A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Benjamin J. Montoya
About the Author
David F. Wells is the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Our culture has changed in several ways as a result of modernization. There has been a new pagan ideology that has come with it. What has changed? How did it happen? And how can Christians continue to maintain their faith by being just as courageous as the Reformers? Consider this book to answer these crucial questions.
This book is the second edition of a summary of four other books that Wells wrote.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Inside the Evangelical World
Chapter 2 Truth
Chapter 3 God
Chapter 4 Self
Chapter 5 Christ
Chapter 6 Church
Chapter 1: Inside the Evangelical World
The evangelical world has changed in several important drastic ways. It, like the nursery rhyme of “Humpty Dumpty,” has had a great fall. It will be seen whether evangelicalism can be put back together again. But you may be wondering, what has happened that has lead to this?
First, our culture has changed in its thinking towards Christianity. With all the modernization that we each enjoy daily, there has come with it an ideology that is secular and can be known as modernism. It is a worldview that is essentially pagan and seeks to deny and silence all the key aspects of Christianity. This pagan movement has been largely successful, such that many Christians accept some of the ideas of this secularism implicitly. One of the primary ways that this can be seen is in the Church.
Second, in the Church, the leaders and members have begun to treat it like they are businesses with customers. Certainly, there is some overlap because between how a church functions and how a business does, but that is not in view. What is in view is that churches have become businesses that have a product that they seek to market to their clientele, such that if the clientele are not happy, they will take their business elsewhere. The Church, however, is not a business in this sense. The Church is the bride of Christ and is God’s work that must be done His way. That does not sit well with many would be customers because it forces them to come face-to-face with the God of the Bible through the preached Word and be confronted with their sin and need of repentance in the process. Many people do not want to hear those things because it is not the same kind of psychologized, therapeutic message they hear from the culture. The Reformers used to speak of sola Scriptura, but for many people, now it has become sola cultura. People want God, the Bible, Church to fit their culture, not seek to see what God has to say to their culture.
Third, as a result of these changes, there have been movements that have arisen within the Church to cater to what people want. Two of them bear mentioning. First, the Willow Creek Church movement sought to build off people’s desire for entertainment in the local church, modeling everything around it. Second, taking an entirely different route, the so-called Emergent Church movement sought to bring back a sense of mystery and apply more postmodern doctrine that redefines Christian doctrine to the point that it is no longer recognizable. Willow Creek removed doctrine because it was not marketable to their customers and the Emergent Church redefined it for the same reasons. Both groups find their roots in Protestant liberalism that evangelicals thought they conquered. But because the next generation was not discipled to recognize, understand, and combat liberalism in the same ways, liberalism has come back in full force in so many ways.
Finally, the current state of the Church reminds us that our time is both similar and different from the time of the Reformation. The Church before the Reformation operated in a world that had a religious mindset; ours does not. People had a sense of the doctrine of sin because the Church had at least explained that; today the term is missing from the vocabulary of most. People knew they needed salvation because of their sin; today people no longer think of salvation as a need at all. When Luther confronted the Church for its departure from Scripture, he knew what he was up against; we, however, do not have as clear of an idea because of the great fall evangelicalism has had.
There are similarities between Luther’s time and ours. There was no confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture in either time. Luther’s people did not understand the weightiness of sin any more than people do today. Sure, they had the term in their vocabulary, but few felt the term like they should. People did not understand the unique sufficiency of Christ in his death and resurrection. These similarities are serious because they are all tied so closely to the gospel.
“The fact is that we are living in a time of the most extraordinary paradoxes. Never have we had so much in our society and yet never have people had so little. Never have we had more affluence, despite some economic ups and downs, and yet seldom have we felt so empty. We have brilliant technology but disconnected, fragmented families. Never has so much talk filled the air through radio, television, and the Internet, and yet never before has so much talk been left unheard. We are connected to everyone, potentially, in every place, and yet never have we felt so alone. Ours is a world of extraordinary opportunity but one that is also littered with many broken dreams and forgotten hopes. It is a world dark with hatreds but one in which, for so many people, evil is no longer a part of their vocabulary. If the church cannot become the place where all these issues are given their deepest and truest treatment, then the church will have lost its reason to exist. These are the questions now facing us. If we fail, Christianity may well stumble and falter throughout the West.”
Chapter 2: Truth
One area that has changed is our view of truth. Through the modernization of our world, our view of truth has gone away, such that many people will say things like, “Well, it’s true for you, but not for me.” What has happened that people have taken such a different view of truth? How has this affected the Church? How does all of this relate to the courage of being Protestant?
It goes back to the Enlightenment. This movement was a call to freedom in all areas of life, especially from any kind of authority that had been previously known. As this movement grew through history, it has worked its way into the Church and its theologians in seminaries and universities. One of the causalities has been truth. Truth has become something that is perspectival. People used to know truth as something verifiable, that is, is what is being said correspond to the reality of the object that is being referenced? Is it raining outside, yes or no? That is verifiable. Now, people do not care so much about this notion of truth or its verifiability or its correspondence to reality. They still care about a lot of things, but just not truth.[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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