Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World. By David F. Wells. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005. 339 pp. Paper, $18.00.
Wells powerfully captures the influence of postmodernity on the church in America today. Lots of books on postmodernity are written for scholars and are hard to follow. Not so with this book. It is clearly written and for the most part easy to follow.
The author’s discussion of Open Theism (and especially the transformation of Clark Pinnock, pp. 243-51) and of the seekersensitive Willow Creek type of church (pp. 263-309) is truly eye opening. Wells shows that what is happening in Evangelical seemingly conservative churches today is very akin to what liberalism did in the past. The concern among many church leaders today is not what the congregation needs to hear. Rather, the congregation is now viewed as the customers and as such the concern of the leaders is what they want to hear (p. 276). Now many churches are not only eliminating coats and ties, pulpits, hymnals, and choirs. They are also eliminating much of what is taught is in the Bible as well!
“There is much in Scripture that is not of much interest to many in these new churches, and much which does not seem to make any connection with their lives. These themes therefore fade away [i.e., are not preached] in much the same way as an unwanted product, sooner or later, will be taken off the store shelf” (p. 305).
Concluding the last major chapter, the one on megachurches and consumerism, Wells writes, “Christianity is not up for sale. Its price has already been fixed and that price is the complete and ongoing surrender to Christ of those who embrace him by faith. It can only be had on his own terms. It can be had only as a whole. It refuses to offer only selections of its teachings. Furthermore, the Church is not [a] retailing outlet. Its preachers are not its peddlers and those who are Christian are not its consumers” (pp. 308-309). While his reference to surrendering to Christ and embracing Him by face might imply more than Lordship discipleship, his sentiment is certainly right on target in terms of the Great Commission. We are to make disciples. We are to teach people to observe all that the Lord Jesus commanded.
This book should be read by pastors, church leaders, and believers who are seeking Christ’s, not the Evangelical world’s, approval.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society