Review: Losing Our Virtue
Losing Our Virtue by David F. Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
David Wells contends that postmodern life is hollowing out our spiritual and moral inner life. Like a pumpkin with all the insides scooped out, and nothing left but a hollow and haunting smile, so we are reduced to self-made identity and meaning, in a world that rejects objective morality and meaning.
Such a world leads to emotional detachment, individualism that isolates, a life of the paltry devoid of godly passion. Such a world replaces guilt with shame: the fear is what others will think of us, not what God thinks. Such a world replaces character with personality: outward charisma matters more than inner virtue. We reinvent ourselves and have such “aggressive self-regard” because we believe in nothing outside of ourselves on which to plant our feet firmly.
Wells points to the psychologists and advertisers. Society looks to them most for healing, which reveals the problem. We think our feelings and our image are paramount. They are broken, and fixing them will solve it. But the problem goes much deeper than this. The church needs to point to the nagging presence of evil and sin in the world. Instead she is often caught up with the therapeutic and advertising culture herself.
Losing our Virtue is the third in a trilogy on this subject. I read the first two about 10 years ago in seminary and they deeply influenced me. Wells is so right in his diagnosis. Reading this third I found myself a bit more frustrated. Same incisive diagnosis, but what is the prognosis? He states in the last few pages that it is not complex, but the simple Gospel. We must believe that God is there, and recover a “moral seriousness” so that we repent. This is true, but it seems that more is missing. How do we live in a morally vacuous world with the Spirit’s new life pulsating in our breast, without allowing that vibrancy to be quenched?
Do we not need a living connection with other believers in the church, hearing the Word preached and receiving the sacraments? Do we not need to listen to our forefathers in the faith who have thought and lived more deeply in the Spirit and in the Word than we? Won’t a priority on these things drive out some of the more flashy yet petty things of life?
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