Divine Weightlessness: The Fundamental Problem in Evangelicalism

WellsThis year, I am reading through David Wells six works on the role of theology in American Evangelicalism (disambiguation: David Wells the South African-born theologian, not the former MLB pitcher). In years past, I’ve read selected chapters from his books, but this year I am taking the plunge and diving into his whole corpus.

For those who are not familiar with Wells, you should be. His six works include

Right now, I’m in the beginning of God in the Wasteland, the sequel to No Place for Truth. In this volume, Wells is trying to answer some of the problems and objections raised in his first volume. In both books, he argues that modernity (a hyper-rational way of thinking about the world) and modernization (e.g., urbanization, technology, consumerism, globalization, etc.) have effectively displaced truth from the church and left it with pragmatism and therapeutic psychology.

Synthesizing those issues, he makes this statement regarding the fundamental problem in evangelicalism:

The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing stanch the flow of blood spilling from its true wound. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is to ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel too easy, and his Christ too common. (God in the Wasteland30).

Wells assessment was true in 1994 and it remains true today. In most American churches, God is weightless. Churches offer Christianity lite and evangelicals speak of God in worn-out, glib cliches. God’s glory (originally defined in the Hebrew as his kavod, his heaviness) is lacking in churches. As a result, Christians have little ballast to hold them in place, and little grace and truth to see how much culture has shaped their lives and how little Christ has.

What the church needs more than anything today is a vision of a holy and loving God, sovereign over all life and infinitely gracious to send his Son to die for wicked sinners. Going into a century that increasingly marginalizes and ostracizes Christ and his church, we need to recapture the of glory of God, or better we need to be captured by God’s glory.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Postmodernity and Evangelical Thought (1): An Introduction

Postmodernism (PM) can be defined as a mood that questions authority, denies absolute truth, and locates meaning in the language of local communities.  While PM is the product of twentieth century thought, its precursors go back much further in history.  For instance, Friedrich Schleiermacher espoused a view of doctrine that was impermanent and always changing relative to the community in which it was experienced.  While situated more than a century before the likes of Derrida, Lyotard, and other philosophers of language, Schleiermacher’s liberal theology anticipates the postmodern turn.

Still, the question of authority, truth, and community predates Schleiermacher, too.  In John 18:38 Pilate, in a discussion about kingdoms, authority, and truth, asks Jesus, “What is truth?”  The relativism in his question comes not from a philosophical system of Western thought; it comes from the human condition that stands outside of the Garden.

Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their offspring has sought to assert their own authority, to make up their own laws, and to live in their own cities of men.  Over time, as Western Civilization once again threw off the constraints of God’s Word and church tradition, the question of the hour is that of Pilate: What is truth?

This series of blog posts aims to give an answer to the postmodern mood that undergirds our ambient culture.  To answer the question about postmodernism we must first consider modernism, as post-modernism stands in direct relationship to his period of time and thought.  Second, I will survey postmodernism and its major contributing voices.  And third, this series will consider the effect postmodernism has had on evangelical theology, and what evangelicals must do to wisely and selectively appropriate the tenets of postmodernity.

As we go along, let me know what you think.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss