The Courage to Be Protestant

I've just started to read David Wells' latest book, The Courage to Be Protestant (2008), and it promises to be a good one. Wells is the professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Writing as an evangelical himself, Wells has published some searing critiques of evangelicalism, beginning with his No Place for Truth; or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? in 1993. This was followed by God in the Wasteland (1994), Losing Our Virtue (1998), and Above All Earthly Pow'rs (2005).

The Courage to Be Protestant, Wells informs his readers, started out as a simple summary of these previous works, but ended up as a recasting of them in an attempt to get at the essence of what he sees as the chief problems with modern American evangelicalism.

He begins by setting forth "The Lay of the Evangelical Land" (title of chapter one). And he divides the evangelical world into "three rather distinct constituencies": (1) Classical Evangelicals, (2) Marketers, and (3) Emergents.

The evangelical world is now dividing into three rather distinct constituencies. Actually, it is dividing into many, many subconstituencies as well because this rather amazing empire of belief is fragmenting across the board. So my map with only three major constituencies portrays the land as it looks from afar, not up close. The important point here, though, is that two of these constituencies are new, and, like large icebergs, they are separating from the others. They are, as I see it, transitional movement. They are the stepping-stones away from the classical orthodoxy of the earlier evangelicals and, however unwittingly, toward a more liberalized Christianity. In due course the children of these evangelicals will become full-blown liberals, I suspect, just like those against whom the evangelical grandparents originally protested.


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