Item description for The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World by David F. Wells...
Overview "It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant." These words open this bold new text - the summa of David Wells's critique of the evangelical landscape - leaving no doubt that Wells is issuing a challenge to the modern church. This book is a broadside against "new" versions of evangelicalism as well as a call to return to the historic faith, one defined by Reformation solas (grace, faith, and scripture alone), and to a reverence for doctrine. Wells argues that the historic, classical evangelicalism is one marked by doctrinal seriousness, as opposed to the new movements of the marketing church and the emergent church. He energetically confronts the marketing communities and what he terms their "sermons-from-a-barstool and parking lots and apres-worship Starbucks stands." He also takes issue with the most popular evangelical movement in recent years - the emergent church. Emergents are postmodern and postconservative and postfoundational, embracing a less absolute, understanding of the authority of Scripture than Wells maintains is required. The Courage to be Protestant is a dynamic argument for the courage to be faithful to what biblical Christianity has always stood for, thereby securing hope for the church's future.
Publishers Description "It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant." These words open this bold new text - the summa of David Wells's critique of the evangelical landscape - leaving no doubt that Wells is issuing a challenge to the modern church.
This book is a broadside against "new" versions of evangelicalism as well as a call to return to the historic faith, one defined by Reformation solas (grace, faith, and scripture alone), and to a reverence for doctrine.
Wells argues that the historic, classical evangelicalism is one marked by doctrinal seriousness, as opposed to the new movements of the marketing church and the emergent church. He energetically confronts the marketing communities and what he terms their "sermons-from-a-barstool and parking lots and apres-worship Starbucks stands." He also takes issue with the most popular evangelical movement in recent years - the emergent church. Emergents are postmodern and postconservative and postfoundational, embracing a less absolute, understanding of the authority of Scripture than Wells maintains is required.
The Courage to be Protestant is a dynamic argument for the courage to be faithful to what biblical Christianity has always stood for, thereby securing hope for the church's future.
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Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.42" Width: 6.3" Height: 0.95" Weight: 1.2 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2008
Publisher Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN 0802840078 ISBN13 9780802840073
Availability 0 units.
More About David F. Wells
David F. Wells is distinguished senior research professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts, and an ordained Congregationalist minister. His many previous books include Above All Earthly Pow'rs, Losing Our Virtue, God in the Wasteland, and No Place for Truth.
David F. Wells currently resides in the state of Massachusetts.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World?
More great insights from Wells May 26, 2008
David Wells has trained his incisive intellect on the big issues of theology, the life of the church, and the state of contemporary culture for decades now. A theologian with a keen interest in how the church is faring in modern culture, Wells has written much about these vital themes.
Indeed, his previous four volumes on these themes have all been very important contributions to the field. Specifically, No Place for Truth (1993), God in the Wasteland (1994), Losing Our Virtue (1998), and Above All Earthly Pow'rs (2005) have offered detailed assessments of, and reflection on, the crisis of truth in the life of the church, the rise of the therapeutic culture, and the decline of the Evangelical church.
This newest volume continues to explore these themes, and serves as sort of a summary volume for the preceding four. One difference is that, unlike the others, no footnotes or bibliography is included here. Otherwise it takes up where the others have left off, and explores some more recent developments, such as the rise of the emerging church movement, and its postmodern tendencies.
All of these themes - and more - are carefully examined in this very important volume. Wells is a theology lecturer, so his first love and concern is the vital role theology and teaching play in the life of the church. But he is also a careful student of culture, and is able to both discern the various cultural trends, and to note their impact on the church.
Thus he really offers a sort of prophetic perspective on the church, calling it back to its roots, and warning of where and when it strays from its moorings. Consider how the church has so strongly mirrored the world in the way it views success in terms of marketing strategies, numbers, and sales pitches.
In his chapter on the marketing of the gospel, Wells argues that what we have is `Christianity for sale'. As any good marketer knows, the customer is king, so give them what they want. That may work well in secular businesses, but it is disastrous for the church of Jesus Christ.
Christianity is about who God is, and what he thinks. It is not about us. But modern evangelical megachurches and seeker-sensitive services tend to get it back to front. We put the seeker in the primary place, and God is lucky if he even gets second spot.
Says Wells, all this does is produce a "Christianity lite" church. All it offers is a watered down, weak, anaemic and seeker-friendly gospel; one that does not make any demands on us, or expect us to actually change in any way. It is all about what benefits the consumer can get out of the deal.
The problem with this is those attending such churches "are now like any other customers you might find in the mall. Displease them in any way and they will take their business elsewhere". So the pressure is on church leaders to make things consumer friendly - just like outside the church. So they get rid of the pews, the crosses, the preaching, the old hymns, and so on
Entertainment and therapy are offered instead, and the gospel gets watered down so as not to offend. So instead of hearing about sin separating us from a holy God, and worthy of punishment, unless a substitute is found to take our place, we hear instead about what we like most: ourselves.
We hear about how we can be better selves. We learn about self-esteem and self-fulfilment and self-actualisation. It is all devoted to self, and Christ and the cross are relegated to the sidelines. "Make it as easy on the mind as a relaxing show on television. Only give something that works. Do not talk doctrine. Do not hold forth about anything that takes serious effort to believe. Do not sound churchy."
What is left is simply a religious version of the world. Instead of "sola Scriptura", all we really have is "sola cultura". The surrounding culture has won, and the church has simply become a pale imitation of it.
Obviously in such a setting, truth becomes a major casualty, as does doctrine, church discipline, the preaching of the Word, discipleship, and the demands for holiness. Instead the whole package becomes centred on us: our wants, our needs, our longings.
We forget about what God wants of us, demands of us. We forget about the costly nature of Christ's sacrifice for us, and the call for us to imitate our master. Gone are the notions of self-denial, taking up our cross, and following Jesus. In their place we have a self-centred gospel that put us at the centre of attention.
In seeking to be relevant and seeker-sensitive (which is not a bad thing in itself), we have simply truncated the gospel and sold our spiritual birthright. Business and marketing techniques have their place in the world of commerce, but not in the church.
Only by letting God be God, and letting the Gospel once again shine through our teaching and our lives, will we be able to really impact a needy world. Gimmicks and techniques will not cut it. The vision of the Reformers, based as it was on the person and work of Christ, and the authority of Scripture, must be our central focus. Everything else is just a distraction.
David Wells is to be congratulated for reminding us of these timely truths. It is simply basic Christianity that he is reminding us of. But when the basics have been lost, then they need to be reaffirmed loudly and clearly. And Wells has done just that in this invaluable book.
A brilliant exploration of Christianity's central themes in our postmodern context May 18, 2008
For the past fifteen years David Wells has been obsessed with the major themes of Christianity and how they exist within our society today. By "obsessed" I don't mean in some fanatical sense where Wells has sensationally calculated exactly when and how God's judgment is going to come upon us for becoming postmodern as a society. No, I mean "obsessed" in the best possible way. Wells has been obsessed in that he has devoted himself entirely to the task of exploring how our faith's most treasured concepts play out in a society like ours. He has been asking what our modern processes and postmodern thinking have done to these central doctrines.
Most people probably assumed that his 2005 book Above All Earthly Pow'rs was to be his final word on the matter. So when Wells released The Courage to Be Protestant in April of this year (2008), the expectation of many was that it would be some sort of a postscript to his previous four volumes. Yet Wells tells us that he intended something else with Courage: "This book is less a summary and more an attempt at getting at the essence of the project that has engaged me over the last fifteen years. And, hopefully, it will be more accessible than the previous books, not to mention less taxing on readers!"
Advertisements for Golden Grahams cereal used to always include the question "How do they cram all that graham?" The point was that the little grahams in the cereal box tasted like the regular-sized graham crackers. How were they able to jam all the flavor from a big graham cracker into a tiny cereal piece? When I first learned of Wells's intention for Courage, I thought to myself, How is he going to jam all of that content from his previous books onto just one? Having now read the book, I can say that he has done a marvelous job of getting at the essence of the first four. Some of the statistics, illustrations, and quotations are gone, but their insights have been preserved in fewer words.
Ironically, I find myself facing the same dilemma that Wells encountered. Before this review I sought to recap each chapter in Courage individually. I did so by devoting a post on my blog to each chapter. Yet now I'm recapping all of my chapter recaps and seeking to compress them all into one. I didn't plan it this way, but it just so happens that my task in reviewing Wells's book has mirrored his own approach in writing it. In the interest of time and space, however, I'm not going to provide any discussion of the content inside. In that regard my approach is different than Wells's. He has brilliantly and lucidly captured the essence of his longer project and given it to us in a shorter volume. I'm simply remarking that Courage was fantastic and anyone wanting to probe its content further -- short of picking up the actual book itself -- can check out my longer installments posted on my blog.
But I hope that you would simply breeze past my recaps and pick up the book instead. Don't get me wrong, I believe my recaps have captured each chapter's focus well. But reviews cannot contain this book. As good as reviews can be, there are just some books whose content transcends any summary. No cursory glance can do the profundity of this book justice. So I recommend that you pick up The Courage to Be Protestant and make time to read it. Wells calls the church to recover the rallying cries of the Reformation -- the five solas -- which will take courage on our part, but in the end will be worth it. Oh, so worth it.
A Brilliant Work Apr 22, 2008
My interest in reading good books came a little bit too late to read David Wells' four part series of books as they were released (No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland, Losing Our Virtue and Above All Earthly Pow'rs). I now have the four volumes sitting on my bookshelf and have often thumbed through them wishing I could muster up the motivation to dive into the series. The problem is that I am intimidated as I look at them and consider that each of them weighs in at several hundred pages. I know that twelve hundred or more pages of dense content would prove quite the challenge to me and to my too-short attention span.
This is the very reason Wells chose to write The Courage To Be Protestant. This is not a fifth entry in the series as much as it is, or as much as it began at least, as a summary of them. "Once this work got under way," Wells writes, "I found myself not so much compressing as recasting all that I had done and then updating it. The result is that this book is less a summary and more an attempt at getting at the essence of the project that has engaged me over the last fifteen years. And, hopefully, it will be more accessible than the previous books, not to mention less taxing on readers!"
Wells gets straight to the point. "It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant...To live by the truths of historic Protestantism, however, is an entirely different matter. That takes courage in today's context." The truths that Protestants have lived and died by have somehow become no more welcome within a Protestant context than in the outside culture. Those who would seek to live by the distinctives of the theology of the Bible must have courage to stand not only against the world but against much of the church.
In an opening chapter Wells describes the lay of the Evangelical land and here he refers to three distinct constituencies into which Protestantism seems to be dividing in our day. These constituencies, though, are not drawn around issues of theology as they may have been in days past. "When all is said and done today, many evangelicals are indifferent to doctrine." What rearranges the evangelical territory in our day is the culture around us and our engagement with it. This is not a serious engagement with culture, but instead a pragmatic catering to it. "This quest for success, which passes under the language of `relevance,' is what is partitioning the evangelical world into its three segments." The partitions Wells refers to are classic evangelicalism, marketers and emergents.
Having described how marketers and emergents arose out of classical evangelicalism, he provides a chapter called "Christianity for Sale" in which he shows how in recent decades churches became convinced that they must change their way of doing business or face inevitable extinction. This "church as business" model transformed the way churches perceived themselves and led to the raising of methodology over theology. "What began as a simple recognition by church marketers that parking should be convenient, signs evident, and bathrooms clean has somehow begun a migration." The migration eventually led to the transformation of not only the traditional church but also the traditional theology it lives by. The church began to look at the unchurched men and women around them as customers and those customers soon became their theology. The Bible fell out of favor as pragmatism took over.
The bulk of the book looks to the five predominant themes arising from Wells' previous four books. The themes are truth, God, self, Christ and church. Each one is treated in a substantial chapter. Time would fail me to describe each of these chapters. Suffice it to say that this book is much like watching Sportscenter or another sports highlights show. It is a highlight reel of the previous books. Where during the course of a typical ballgame you can expect there will be stretches where you will witness little of great importance, during the highlight shows you need to pay attention as you'll see only the most important moments. This book is similar. Every page is important and every chapter is packed with fascinating content. Rare is the page in my copy of the book that is not stained with substantial amounts of highlighter.
The Courage To Be Protestant marks the end of Wells' magnum opus--the work to which he has dedicated himself for almost two decades. It is an utterly brilliant book and one that I feel is a recommended read, and maybe even a must read, for any Protestant. Wells kept me glued to his text for page after page as he challenged me, as one who seeks to be a classical evangelical and who seeks to hold faithfully to the theology of Scripture, to display the courage it takes to be Protestant in the church today.
Good Start and then Fuzzy Apr 18, 2008
David Wells has been a deep well of refreshing insights, deep thoughts, and challenging comments for the church as it enters the 21st Century. Let's face it, too many churches are trying to define themselves through the lens of entertainment, secularism, marketing, and more...even "Superman" Preaching the Easter Message! Little, if any, doctrine, solid teaching, and biblical literacy can be found in many of the western churches, today. Speaking from experience, some church boards now think of "doctrine" as a word to be hidden and never discussed. In his final book (of his 5 volume series) Wells is quick to point our that the "gravitational center of Christianity" is no longer North America or Europe but is south of the equator in South America and Africa. Why has the Reformation by-passed North America in less than one century? It is because the church is failing to be the Kingdom of God and has sold out to the Emerging Church (which hand picks its doctrines) and the Marketing Church (which is more and more finding generational niches for itself, and losing the concept of the Body of Christ.) This title drew me quickly to pre-order the book based upon the other four volumes. The books races from the pole-position and quickly compares the Reform-Centered Church to the Marketing and Emerging movements. The first few chapters are superb, well researched, and good quotes and comparisons of the Emerging and Marketing gurus. But about 1/3 the way into the book, Wells takes a tangent to begin discussion of self-help, culturalism, recovery movements, and more and never gets around to tying them back into the premise of the book. The clear thesis turns fuzzy. He loses the reader in a mixture of studies, thoughts, and criticism without linking it to the two movements he has set out to expose. The last chapter returns to the character of the Reformational church, but it is too little, too late. This book was supposed to be a summary of the first four volumes. I strongly recommend reading the first four books and skipping this final book...or wait for the paperback edition.