Monday 2 February 2009

David F. Wells on Living in the Matrix

David F. Wells, ‘Living in the Matrix’, Modern Reformation 18, 1 (January-February 2009), 19-22.

The January-February 2009 issue of Modern Reformation contains several pieces devoted to the theme of ‘Christ in a Post-Christian Culture’.

William Edgar, ‘Culture and Calling: The Open Question’.
Michael Horton, ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’
David F. Wells, ‘Living in the Matrix’.
Jack Schultz, ‘Culture and the Christian’.
David Gibson, ‘Text, Church, and World: A Theology of Expository Preaching’.
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, ‘Flying for Jesus’.
John Warwick Montogomery, ‘God at University College Dublin’.

‘The church is part of this culture and yet it must stand apart from its culture. It is rooted in what never changes, Christ, and yet it must live in a world that is constantly changing, and it has not hiding place from that change. This is simple to state but, as we all know, complex to work out’ (19).


Culture ‘is what forms a network of fabricated understanding in the workplace, in our neighborhood, and in the nether-reality into which the Internet takes us. It is the Matrix. It is pervasive and intrusive. And it is increasingly global…’ (20).

We have moved from a secular-humanist impulse in the 1980s and 1990s to a situation where 80 percent of Americans consider themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’, and this ‘newly spiritual are not anti-anything except a God who is transcendent and objective to them, before whom they are accountable’ (21). However, evangelicals have been tempted, says Wells, to see them as friends, potential allies.


Our situation in the West today has arguably brought us closer to the religiously diverse world of the New Testament period, but ‘the apostles thought in categories of in or out, light or darkness, knowing God or not knowing him’ (21).

‘There is a line between God and ourselves… His salvation is not within our grasp, it is not on the market as another product, nor is it emerging from deep within the self… This line is crossed only from his side, not from ours. It is crossed only by him and never by us because in crossing it he must do for us what we cannot do for ourselves’ (21).

The Church

‘The church stands between these two coordinates in our mind, Christ and culture’ (22).

‘It is tempting to think that in order to be successful we must recast the church in the form that culture is taking but, actually, success lies in doing exactly the opposite… Are we… going to take seriously the message given to the church, a message as distinctive as is the Christ who is its center and substance’ (22)?

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