Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Therapeutic Spirituality Without Transformational Faith: David Wells on Emergent Spirituality

David Wells recently spoke in Southeastern Seminary chapel for two days on the topic, "Emergent Spirituality." I was not able to attend, but I have now listened to both lectures, which are available online. They're not for the faint of heart (don't listen to them to stay awake while you're driving), but your dedication to wade in will be well-rewarded. Stream or download the files via the SEBTS chapel page.

Wells is certainly one of the premier deconstructors of modern and post-modern thinking and culture from an evangelical perspective. His central theme in both lectures is that in recent decades the Church has been infiltrated by a desire for spirituality apart from religion. By religion he refers, I believe, not to ritualistic trappings but to authentic faith. Wells describes this desire for spirituality as a tourist mentality—a satisfaction with a journey that peruses a variety of perspectives, rather than a pursuit for the singular prize of objective truth. Wells analyzes how both the Emerging Movement and the Church Growth Movement are ultimately oriented similarly towards a therapeutic or felt-needs spirituality at the cost of truth and doctrine.

He quotes B.B. Warfield who spoke presciently a century ago:
No one will doubt that Christians of today must state their Christian beliefs in terms of modern thought. Every age has a language of its own and can speak no other . Mischief only comes when instead of stating Christian beliefs in terms of modern thought, the effort is made rather to state modern thought in terms of Christian belief.
I was encouraged by Wells' closing remarks:
God draws near to us through His Word by the work of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with that Word. It is only through His Word that He lifts the fallen with His promises, and He fills the hungry, and He corrects the wandering, and He rebukes the self-sufficient. And every time He speaks, He leaves behind the fragrance of His grace. And so, may we be preachers of His Word.

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