This is the last of my posts on David Wells’ new book, Above All Earthly Pow’rs. I thought his criticism a bit relentless, and I found his conclusion a bit surprising, but I thought his emphasis on immigration as significant to the face of the Church in the USA important.
Wells finishes off his long chapter on the megachurches by excoriating their shallow theology. This sums it all up: “Seeker methodology rests upon the Pelagian view that human beings are not inherently sinful, despite credal affirmations to the contrary, that in their disposition to God and his Word postmoderns are neutral [this is part of his critique of the “seeker” mentality], that they can be seduced into making the purchase of faith even as they can into making any other kind of purchase” (299). Sinners, in other words, are customers who have to be served. “Bring on the popcorn but be careful about the Cross” (306).
Evangelicalism, especially in the seeker and megachurches according to Wells, have two weaknesses: they have adopted marketing strategies and they are slowly stripping themselves of the truth.
Then Wells makes a concluding proposal of what the evangelical church needs, and it is this conclusion that shocked me. After stating that the evangelical church has to proclaim the truth of the gospel in the teeth of the culture, he says this:
“That proclamation must arise within a context of authenticity. It is only as the evangelical Church begins to put its own house in order, its members begin to disentangle themselves from all those cultural habits which militate against a belief in truth, and begin to embody that truth in the way that the Church actually lives, that postmodern skepticism might begin to overcome. Postmoderns want to see as well as hear, to find authenticity in relationship as the precursor to hearing what is said. … What postmoderns want to see, and are entitled to see, is believing and being, talking and doing, all joined together in a seamless whole. This is the great challenge of the moment for the evangelical Church. Can it rise to this occasion?”
What surprises about this conclusion is that it is exactly what others — but from different theological platforms — have concluded. I guess I could also say it is encouraging — both emerging and seeker churches also contend that the most powerful apologetic is the combination of gospel truth and praxis.