Christian Discipleship In A Postmodern World -- By: David F. Wells

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:1 (Mar 2008)
Article: Christian Discipleship In A Postmodern World
Author: David F. Wells


Christian Discipleship In A Postmodern World

David F. Wells

David F. Wells is Andrew Mutch distinguished professor of historical and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 130 Essex Street, South Hamilton, MA 01982. This paper was originally delivered as a plenary address at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on November 15, 2007, in San Diego, CA.

My task in this address is to think about Christian discipleship in our contemporary world. Given the enormity of the task and the limitations of my time, I am going to have to limit my topic and the subjects that I can cover. One of these limitations is that I am here going to have to assume the basic, biblical teaching on the nature of discipleship. I will not be returning to these themes and rehearsing them. I assume them and my task is to apply them which, given the complexity of our times, is not easy. So, where do we start?

In the 1980s, it was far more plausible than it is today to think of the postmodern cognitive crisis only in narrow, philosophical terms. The issues of what we know, how we know, whether we can know with any certitude are now being made far more complex by the fact that our cognitive horizons have been unavoidably expanded. Now, our inward crisis is being framed by our globalized consciousness and that puts a slightly different edge on what it means to be postmodern. It is this mutation in our postmodern context that I wish to explore in this paper. First, I need to think about our context, this globalized postmodernity, and then in the light of this, second, I am going to select for consideration three facets which are important to our Christian discipleship. These I cannot explore in any depth but will simply offer as agenda items for what I believe should be the church’s further consideration in the days which lie ahead.

I. Globalization

The interconnectedness of the globe was becoming more and more apparent throughout the twentieth century but what all of this means has become an increasingly difficult debate. Today, some see in this development the potential for a more civilized world but others see in it nothing but danger. And certainly, there is the potential for the conquest of other societies by one means or another because of globalization. Outside the West, there is a fear that the conquest will come by Western immorality or by the American worldview because American technology and enterprise have

become inextricably linked to the phenomenon of globalization. This world-view is carried by products like McDonalds, Visa, American movies, television, and rock music, all of which have become ubiquitous.

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