Jun 19

Above All Earthly Powers, Christ in a Postmodern World, by David Wells ?????

This is the fourth in a series of books written by David Wells on the status of the church in the last 20 years. In all of the books in the series, he offers insights into how the church has drifted away from its doctrinal moorings and yielded to the Zeitgeist of pluralism, commercialism, and materialism, while turning the focus of worship from God to self. In this book, Wells takes a particular aim at the influences of postmodern thinking on the nature and behavior of church. In the first several chapters, he defines postmodernism. I tend to agree with his assessment that postmodernism is really just another form of modernism, a form which has run the experiment of the Enlightenment to its bitter deadly end. He then addresses how America has gone from a uniform white European Protestant community to being a multicultural hodgepodge, and how that has affected the way we think and act, as well as the way we “do” church. The next chapter addresses how Americans have actually become much more spiritual across the board, yet much less religious. This is a result of a lost basis for religion, especially the grounding of the authority of Scripture, while enhancing the authority of the inner self, and how one feels about god. Next, Wells discusses how the entirety of “meaning” has found a new home. Whereas the older philosophers such as Sartre and Camus spoke of our existential despair, the new think is almost a sense of giddy irrational joy regarding our meaninglessness. Unfortunately, the Christian response has been sociological rather than soteriological, i.e., has tried to answer man’s quest for meaning in terms of help groups rather than giving the gospel. Wells brushes with how the new thinking about Paul has contributed to the evangelical problem by diminishing the work of Christ on the cross. Next, Wells speaks of how our current age has lost its “centeredness”, attacking the openness theology of Clark Pinnock as contributing to the meaninglessness of events in the world where even God has lost control. Wells does a devastating rebuke of openness thinking. In the end, Wells ends with his characteristic theme of showing how all of these postmodern thought patterns has led to the behaviors that we now see in the church, including the Willow Creek phenomenon, church marketing, and the church as the focus of every sort of commercial enterprise. While Willow Creek style pastors have a true desire to help the church to grow, they have sacrificed truth in the process. Thus, they ultimately have nothing to offer the post-modern man, longing for true truth. Church must “preserve its cognitive identity and distinction from the culture” in order to truly flourish. Christians are not to incorporate into or conquer post-modernity, but rather stand for Christ, as post-modernity will die as all other philosophies have died. This book is a must-read for Christians who truly wish to make an impact on post-modern man.

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One Response to “Above All Earthly Pow’rs”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    “Church must “preserve its cognitive identity and distinction from the culture” in order to truly flourish.”

    What I see as largely lacking in American Christianity is any notion of rediscovering and recovering a community identity as the people of God. Cognitive identity is not unimportant but it is not the social, behavioral identity that applies more generally in the context of a shared life together in community. Perhaps living in a place where that experiment is writ large in the surrounding Mennonite colonies, I see the interplay of communal and cognitive identity, and the contrast to rugged American individualistic culture that has contributed to a loss of identity among decaying-world Christians as a distinct people.

    For instance, most American Christians are syncretists in their loyalties, taking the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of an apostate government as quickly as affirming their membership in Christ’s kingdom. More than a loss of cognitive identity is the loss of a sense of exclusive citizenship in another kingdom that is as real and vital as Washington. The destruction of the decaying-world church can be attributed in large part to this misidentification of the world’s wolf den as a sheepfold.

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