Last week I began sharing some thoughts from God in the Wasteland (Eerdmans, 1994) by David Wells. According to Wells, this book deals with how “cultural factors influenced the evangelical church and what steps need “to be taken to reverse the situation” (ix).
The biblical authors see everything from a theocentric viewpoint, and secular writers see everything from an anthropocentric viewpoint (44).
In a theocentric vision, all of life is understood from within the perspective that God himself has provided for its understanding; in a solely anthropocentric vision, all of life is evaluated from within the perspective that fallen human nature provides. Our choice of center, our choice of which vantage point we will choose to read the world from—whether it is that of God or the corrupted self, “this age” or “the age to come”—has momentous consequences (45).
The Enlightenment worked its dark magic by seizing such Christian motifs as salvation, providence, and eschatology and rewriting them in humanistic terms, offering their substance in this-worldly ways. It replaced the Christian virtues with the humanistic virtues of truth, freedom, and justice, promoting them as the means to social and political salvation in the here and now (47).
Richard Keyes argues that true idols are internal spiritual configurations. The heart—no less the modern heart—is an idol factory. Idolatry, ancient and modern alike, consists in trusting some substitute for God to serve some uniquely divine function (52).
Why do people choose the substitute over God himself? Probably the most important reason is that it obviates accountability to God. We can meet idols on our own terms because they are our own creations. They are safe, predictable, and controllable (53).
Worldliness is a religious matter. The world, as the New Testament authors speak of it, is an alternative to God. It offers itself as an alternative center of allegiance. It provides counterfeit meaning (54).
What is plainly missing, then, is discernment, and this has much to do with the dislocation of biblical truth from the life of the church today and much to do with the dying of its theological soul. Discernment is a spiritual capacity. It is the insight that comes with Christian wisdom. It is the ability to see “through” life, to see it for what it really is. . . . The heart of the ability to discern right from wrong in the actual circumstances of life is the rich flowering that God intends from the interactions of the truth of his Word, reflection on it, and the moral character that grows out of it (55).
What do you think? More to come.