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“God in the Wasteland” by David Wells

Introduction

We live in a time when socio-political influence of Christianity, as the world’s major religion, continues to decline rapidly. And the reason for this is very simple – every religion is nothing but extrapolation of people’s continuous strive towards a higher state of consciousness. However, according to evolutionary theory, Homo Sapiens is nothing but intermediary link between apes and what we may refer to as super-men. In its turn, this explains why both: primitive savages, on one hand, and representatives of world’s intellectual elite, on the other, are not endowed with particularly strong sense of religiosity.

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As Friedrich Nietzsche had once said – apes do not need religion “yet”, and super-men do not need religion “already”. Therefore, even though that at certain historical stages religion did help people to expand their intellectual horizons, nowadays it prevents them from pursuing their biologically technological destiny. Today, it namely scientists and not clergymen who act as mediators between God and humanity. It is needless to say, of course, that clergymen are not entirely happy about this development, because it renders them useless. Therefore, while admitting the fact that Western civilization grows ever-more godless, they explain this process as such that originates out people’s inner “wickedness”. Dr. David Wells’ book “God In The Wasteland” represents a classical example of such line of argumentation, because, in it, author had proven its inability to refer to the issue of secularization within Evangelical Christianity as being objective in its very essence, while blaming just about anything for Christianity’s metaphysical outdatedness, except this religious doctrine itself.

Brief summary

The main thesis contained in “God in the Wasteland”, can be formulated as follows: Protestant (Evangelical) Christianity is becoming increasingly deprived of Christian spirit, while being turned into one among many morally dubious but highly profitable commercial enterprises: “A new and more culturally adapted evangelicalism has emerged (during 60’s), the central figures of which were no longer the scholars who had been prominent in the immediate postwar years but rather a host of managers, planners and bureaucrats – and, not far behind them, marketers” (Wells 1994, 71). What appears to be especially troubling for the author, is the fact that no matter how hard Evangelical ministers are being trained to spiritually inspire “sheep of the flock”, by acting as particularly ardent Christian believers, their sense of religiosity seems to be only skin deep: “Religious life is orchestrated and regimented by managers pursuing private careers that could, with hardly a hitch in the rhythm, be carried on in most secular corporations in America. It is here that entertainment and worship are not merely interspersed but often indistinguishable” (Wells 1994, 27). And, as it appears from book’s context, it is namely modernity, which Wells blames for the fact that Evangelicalism has long ago been turned into the travesty of original Christianity: “Modernity has been hard at work reducing evangelical faith to something that is largely private and internal. Belief has shrunk from being a contemporary confession of God’s truth in the church and beyond to being simply a part of personal identity and psychological makeup” (Wells 1994, 27). In its turn, this suggestion brings author to conclusion that, in order for Evangelical Christianity to gain back its former vitality: “It must first recover the sense of antithesis between Christ and culture and then find ways to sustain its antithesis (!)… It must give up self-cultivation for self-surrender, entertainment for worship, intuition for truth, slick marketing for authentic witness” (Wells 1994, 223). Thus, Wells suggests that true believers must go after Christianity’s “roots”, which he rightly associates with a total absence of any culture, whatsoever – it is not simply by an accident that the words “culture” and “science” are not being mentioned in the Bible even once, throughout its entirety. According to Jesus’ commandments, the true Evangelical Christians should never wash their hands before eating, they should not bother about burying dead bodies, harvesting crops, marrying and participating in any sort of socio-political activities – after all, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. In other words, “God in the Wasteland” can be best referred to as one among many attempts to add pseudo-intellectual appeal to the concept of Christian Fundamentalism.

Critical part

Had Wells educated himself on the history of Protestantism, and Evangelicalism in particular, he would know that it does not make much of a sense, on his part, to refer to namely the latest developments within Evangelical religious community, as being particularly “ungodly” – apparently, it never occurred to Wells that the very emergence of Protestantism came as a result of intellectually advanced Christians consciously distancing themselves from God. The rise of Protestantism in Europe corresponded to the fact that, from 16th century onwards, more and more people in Europe were realizing themselves as being fully capable of utilizing their rationale, as the tool of gaining social prominence, rather than relying on “God’s graces”, as Catholics do. Protestants do not need God as their ultimate benefactor, but rather as some distant authority that does not intervene in their lives actively, simply because Protestants have grown to realize a very simple fact that material riches do not fall out of sky and that one needs to work hard, in order to achieve a financial prosperity. In fact, Protestants believe that it is when they are being fully self-reliant, which makes God them love them. This is exactly the reason why it is namely Anglo-Saxon Protestant countries that feature the highest living standards in the whole world. Therefore, the process of Evangelicalism’s secularization and commercialization, at which Wells directs his criticism, derives out of the very essence of Protestant religious worldview.

For some strange reason, Wells suggests that this process had begun in sixties, which points out at his lack of education, because it is a well-known fact that people used to fall asleep, during the course of Evangelical sermons in churches, even as far back as in 18th century, which is why – under no circumstances we can think of “God’s disappearance” from Evangelical churches as specifically contemporary phenomenon. Moreover, it also makes no sense, on Well’s part, to discuss this phenomenon in terms of Protestant Christianity’s commercialization or the fact that modernity affects it differently, as compared to what modernity does to other religions. After all, the representatives of Catholic clergy are being just as greedy and just as “modern” as their Protestant counterparts – however, this does not prevent thousands of devout Catholics in Latin America from nailing themselves to the cross, during the course of Catholic countless celebrations, as the way to prove the strength of their religious beliefs. The same applies to Muslims – even in such comparatively secular Muslim countries as Egypt, Turkey and Syria, the public life completely stalls five times a day, when Muslims bend on their knees to pray Allah, regardless of where the “time for prayer” finds them.

Apparently, Catholic Inquisition had a good reason to persecute Christian theologians for trying to translate Bible from Latin into secular languages, as hardened “sinners” – the less a particular individual possesses knowledge of Biblical “shining truth”, the stronger is his Christian beliefs. Evangelists, on the other hand, had made a point in spreading the “good news” to as many people as possible, while encouraging members of Evangelical communities to attend “Bible classes”, to memorize Biblical passages by heart, and to think of Bible as the actual word of God. And now, individuals like Wells wonder as to what causes Evangelical Christians to be deprived of their religious jealousness, while coming up with different sorts of speculations, in regards to the subject matter. Apparently, they are quite incapable of understanding a simple fact that, by prompting people to study Bible, they expose the conceptual fallaciousness of Christianity, as valid religious doctrine, which in its turn explains why it is mostly the senile White people in Western countries, who continue to attend Evangelical churches on regular basis.

In 10-20 years from now, the revolutionary breakthroughs, which continuously take place in the field of IT and genetic technologies, as we speak, will allow people to grow new limbs, to expand their lifespan to 200-300 years, and to save their consciousness (soul) onto microchips, so that it could be transplanted into new bodies – thus, making them immortal. And yet, Wells seems to be sincere in his beliefs that religion may have a chance of winning, while being confronted by science, or by what he refers to as “modernity”. He wants believers not to pay any attention to surrounding reality, while continuing to literally believe in such Biblical nonsense and talking donkeys or Sun standing still up in the sky. Moreover, his state of mental denial does not allow him to even partially consider the sheer ridiculousness of such his suggestion. As saying goes – ignorance is bliss.

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It is namely religion, which always resorted to science, as the mean of validating its doctrinal notions, and not the vice versa (“scientific” Creationism is the most recent example). Therefore, the very fact of Wells’s book’s publishing serves as an indication that Evangelical Christianity does not have much time left to live. Author is absolutely right when saying that Evangelicalism has adopted mechanistic subtleties, while being totally deprived of actual faith, as motivational force behind it. Yet, his explanation as to why this had happened, in the first place, cannot be seriously considered by anyone who is capable of utilizing its sense of rationale.

Conclusion

Every time when a particular political or religious doctrine becomes outdated, its ideologists come up with suggestions that it is only by coming back to this doctrine’s “roots” that “believers” may enable such a doctrine to gain back its vitality. For example, before international Communism had ceased to exist, as valid political ideology, which culminated in the collapse of Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev used to suggest that Soviet version of Communism had to be adjusted to “Marx’ original vision”. In the same manner, countless Christian “scholars”, such as Wells, now try to convince people to go back to “Jesus’ original teachings”, as the ultimate mean of assuring Christianity’s continuous competitiveness. Therefore, even though Wells’ book does contain many valid suggestions, it is quite impossible for us to refer to “God in the Wasteland” as representing much of a literary, philosophical or theological value.

Bibliography

Wells, David. God in the Wasteland. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1994.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 15). “God in the Wasteland” by David Wells. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/god-in-the-wasteland-by-david-wells/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 15). “God in the Wasteland” by David Wells. https://studycorgi.com/god-in-the-wasteland-by-david-wells/

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StudyCorgi. "“God in the Wasteland” by David Wells." November 15, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/god-in-the-wasteland-by-david-wells/.

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