Saturday, September 15, 2007

David F Wells - God in the Wasteland

An interesting read, and one which got me thinking. Wells is at his best as a critic of culture, though sometimes he comes across as an old man who just prefers his way of doing things. He is, however, very good at turning a phrase, as is evident in the subtitle of the book - "The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams". I've put some more quotes from him here.

I've discussed the main theme of the book here (marketing the church), and spun off it in a direction which Wells hinted at but doesn't seem to have followed much here (are we all liberals now?).

He never really gets to the level of Schaeffer in providing a really big picture or in terms of getting doxological. Having said that, he is good as a cultural critic, and he does seem to get to the root of issues, but what he doesn't seem to do is dig around that root and see that actually there are good bits, and there are ways in which he is affected by the bad bits that he hadn't spotted. I think Wells's real value though is as a flagwaver - alerting people that something is up.

One of the things which makes him very good at that is his phrasing. Here are some more great quotes.

... our unflagging preoccupation with psychological wholeness as a substitute for holiness...

I suspect Wells would not like being cut up into soundbites, but I think the genre of soundbites, despite its many weaknesses, has some excellent qualities.

It is the conceit of modernity that the past is nothing more than a dead weight, that constant innovation is the only key to a better life and richer truth... And we persist in this delusion despite the fact that the lives of us moderns... are everywhere characterised by emptiness, superficiality, banality and destructiveness, whereas the lives of those who lived in previous ages and knew so much less than we do today were often comparatively more human, more serious, and more profound.

Or this, which I'm not sure about, but answers my questions as to why Wells is so anti-marketing...

Even when the machinery is hooked up to market specifically religious claims, it provokes little angst in postmodern quarters, for the machinery itself is perceived to render the marketed object harmless: it's just one more commodity in a crowded marketplace.

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