Losing our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover its Moral Vision

Wells, David

Eerdmans, 1998

various pages

(p. 11) Our evangelical Christian religion has become merely an indoor pleasure. It seems no longer possible to be thoroughly modern and also committed to the faith. We no longer think of virtue as composing character, and no longer assume that virtue has a public exhibition. Now all we have left is government rules plus litigation over them. “Values” are subjective, and deliberately so by Nietzsche. (p. 14) How is the church to regain its saliency within a crooked and perverse generation? (p. 34) In classic spirituality what is moral is central [So Jonathan Edwards!] and in most postmodern spirituality, it isn’t. We don’t talk of guilt any more, but only of shame. (p. 40) The coordinates of classic spirituality are the holiness of God, sin, and forgiveness. But in contemporary churches, the parable of the prodigal son turns out to be just about the son’s understandable foibles. We used to think that self-restraint was a top virtue, but now we think that about self-gratification. (p. 63) We need good character to occupy the middle ground between law and freedom. (p. 69) We no longer have so much by way of civic virtue. We are all “bowling alone.” Now “good luck” is our benediction, not “God be with you.” Moral language is “in full retreat.” (p. 75) We want law to do what civility and self-restraint once did. Courts give us the only morality. Nowadays, multiculturalism isn’t about culture at all, but about politics and power. We are saturated selves. We have all this TV coming at us, all these choices, all these e-mail messages [all these social media]. We are all eternal shoppers now. Even our sexual identity may be chosen. Everybody is necessarily pro-choice. In our new concept of the self, character has been replaced by personality, and human nature by self-consciousness. We are all taking oodles of time to be conscious of ourselves. (p. 141) People have new ways of identifying themselves: “I am my genes; I am my past; I am my sexual orientation; I am my feelings; I am my image; I am my body; I am what I do; I am what I have; I am who I know. All these have false and competing anthropologies behind them.”