Tolle Lege: The Courage to Be Protestant

1Readability:  3

Length:  248 pp

Author:  David Wells

Beginning in 1993 David Wells began writing a series of what would become four books that would rattle the evangelical world.  These four titles, No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland, Losing Our Virtue, and Above all Earthly Pow’rs, have recently been condensed and updated in his newest work The Courage to Be Protestant.  A stout critique of contemporary evangelicalism, this more accessible version is not light, but needed reading.  It is still serious reading, but more readable.  I am glad to see the material presented in a way I can more readily recommend.

Most of his arguments are deeply developed so I would encourage you against reacting against the quotations below.  I share them only to poke you towards reading it for yourself and discovering them.

Emergents, too, are standing outside the house that Ockenga, Henry, Graham, Packer, Stott, Lloyd-Jones, and Schaffer built in that earlier generation.  The difference is that they know they are standing outside the house, whereas the seeker-sensitives, the marketers, still imagine they are living inside it.

If the postmodern world is going to be engaged successfully, it will have to be at this point.  A soft, shapeless Christianity ready to adapt to any worldview may enjoy initial success, but it will soon be overtaken and lose its interest.  The problem with all such adaptations is that those outside the faith soon see that they can reap Christian benefits on purely secular grounds without paying whatever small price is being asked for the adapted version of this faith.

…it is important to remember that culture does not give the church its agenda.  All it gives the church is its context.  The church’s belief and mission come from the Word of God.  They do not come from the culture either thorough attraction to it or alienation from it.  It is not the culture that determines the church’s priorities.  It is not the (post)modern culture that should be telling it what to think.  The principle here is sola Scriptura, not sola cultura.

The postwar resurgence of evangelical believing in the West gained a great deal of strength from the fact that its many churches and organizations could work together around commonly held beliefs.  Centrally, these were the authority of Scripture and the necessity of the cross.  The core was narrow, in the sense that diversity around belief was allowed, but it was deep.  With the passing of the years, however, the core began to disintegrate and certainly, has been losing its depth.  It has become very shallow.

Without the holiness of God, sin has no meaning and grace has no point.  God’s holiness gives to the one its definition, and to the other its greatness.

2 thoughts on “Tolle Lege: The Courage to Be Protestant”

  1. Two questions:

    1) In the third quote: Did you add “(post)”, or was it in the original?

    2) In the fourth quote: Is the point of this that many people no longer have the core, unifying beliefs; or that many people choose not to focus on the core, unifying beliefs and instead focus on the extremities? Or both?


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