Words of Wisdom from David Wells: Losing Our Virtue

The following is taken from the introduction to David F. Wells book Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover its Moral Vision [Eerdmans, 1998].  Wells is also the author of No Place for Truth and God in the Wasteland. I give your this excerpt here because it goes far in explaining why abuse victims (sexual, domestic, and spiritual) are being treated so cruelly today when they seek help from their churches. The fact is, they are a threat to the “success” of the corporate machine that calls itself the church (but is not):

Twenty-five years ago [45 years ago now], I am quite certain, I could have cheerfully used the word theology without having to reach for the smelling salts. For then I was a young professor, a sapling in an evangelical world filled with large trees. It was a time when evangelical beliefs were more certain than they are now, theology was a more honorable word, and there was a sense of mission that was infectious. That was the day when the trees that stood so tall in this world were usually made so by their theological conviction and not simply by their money, the size of their church, or the expansiveness of their organization.

Then, the leaders in evangelicalism were often its pastors and biblical scholars; today, its leaders are its entrepreneurs and managers, and an increasing number of its pastors are indistinguishable from business people whose skills in finding market niches have been honed to a fine edge….

there has…come a hollowing out of evangelical conviction, a loss of the biblical Word in its authoritive function, and an erosion of character to the point that today, no discernible ethical differences are evident in behavior when those claiming to have been reborn and secularists are compared.

Now of course even when pastors and scholars are focused on Bible and theology, they have very frequently if not typically gotten it quite wront when it comes to marriage, divorce, remarriage, domestic abuse and so on. Such church leaders still tell victims they must return to their abusers and submit. But these corporations calling themselves churches that are led by marketing experts who call themselves pastors are not going to give justice and mercy to victims either. Why? Because in the former cases victims were a threat to man-made traditions parading as sound doctrine. But in these days, victims are a threat also to the mega corporations wearing the disguise of religion. They are seen as bumps in the road to power, money, and reputation, and they are often cast out.

This is why I never believe these kind of pastors and churches when they claim to have a new commitment to helping domestic and sexual abuse survivors. As long as they cling to their false gospel that really is idolatry with their own face on the idol, their claims are hollow and false.

Leave a Reply