The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World

David F. Wells, professor at Gordon Conwell Seminary, has given us several dynamic and relevant books in the past. This book takes the best of those books and combines them into one. Wells even says that because so much as been footnoted in his earlier books, he draws from them in this volume and does not include them. If you have read his earlier books and then read this one, you will understand what he means.

Wells has the gift of being insightful, intuitive, and wise in his understanding of Christianity and how it relates or does not relate to the present culture. For example, in The Courage to Be Protestant, Wells focuses on what is happening in the evangelical world; and to say the least, he is not encouraged nor is he encouraging. With all the talk and writing about the emergents, postmodernists, and post-conservatives, Wells demonstrates how it is producing a kind of Protestantism, or even an evangelicalism, that is not standing firmly on a Scriptural foundation. This is resulting in those who are attempting to redefine Christianity, even within evangelical circles, and are not following Scripture or unaware of the Scripture’s authority in the process. Among many things, the movement causes Christianity to be viewed as something that has to be marketed, conformed to this world, and adapted to the culture in order to make it palatable.

When the author says that it takes courage to live in today’s context, he is referring to being a Protestant, evangelical Christian who takes his beginning point from God and His Word. Following trends and marketing strategy, which was somewhat foreign to an earlier approach, has now infiltrated the church, generally under the guise of “how do we reach this new generation?”

You can begin to understand Wells’ concerns, as well as plea, for Christianity to return to its message without allowing the habits and trends of culture to redefine its meaning. The Christian Century has said that Wells’ book is “a bombshell” intended to awaken evangelical leaders to what is happening and give them some cogent details of why. That’s not too difficult to understand, as Wells says, with 54% of those calling themselves born-again rejecting the idea of original sin. He calls this issue a deliberate “endocrinal key to success” for those committed to a pragmatic philosophy and methodology. Do whatever it takes to reach the culture, even if it means redefining Christianity from an unbiblical and poor theological perspective.

There is so much more that could and should be said about this book. I am fearful that I have said too little to challenge you with the importance of The Courage to Be Protestant for today’s church and kingdom. I believe that God is going to hold the church accountable for failing to disciple its members with an understanding of the Word and how we are to see the world through the grid of Scripture. Wells says there are two things that have caused evangelicalism to be flawed today; the inclination to allow its biblical core to shrink and the church becoming so parachurch that it is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Wells observes that so much of evangelicalism today has become separate from the church. He reminds those who speak of the church’s insignificance that if the church is irrelevant, why does the Bible say so much about the church’s important role and ministry? You will want to devour this book, especially chapter seven on the church.

I could only wish that Wells more specifically addressed the kingdom as well.

Though you may have to deal with challenges and discomfort from its message, you will not regret reading The Courage to Be Protestant.

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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