Satanism, Starbucks, and Other Gospel Challengers

The July/August issue of 9News is now available. This issue's theme is Challenges to the Gospel. Something that caught my eye was an interview with David Wells called: Satanism, Starbucks, and Other Gospel Challengers.

Here is just a portion:

9M: You mentioned the idea of being a missionary in a foreign culture where people believe in spirits in rocks and trees, and not entering into that fear or belief, yet addressing people where they are at. How do we do that in a culture in which people are looking for therapy? In your books you have helpfully criticized a therapeutic gospel. But as I recently heard you say, "how people are feeling has become a relentless part of our self-consciousness." So how do we address people with the gospel as they are looking for therapy?

DW: Let me go back to this matter of spirits, which is a very real and deep fear in other parts of the world. We here in the West don’t have that fear because we don’t believe in those kinds of spirits. But I have found that for those who do, nothing is more liberating than understanding that, at the cross, Christ disarmed the powers of darkness. The conquest motif gives you a doorway, or point of connection, with such people. Then you move on to consider the other biblical metaphors for what Christ’s death accomplished. As you’re explaining the gospel, you then ask, "Why do we need to be liberated from the hold of these powers of darkness? It is because of sin." Then you go to justification.

I would say that the parallel for us in the West is not our fear of spirits, but the oppressiveness of an empty and meaningless life. That’s probably our point of entry in the West. There is no question that living in Western societies, and not the least in America, is very, very difficult. We tend to think that because we have so many opportunities, consumer goods, and everything else we want that life is easy. And certainly it’s easier in some respects than for people who scratch for their food every day. Our challenge is not so much physical—food, safety, disease—it’s psychological. It’s inward, because of the difficulties of living in this culture.

We live with levels of stress, anxiety, and depression that are unprecedented. All of us struggle with not being connected, whether to our families or to a place because we move around. We may have proximity to people but are oftentimes without good or close relationships. All of these things take their toll upon us. And we cannot say, "This is not real." It is real. That’s why the relentless question that haunts us all the time is, "How am I feeling?"

So I’m not opposed to therapeutic questions. The problem is, over the last number of decades we have moved from inhabiting a moral world to inhabiting a psychological world. When we encounter difficulties, therefore, we tend to look for a psychological technique that will address them.

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t some techniques that can help us with anxiety and stress. Some people have found, for example, that if they stop every two or three hours, get up, walk outside, and breathe fresh air, it helps a little.

But this doesn’t help them with the most fundamental questions. There is something worse than feeling bad; it is being bad. Our most fundamental questions are the moral ones, because our most fundamental relationship is how we relate to God in his character. So, though there might be remedial help for these pangs that we feel, the basic help that we need does not come from psychologists as psychologists. It should come from preachers who deliver the Word of God to us. It should come from God’s truth, because God’s truth can align the different parts of our life.

9M: So to summarize what you’re saying for the local church preacher, "Show sensitivity to the alienation, the inner angst, the emotional turmoil people feel; yet use all these to segue to the Word of God and the more fundamental measurement of their relationship to him."

DW: Exactly. We have to learn how to be men and women of God not in a prior age, not in a context that’s easier, but in our own context. This is where we have to live. This is the time that God has given us. It’s the only time that God has given us. So we have to learn how to do it, or it won’t get done at all.

Read the whole thing.

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