Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Drinking from Wells

Several days ago I finished David Wells' No Place for Truth, Or "Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?" and found myself wishing I had pulled this book off my shelf years ago. O that seminaries had their students reading more of Wells and less of Warren. One of the central themes of his argument is that the Church has drunken deeply from the wells (pun intended) of Modernism, despite protestations to the contrary. I hope to share some selected quotes from time to time in coming days.
Evangelicals are antimodern only across a narrow front; I write from a position that is antimodern across the entire front. It is only where assumptions in culture directly and obviously contradict articles of faith that most evangelicals become aroused and rise up to battle "secular humanism"; aside from these specific matters, they tend to view culture as neutral and harmless. More than that, they often view culture as a partner amenable to being coopted in the cause of celebrating Christian truth. I cannot share that naivete; indeed, I consider it dangerous. Culture is laden with values, many of which work to rearrange the substance of faith, even when they are mediated to us through the benefits that the modern world also bestows upon us. [page 11, emphasis mine]
I subscribe to World Magazine and read it from cover to cover, but I wonder if World does not provide fuel for this mindset, with its incessant reviews of books, music, and movies from pop culture and its spiritualized, less artistic sibling. Perhaps there is benefit in the fact that World confronts some Christians for the first time with the need to filter their entertainment choices through a doxological grid. I find, on the other hand, that I need to remind myself that a positive, family-friendly review ought not to constitute in my mind a valid reason to partake.


SoccerReformer said...

In the 9 Marks interview, I thought Wells said he was about to come out with a 4th book on the demise of evangelicalism (my phrase, but he fears for its existence).

Does anyone know if this has been published or if not, when it will be?

Unk said...

There are better things to spend subscription money on that World. Touchstone for one.

Scott Aniol said...

You're right. I most often skip the entertainment section of World!

Unk said...

Nice allusion, by the way, to the Kara post.

Ben said...

Could you clarify the allusion?

Ben said...

Reformed Soccer Guy,
Here's what you're looking for. We've only got a few weeks to wait for its release.

What happened to your Christian Soccer Fans blog, by the way? I bookmarked it and it's gone now.

lilrabbi said...

Hmmm, I wasn't aware that there were any Christian Soccer fans. Isn't it the embodiment of 3rd world Marxism?

Unk said...

I thought you meant something with Drinking from Wells and the Kara post on Depth.

Ben said...

Ha! That's funny. Strictly coincidence, though. I was just shooting for the cheap Wells pun with a general reference to the content.

Ben said...


It's 3rd world Marxism AND Donald Rumsfeld's "Old Europe." Regardless we're trying to redeem the culture.

Paul said...

How can our culture be redeemed through the national pastime of communism? I am with you lilrabbi.

Early this year I think I saw some sort of a book review on NPFT by Mike Harding in Frontline. I believe I saw it in early Feb. and if I remember right he was pretty critical in some way about what Wells was saying. I did not read it all, just skimmed quick.

Has anybody seen it? What are your thoughts? Paleo, if you think it would be worthwhile perhaps you could dig it up. I think it would interesting to see an FBF style analysis. Perhaps you could review the review.

Ben said...


We have a subscription in our office so I tracked it down on someone's desk. It's in the January-February, 2005 issue.

About 80% is a favorable summary of Wells. Interesting to me personally was that Harding and I both refer to some of the same comments from Wells—see this post.

The last column of Harding's review makes the argument that Wells does not go far enough in that his solution does not go far enough to explicitly endorse a fundamentalist/separatist position. I think this is largely fair, but my recollection (I failed to mark the examples sufficiently) is that Wells makes some separatistic statments and certainly alludes vaguely to some of the specific practices Harding rightfully decries in the passage I'll quote below.

Harding makes an interesting point about Wells' call for the evangelical Church to pursue reformation, not revival (in a Finneyistic sense). He says, "Revival certainly cannot put life into that which is essentially dead. Nor can reformation renovate apostasy." It is unclear what exactly the "evangelical Church" Wells refers to consists of. If it's the typical lists of "Top 50 Most Influential Evangelical Churches," then Harding is right that regeneration needs to precede reformation. I suspect that Wells meaning, however, is to call on those churches that hold to the historical fundamentals of the gospel but propagate man-centered strategies for worship and church growth to recognize their need to refocus.

Here's Harding's conclusion:
"What we need today is not 'new' Fundamentalism or 'younger' Fundamentalism. Instead, we must recommit ourselves as Fundamentalists to Biblical, orthodox, and historic docrine by affirming as well as defending those doctrines by means of a militant exposure of non-Biblical expressions and practices. Furthermore, we must militantly oppose the New Evangelicalism defined as a conciliatory movement antagonistic to historic, Biblical Fundamentalism, accommodating to Neo-Orthodoxy, opposed to Biblical separation, and cooperative with compromise movements such as ecumenical Evangelism, sensual Christian music, Evangelical feminism, Charismatic theology, Christian psychology, and Willow Creek/Saddleback pragmatism. Finally, Fundamental leaders should encourage our ministerial students to submit themselves to thorough training [emphasis his] in Biblical and systematic theology, the Biblical languages, expositional preaching, the history of Fundamentalism, and our great Baptist heritage."

Although Harding and I might disagree on the precise definitions of some of these terms, such as "non-Biblical expressions and practices," I agree with the substance of his conclusion.

Ben said...

That link is wrong. Not sure why. Here's the correct URL:

Paul said...

Thanks Paleo.