I am 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).
Because of our deep need to conform, we have in effect allowed pollsters to become our teachers and ethicists, our philosophers and theologians (58).
The past few decades have seen . . . a gradual descent into the “self” movement, a psychologizing of faith, and an adaptation of Christian belief to a therapeutic culture. . . . we have lost our focus on transcendent biblical truth (58).
It is, of course, true that all human beings are made in the image of God and are spiritually descended from the same Adam, so sin has essentially the same character in all people, whether ancient or modern, black or white, Eastern or Western, male or female, educated or uneducated. At the same time, ethnic and cultural differences do create differences in the specific contours of worldliness from one to another. Every culture makes some sins easier to indulge in and others more difficult, throws a cloak of legitimacy over some but not others. It is especially important for the church, in its own cultural location, to be able to discern generically how sin is made to look normal and normative and how righteousness is made to look strange (59).
We are nothing if not consumers—consumers of things, words, images, sex, power, relationships, experiences, and ethnicity. We are all suspended in a state of unsatisfied desire, perpetually expecting that immediate satisfaction is at hand, trying to work out the key to obtaining it. There is scarcely any available resource that has not been pressed into use to provide satisfaction, emancipation, or self-actualization; there is scarcely any part of life over which we, as a society, do not seek control in the interests of ease, security, and having plenty. Those are the hallmarks of consumption: a hunger for satisfaction on the part of those who consume and a hunger for control on the part of those who dominate the processes of production. The primacy of the consumer mentality has loosed two connected revolutions on the modern world—the therapeutic and the managerial (61).
The therapeutic and managerial revolutions presume to offer a kind of secular providence, transferring the control of the world from the hands of God to those of managers and therapists (61-62).
Evangelicals have been willing to bestow legitimacy only on ideas that work (67).