David Wells, World Vision, and the Need for Truth


In No Place for Truth, David Wells demonstrates how the last two centuries, and especially the last fifty years, have witnessed the evacuation of theology in evangelical churches. He attributes the cause of this theological decline to a number of factors, but two in particular: modernity (with its denial of biblical authority and its elevation of individual autonomy) and modernization (with its increase in technology, urbanization, cliché cultures).

Wells shows the pernicious effect that modernity and modernization have had on the church, and how evangelicals (like the liberals before them) have opted for life over doctrine, and as a result have lost both. His book is a clarion call to return to the Scriptures and to care once again about sound doctrine. Though, this book is short on solutions, it rightly diagnoses so many problems in the church, and causes pastors and churches alike to reconsider what they are doing, or better, what they are believing.

Wells book is full of quotes and insights. Here are a number on the (diminishing) importance of theology among evangelicals. (In trying to get a handle on his thesis, I typed a number of these quotes. Here’s a selection, the rest can be found in this PDF). Continue reading

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