As we continue our journey through David F. Well’s No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?, it is important to understand where Wells is coming from. Without question, Wells is clearly concerned by the ongoing degradation of theology in many evangelical churches. But at the same time, he also believes that everyone possesses a theology of sorts. Let’s begin by taking a look at a critical opening remark:
“Let us not think … that we have a choice between having a theology and not having one. We all have our theologies, for we all have a way of putting things together in our own minds … The question at issue, then, is not whether we have a theology but whether it will be a good theology or bad one.”
So, the first thing we must note is that, in Wells’s view, theology can never be reduced to a hobby or a practice of the elitists in the church. While people may not realize it, everyone has a theology of sorts, which is just another way of saying that everyone has a way of putting ideas about God together in their mind. And the only real question, according to Wells, is whether your means of categorizing these ideas are faithful to the biblical text or not.
“You over complicate and analyze things. Its fine if you are into theology, and have your own views, but the Bible is no textbook, and I don’t believe that Christianity is as complicated as you make it. Its a relationship with Christ that matters.”
Now if you look at this statement, it would appear that “Bob” prioritizes a “relationship” with the Christ. But the question any logical person would have to ask is: how can I have a “relationship” with a man who was executed by the Roman Empire two thousand years ago?
Can you see where this is going? As soon as I pose this question to “Bob,” he is likely to respond that Jesus was not only killed, but also raised from the dead, which makes the “relationship” possible. So now, we see that the “relationship” is prioritized, but it’s built on a theological belief that Jesus entered this world, died, was resurrected, and now lives in such a way as to make a “relationship” with Him even possible.
But the trail does not stop there. Why does a relationship with Jesus matter? Why don’t I need a “relationship” with Paul, or even Moses? Presumably, when faced with this question, “Bob” (if he is like most evangelicals) would likely say something regarding the Christ’s unique status as the “Son of God” and His role as a mediator between God and man. And this is all fine and good, except for one thing. It raises new questions. Why does mankind need a mediator between itself and God? Or, why is mediation even needed? Has something gone wrong? And if so, how do we know what has gone wrong, and how do we know that the work of the Christ can fix it?
At this point, you can probably begin to see the fallacy behind “Bob’s” thinking. “Bob” wanted to suggest that the pursuit of theology was “fine” and that we could each have our “own views,” so long as we prioritized a “relationship” with the Christ. But even a simple statement regarding the need to have a “relationship” with Jesus is loaded with theological meaning. When “Bob” makes a statement such as that, he is presuming at least this much:
- There is a God.
- Something has gone wrong between man and God.
- Christ, and only Christ, can mediate between man and God.
- Christ is alive, contrary to the testimony that He died on the cross.
- Christ is somehow supernatural and capable of overcoming the “natural” processes of this world.
- The Bible, which is the primary source of this theology, must somehow be the revelation of God.
As you can see, Wells is correct. There is no choice to be made “between having a theology and not having one.” But let’s push this a little further by returning to our hypothetical discussion with “Bob.” For the sake of argument, let us suggest that in his reading of the Old Testament, “Bob” has come to believe that YHWH – that is to say, God the Father – is a cruel and unjust monster.
If “Bob” does indeed see God in this fashion, would it not stand to reason that he sees the mediation of the Christ in a vastly different way than someone who sees the character of God as loving and merciful? If God the Father is, in fact, a being somewhat akin to the Joker – a being that merely wants to “watch the world burn” – than he is nothing more than an vicious and abusive parent. And if that is the case, than how would someone like “Bob” see the Christ?
From what we know of abused children, they often tend to cling to the non-abusive parent as a mediator between themselves and the tyrant. But what psychology also tells us is that this clinging is rarely motivated by love. In fact, this clinging is motivated by a pragmatism that is deeply rooted in the human instinct for survival. The abused child sees the non-abusive parent as complicit in their torture because the non-abusive parent fails to stop the abusive nightmare. And so, the mediator is not seen as a “savior,” but as a means to an end.
How many Christians view the Christ in that very way? Because they fail to understand the continuity between the Old and the New Testament, they see a God that is schizophrenic (at best!) and their view of Christ is corrupted. This is just one minor example of how a seemingly inconsequential doctrine on the character and nature of God can have a profound impact on what “Bob” believes to be central.
And this is why Wells ultimately concludes his opening thesis by saying:
“The question at issue, then, is not whether we have a theology but whether it will be a good theology or bad one.”
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 Wells, David. No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993), 3.
 From this point forward, I will be using “Bob’s” comments to unpack common evangelical beliefs. Please understand, however, that I do not know “Bob,” nor do I know the details of his theology. Thus, everything that follows is hypothetical conjecture that is based on common evangelical belief systems.
 This view is not uncommon among evangelicals. For further reading on the subject, please see: Show Them No Mercy: Four Views on God and Caananite Genocide.
 This quote is taken from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
 Wells, 3.