Wells and the Wasteland 1
In my quiet time, I begin by reading from a book that will stimulate my mind and heart about sanctification or practical life in the church. Recently I have begun reading God in the Wasteland by David F. Wells. I want to share a few excerpts from his book that I noted during my fifteen minute-a-day reading time.
On the current reactions against formal theological training:
Noting the how the early colonial American trends in the mainline schools were producing polished institutions, there was a strong reactions against them.
“This ambitious drive [among the intellectual schools of colonial America] produces some savage anti-clericalism but also because the insurgent leaders were “Ëintent on destroying the monopoly of classically educated and university trained clergymen.’ Their sermons were colloquial, “Ëemploying daring pulpit storytelling, no-holds-barred appeals, overt humor, strident attacks, graphic application, and intimate personal experience.’ The point of it all was to engage the audience. Charles Finney despised sermons that were formally delivered on the grounds that they put content ahead of communication, and, although both he and Dwight L. Moody had their own theologies, they both vigorously opposed “Ëthe formal study of divinity’” (65).
“‘As the common man rose in power n the early republic,’ says Hatch, “Ëthe inevitable consequence was the displacement from power of the uncommon man, the man of ideas.’ Never again, he adds would America produce people of the caliber of Adams, Jefferson, and Madison in the realm of politics or of Jonathan Edwards in the realm of theology” (67).
In light of some of what we have seen in the modern Seeker Sensitive and Emergent Church movements, we have another illustration of the reality that there is nothing new under the sun.
Of course this anti-intellectual and anti-formal training trend can be seen in virtually any corner of even solid and orthodox churches, though for differing reasons, no doubt. Having pastored for eight and a half years without any formal theological training, and now having spent almost ten years involved in formal theological training, I yearn for a balance, seeing the benefit of both practical skill learned only in the crucible of the local church and the necessity for concentrated, disciplined study under the tutelage of learned scholars.