Today we conclude an excerpt from an article I discovered about holiness at monergism.com. It is by David Wells and is taken from his book “No Place for Truth: Or whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology”). David Wells is Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books in which his evangelical theology engages with the modern world.
Dr. Wells’ contention is that the holiness of God has been, and always will be, essential for the church in general, and the believer in Christ in particular. I was impacted by this brief excerpt from his book which proved to be the impetus for the development of The Cambridge Declaration (1996) by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. What Dr. Wells wrote in 1993 still resonates truth in 2020, which is characteristic of all theological works that stand the test of time.
It is this God, majestic and holy in his being, this God whose love knows no bounds because his holiness knows no limits, who has disappeared from the modern evangelical world. He has been replaced in many quarters by a God who is slick and slack, whose moral purposes turn out to be avuncular [as from a friendly uncle] advice that we can disregard or negotiate as we see fit, whose Word is a plaything for those who wish merely to listen to themselves, whose Church is a mall in which the religious, their pockets filled with the coin of need, do their business. We seek happiness, not righteousness. We want to be fulfilled, not filled. We are interested in satisfaction, not a holy dissatisfaction with all that is wrong.
This is why we need reformation rather than revival. The habits of the modern world, now so ubiquitous [exists throughout] in the evangelical world, need to be put to death, not given new life. They need to be rooted out, not simply papered over with fresh religious enthusiasm. And they are by this point so invincible that nothing less than the intrusion of God in his grace, nothing less than a full recovery of his truth, will suffice.
In this regard, the death of theology has profound ramifications. Theology is dying not because the academy has failed to devise adequate procedures for reconstructing it but because the Church has lost its capacity for it. And while some hail this loss as a step forward toward the hope of new evangelical vitality, it is in fact a sign of creeping death. The emptiness of evangelical faith without theology echoes the emptiness of modern life. Both have elected to cross over into a world in which God has no place, in which reality has been rewritten, in which Christ has become redundant, his Word irrelevant, and the Church must now find new reasons for its existence.
Unless the evangelical Church can recover the knowledge of what it means to live before a holy God, unless in its worship it can relearn humility, wonder, love, and praise, unless it can find again a moral purpose in the world that resonates with the holiness of God and that is accordingly deep and unyielding-unless the evangelical Church can do all of these things, theology will have no place in its life. But the reverse is also true. If the Church can begin to find a place for theology by refocusing itself on the centrality of God, if it can rest upon his sufficiency, if it can recover its moral fiber, then it will have something to say to a world now drowning in modernity. And there lies a great irony.
Those who are most relevant to the modern world are those most irrelevant to the moral purpose of God, but those who are irrelevant in the world by virtue of their relevance to God actually have the most to say to the world. They are, in fact, the only ones who having anything to say to it. That is what Jesus declared, what the Church in its best moments has known, and what we, by the grace of God, can yet again discover.
I truly appreciate Dr. Wells’ challenging words. Let us resolve to remain irrelevant to the modern world by our relentless pursuit of the truth of the gospel and the personal holiness which is the result of justification by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
Soli deo Gloria!