David Wells, a theologian who is adept at applying Scripture to culture, always makes me think. I just finished his most recent book and am now working my way through it again going over the highlights of it. He makes the observation early in his book that as Christians we are not to be conformed to this world. This is a very difficult task, harder at times than we think, because we are so easily influenced by our culture. He makes the point that our culture gets in the way of our knowledge of God so often. The prevailing view of God today is that He is out there. . .somewhere. . . maybe. . .But we aren’t really sure if he intervenes and if he really cares about how we live. We think of God today as a our cheerleader, as an absentee landlord, or as a therapist more than we think of God as revealed in Holy Scripture. Our view of god is distorted.
Wells talks about the “American Paradox”: never before have we had so much but never before have we had so little. We have high self-esteem, but the self is empty. We have lots of outward happiness, but we have little internal happiness. We have lots of friends on Facebook, but yet we are lonely.
Wells also explains how we have “exited the older moral world in which God was transcendent and holy, and we have entered a new psychological world in which is is only immanent and only loving.” We have also no longer think in terms of humanity and virtue; rather we have substituted the self and our own perspective on right and wrong. “Out of this has come what Philip Rieff has called “psychological man.” This is the person who is stripped of all reference points outside of him or herself. There is no moral world, no ultimate rights and wrongs, and no one to whom he or she is accountable. This person’s own interior reality is all that counts, and it is untouched by any obligation to community, or understanding from the past, or even by the intrusions of God from the outside.” [Wells, David F. (2014-01-31). God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Kindle Locations 407-410). Crossway. Kindle Edition. ]. We do think in term of community, but in terms of self.
Here is Well’s summary of where we are heading in this culture where we have replaced the God of Holy Scripture for the God of our culture:
“The external God has now disappeared and has been replaced by the internal God. Transcendence has been swallowed up by immanence. God is to be found only within the self. And once that happened, the boundary between right and wrong— at least as we had thought about these things— went down like a row of falling skittles. Evil and redemption came to be seen as the two sides of the same coin, not the two alternatives in life.
The truth is that all of life is being reconceived and reimagined. However, this attempted rebuilding of ourselves and our society on different foundations is leading us, if I may be so bold, into a dead end. The truth is that we are not doing very well. When God— the external God— dies, then the self immediately moves in to fill the vacuum. But then something strange happens. The self also dies. And with it goes meaning and reality. When these things go, anything is possible. Huxley’s dystopian novel, Brave New World, does not seem so far off into the future after all.
We know ourselves now to be on a fast-moving train hurtling down the tracks, and it is absurd to think that by leaning over the side and digging our heels into the ground we could have the slightest effect on the train’s velocity. People sense this. Many do. There is panic in the culture because we know our era is ending. Our horror movies are not just stories. They are a kind of mirror of ourselves. They surface the inchoate sense that we have, the sense of dread, the sense that all is not right in our world, that out there is a lurking menace whom we cannot see. We intuitively feel that a terrifying calamity looms over us, but we just do not quite understand what this is or even where it is.”
Wells, David F. (2014-01-31). God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Kindle Locations 493-505). Crossway. Kindle Edition.