questions.

This book is part-three of Well’s series of books that would ideally be read after the other two:

No Place for Truth
God in the Wasteland
Losing Our Virtue


Table of Contents

Chapter I: A Tale of Two Spiritualities
Chapter II: The Playground of Desire
Chapter III: On Saving Ourselves
Chapter IV: The Bonfire of the Self
Chapter V: Contradictions
Chapter VI: Faith of the Ages


Chapter I: A Tale of Two Spiritualities

Our modern world is so much different than what people used to know. We have become so used to it that we need to reflect on how things have changed. We now live in a world of a world civilization that moves beyond the confines of people living in one country living and thinking differently than people elsewhere. Second, technological advances are developing at such a rate that is previously unknown. Third, our world is becoming one that is without religious foundations. The modernization we have experienced is bringing with it a ideology known as modernism. What role, then, does the church and spirituality play in this context?

Just as there is a Tale of Two Cities, there is also now a tale of two spiritualities that have resulted out of modernism. Let’s consider each of these separately. First, there is the product of modernism, postmodern spirituality. This kind of spirituality has taken its lead from modernism. It is individualistic because people seek what they want in a church. It focuses on the therapeutic side of spirituality, so pastors who are healers are what is desired. Postmodern spirituality is also antiestablishment because of postmoderns’ rejection of authority that goes all the way back to the Enlightenment. Churches who have adopted this kind of spirituality are many and large in size because they have refocused on what their “customers” want.

The second is classic spirituality. This kind of spirituality has a doctrinal basis, devotional habits, a strong moral character, and responsibilities in the Church and society. It was formulated by the Reformers and passed down through the Puritans. Several modern-day pastors and theologians continue to represent this stream of spirituality. But this brand of spirituality is not so popular in the modern culture of modernism because consumers like postmodern spirituality better.

What are some of the key differences between these two? “Wherein, then, lies the difference between a classical and a postmodern modern spirituality? The latter begins, not so much with sin as morally framed, but with sin as psychologically experienced, not so much with sin in relation to God, but with sin in relation to ourselves. It begins with our anxiety, pain, and disillusionment, with the world in its disorder, order, the family or marriage in its brokenness, or the workplace in its brutality and insecurity. God, in consequence, is valued to the extent that he is able to bathe these wounds, assuage these insecurities, calm these fears, restore some sense of internal order, and bring some sense of wholeness.”

The situation that we experience now in many ways parallels that prior to the Reformation. “The similarities today are not exact, but they are close. We do not live under the same religious canopy as they did then, and the need for salvation that was so acutely felt then is a stranger to our souls now. However, what seems unmistakably similar is that in our modern culture the contention that Christ is uniquely God’s provision is offensive. And even in the evangelical Church, there is a growing acceptance that there are multiple paths to God. Furthermore, as the understanding of sin is eroded – and it is being eroded in the Church – the various self-help therapies seem more and more innocent and necessary. Medieval piety reached for moral attainment to complete the work of Christ. We reach for psychological technique and knowledge to do the same thing.” The need for today, then, is also a reformation in spirituality.


Chapter II: The Playground of Desire

Another part of our culture losing its virtue is how the culture is now largely affected by the so-called playground of our desires. There used to be a general, understood sense of what is decent and not. Men were supposed to act in certain ways and women in others. But with the changes that have come around because of the secular worldview that has permeated our culture, the individual’s desires have become the most important thing on the playground. Where did this attitude come from?

This new individualistic attitude stems from the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment affected many things in so many ways, but its central cry was one for freedom. One are that people want freedom is in their morals. They want to do what they want to do when and how.The modern day attitude of individualism can be summed up by a Washington lawyer: “To be perfectly honest, some laws seem to apply to me, some I disregard. Some tenets of the Catholic Church add up, some are absurd, or even insulting. I don’t need the Pope, the press, or some lowly cop to tell me how to live my life.” It is shocking to hear a lawyer—someone who interprets laws that speak to moral issues—say this sort of thing. But he is a product of his time because. . .

[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]

The remainder of this article is premium content. Become a member to continue reading.

Already have an account? Sign In

Buy the books

Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision

Eerdmans, 1998 | 228 pages

Share This

Share this with your friends!