Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Courage to be Protestant


"The P Word" is frowned upon in many quarters, especially among progressive types in the shiny new Northern Ireland. "The Courage to be Protestant" is the title of a book I was given just about a week ago, and I've been working my way through its brilliantly-reasoned chapters during the past few days.

It is perhaps a wee bit too American in its examples for a UK, or even Northern Ireland, readership, but you'll easily recognise the overall themes and trends. Its core argument is that the historical anchors of the Protestant faith - the Reformation solas of grace alone, faith alone and scripture alone, and a reverence for doctrine - have been jettisoned, and that they need to be restored. This is the back cover blurb:

'It takes no courage to sign up as a Protestant.' With these words, David Wells opens his bold challenge to the modern church. In this volume, Wells offers the summa of his critique of the evangelical landscape, as well as a call to return to the historic faith, one defined by the 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 apr├Ęs-worship Starbucks stands'. He also takes issue with the most popular evangelical movement in recent years - the emergent church. For Wells, many emergents are postmodern, postconservative and postfoundational, embracing a less absolute understanding of the authority of Scripture than he 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.

The author, David Wells, defines the broad evangelical world into three groups: classical evangelicals, church marketers, and emergents. From this basis he then goes on in a series of illuminating chapters to chart and explain how evangelicals have shifted dramatically away from a Scriptural foundation to one which has adjusted its message to secular culture, and has lost its way.

There are two interviews with David Wells here and here.

Here's a review, and another. To summarise by using a quote from this second review, "...a powerful internal critique of the state of many churches within Evangelicalism, particularly the marketers and the emergents. It is also a reminder that many within Evangelicalism are trying to hold fast to the essential truths of the Protestant Reformation and calling others within Evangelicalism to do the same..."


Anonymous said...

Excellent review of a much needed publication,Mark.
God bless