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Church History Book Reviews – No Place For Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
Reviewed by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon
No Place For Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
by David Wells
WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI: 1994.
318 Pages, Hardback
Christendom as a whole is in dire straights. It is divided on so many issues; some legitimate and some illegitimate. How are we to understand the process by which the church has arrived at the state it is in? How did it get so bad so quickly? David Wells says that the reasons that the church is in such turmoil, is a result of the influence which modernity and secularism have shaped western culture. The world is infiltrating the church and the church does not know it; nor does it care. Well’s books surveys the church and exposes this problem in hopes that the church begins to think about the plight it has allowed itself to fall into.
His analysis of the cultures has shown what the age of modernity and technology have done to the morality of the church, and the adverse affects it has had on the spirit of the church. Relativism permeates church life, and churches have given into modernism in more ways than one. Its biggest impact has been the destruction of theology. Where the church of old was the known and respected center of life for any town, now it has become the movie theater. Amusement, entertainment, and the like have replaced morality with a fiction all their own. Theology then has been put on the wayside and churches are more interested in the drama and mime of the entertainment industry than they are about preaching Christ crucified. Wells makes a convincing and penetrating argument against the modern church showing that as a result of losing its Bible-centered theology, they have equally lost the God of that Bible in exchange for modernism.
Though written in 1994, the principles laid out in Wells’ book can easily be applied to today’s 21st century church. At large, I agree with Wells’ argument that theology has been replaced by secularism in a variety of forms. Theology is placed on the outer circle instead in the center of town – and in today’s church it is altogether lost. Theology is a fancy word people used to think about, but it has become irrelevant today in the existential church environment. People are far more inclined to attended the “self-help” seminar than the theological lecture (if a theological lecture is even offered!)
If theology is lost then where does that leave the Gospel in most churches? Where does it leave the call to repent and be saved? Where it leave knowledge in general? It leaves it in the “I’m okay your okay” mentality and the “We do not need theology but just Jesus” mentality. Modernity has swept through the church and set the power-switch of the minds of Christians in the off position. To regain what has been lost there must be a renewal in theology and doctrine. But this is difficult sine Christian first need to learn that thinking is important, before they can be shown what to think about.
This book is penetrating. It is a little slow in the beginning due to the historical aspect he describes in South Hamilton, MA, but it is needful to move through that history in light of what has transpired in that city even now (Wells’ home church is there, and my wife and I lived in that town for a year so we are very familiar with the setting which Wells describes.). This is a must read book for theological students, Pastors, fathers, and teachers. Anyone who is responsible for teaching, whether it be in the home or in the church should read this book. It is insightful and Wells shows he has a good grasp of the arm of the church to take the spiritual pulse of this generation.
“Religion has consistently prospered at the expense of theology.”
“The disappearance of theology from the life of the Church, and the orchestration of that disappearance by some of its leaders, is hard to miss today but, oddly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evangelical world – the vacuous worship that is so prevalent, for example, in the shift from God to the self as the central focus of faith, in the psychologized preaching that follows this shift, in the erosion of its conviction, in its strident pragmatism, in its inability to think incisively about the culture, in its reveling in the irrational. And it would have made few of these capitulations to modernity had not its capacity for truth diminished. It is not hard to see these things; avoiding them is what is difficult.”
“This confluence of thought and social environment has produced great turbulence and disorder in the modern psyche. It has reshaped the modern understanding of who people are, how they gain access to reality; and how they should govern their behavior. The are themes to which we will return shortly. Before that, though, we need to consider the protest Reformation in order to see how it is understanding of the individuals has been transformed over time to the extent that only a perverted version has survived in contemporary evangelicalism.”
“The anti-theological mood that now grips the evangelical world is changing its internal configuration, its effectiveness, and its relation to the past.”