Our Time (part 1)

One theologian that has influenced my thinking is David Wells. Wells resides solidly in the Reformation stream of thinking, so there some (many) things that I do not agree with him about. Having noted that, I have learned much from Wells. His writings were what clued me into the importance of holiness in the Bible (which convicted me enough to write a doctrinal dissertation concerning holiness). Beginning in 1993, Wells wrote a series of six books critiquing American Evangelicalism. The first book that he wrote, No Place for Truth, Or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Eerdmans, 1993), takes the reader on a journey through the cultural changes in this country, diagnosing the problems biblical faith deals with.

The following excerpts are from No Place for Truth, page numbers are in parenthesis. Even though they are almost thirty years old, I think they are timely.

That “Our Time” is characterized by (and has become a distinct period because of) mass wars, mass consumption, mass education, and mass knowledge is hardly debatable. The question is what all of this means (76).

In the past, Western society was held together by three sinews: tradition, authority, and power. To change the image, these were the garments that covered Western society, and without them it has become indecent. Of these three, tradition might have been the first to go, although it went hand in hand with authority. Tradition is the process whereby one generation inducts its successor into its accumulated wisdom, lore, and values. The family once served as the chief conduit for this transmission, but the family is now collapsing, not merely because of divorce but as a result of affluence and the innovations of a technological age. . . . So it is that in the new civilization that is emerging, children are lifted away from the older values like anchorless boats on a rising tide (84).

Tradition and authority have been severed; only power remains. It is power alone that must direct our corporate life, power severed from a moral order that might contain and correct it and from the values of the past that might inform it. In a strange testimony to this inner vacuum, the profession of law has risen to such prominence in America that 70 percent of all the lawyers in the world practice here. In the absence of moral obligation and a sense of what is right, disputes are extraordinarily difficult to resolve, and so the set of rules that has emerged under the law must take on duties that were once shouldered by a variety of other institutions—the family, the schools, the church. Now we are left with only the lawyers. It is a terrible thing, Solzhenitsyn said, to live in a society (such as that in the former Soviet Union) where there is no law; it is also a terrible thing to live in a society (such as that in America) where there are only lawyers (85).

What do you think? More to come.

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