Wallis, Jim. Agenda for Biblical People (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).
Walsh, Brian J. Truth is Stranger Than It Used to Be (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995). Walsh (M.Phil., Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto) has served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Toronto.
Walsh, Brian J. and J. Richard Middleton. The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984). Walsh (M.Phil., Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto) and Middleton (M.A. in phil., U. Guelph) have both served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Ontario, Walsh at U.T., and Middleton at U. Guelph. In this volume they announce God's judgment and call the church to repentance: "In terms of its covenantal relationship with God, the Western world is now experiencing the covenantal curses which disobedience calls forth. We are in a period of judgment, though not the final judgment. We are still 'between the times'; there is still time to repent" (p. 149). They warn of impending "totalitarianism" by "an authoritarian state"—if the citizens of the West fail to discipline their hedonism and to practice "both internal and external restraint" (pp. 156-157).
Significantly, the authors call for a renewal of obedience to God's law: "Cultural restoration is impossible without a renewed response to God's law…Not only must technological, scientific and economic norms be obeyed, but so must the norms of love, justice, mercy and kindness. Only if we attempt to realize all of God's norms simultaneously will we be able to rebuild our culture in covenantal obedience to Yahweh" (p. 157). This obedience will mean a rediscovery of the Biblical norm of "stewardship," which involves both "nurture [of] what belongs to the Master," and also "service of …the whole human race" (ibid). None of this will be possible apart from a renewal of the Christian "community": "The community is God's means of empowering people…What makes the Christian community Christian is its worship. A radical community, it subverts the dominant culture because it worships, serves and prays to a different God… Rather than being conformed to the world, it is a community being transformed by the renewing of its communal mind—its world view…Herein is the essence of a Christian cultural witness in a society in decline" (p. 161).
Watt, David Harrington. A Transforming Faith: Explorations of Twentieth-Century American Evangelicalism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers U. Press, 1991).
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958, 1976). An agnostic German sociologist and political economist, Weber (1864-1920) is the source of the common phrase, "the Protestant work ethic." Weber opposed the Marxist view of economic causation with a theory which emphasized the role of religious and cultural "values" in shaping societies. In this classic text, first pub. in 1904-1905 (rev. ed. 1920-21), Weber proposed the thesis that ascetic Protestantism was a primary driving force behind the growth and success of capitalism. The Protestant worldview supplied the necessary motivation and values to drive the economic engine, values such as personal responsibility, pragmatism, and perseverance.
Weber viewed the Protestant Reformation as a positive development which carried the energy of religious virtues into worldly vocations, and in effect, 'sacralized' the secular workplace and the realm of commerce: "the Reformation meant not the elimination of the Church's control over everyday life, but rather the substitution of a new form of control…regulation of the whole of conduct …penetrating to all departments of private and public life" (p. 36). An essential element in this worldview was the belief in one's "calling": "The social activity of the Christian in the world is solely activity [for the glory of God]. This character is hence shared by labor in a calling which serves the mundane life of the community…labor in the service of impersonal usefulness" (pp. 108-109). Weber observed that this original, high vision of "calling" had been lost: "The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so… the idea of duty in one's calling prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs" (pp. 181-182).
In The De-Moralization of Society G. Himmelfarb argues that Weber popularized "values," so that the concept "was absorbed unconsciously and without resistance into the ethos of modern society." Although it was not Weber’s intention, Himmelfarb contends that the popular understanding of values led inevitably in a relativistic and even "nihilistic" direction: "'Values' brought with it the assumptions that all moral ideas are subjective and relative, that they are mere customs and conventions, that they have a purely instrumental, utilitarian purpose, and that they are peculiar to specific individuals and societies" (p. 11).
Wells, David. No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993); God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994). What is required of the church today, according to Dr. Wells, is not "revival," but "reformation." He defines reformation as a deliberate rejection of man-centered, subjective conformity to the world, and a deliberate embrace of the God-centered, objective reality in the Bible. He calls for a "new order of sacred fools," followers of Jesus who seek to live out the "actualized truth" of the Bible in a hostile world. He concludes: "If the Church can begin to find a place for [truth] by refocusing itself on the centrality of God, if it can rest upon this sufficiency, if it can recover its moral fiber, then it will have something to say to a world now drowning in modernity" (No Place for Truth, p. 301).
Williams, Peter W. America's Religions: Traditions and Cultures (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1990). This text is recommended by Thomas Reeves in The Empty Church as providing "a valuable list of mainline characteristics" (pp. 333-334).
Willimon, William H. and Hauerwas, Stanley. Where Resident Aliens Live: Exercises for Christian Practice (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996).
Wilson, Bryan. Religion in Sociological Perspective (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1982).
Wilson, James Q. The Moral Sense (New York: The Free Press, 1993). Wilson, formerly on the faculty of UCLA, starting from an evolutionary framework, attempts to demonstrate that human beings do possess something which he variously refers to as "a moral nature," "a moral impulse or standard," "moral sentiments," "conscience," and "a moral sense." He defines this sense as comprising "intuitively understood commitments" which "organize and define…an orderly society" (p. 234). It is "an intuitive or directly felt belief about how one ought to act when one is free to act voluntarily (that is, not under duress)" (p. xii); "By 'ought' I mean an obligation binding on all people similarly situated" (ibid). His primary examples of the moral sense are: sympathy, fairness, self-control and duty (pp. 29-117). Wilson eschews moral relativism and affirms moral "uniformities" (p. 26). He even affirms a universal moral law, or "universal human nature," but he limits the content of this to "one universal truth—man's sociability, expressed and refined in the affections between child and parent" (p. 218). He rejects "gender-biased writing" as "awkward and wooden" (p. viii). Wilson calls for a public renewal of moral consensus for the sake of the next generation: "Testing limits is a way of asserting selfhood. Maintaining limits is way of asserting community" (p. 9). See J. Budziszewski's insightful critique of Wilson in his Written on the Heart, pp. 212-219.
Wilson, John F. Public Religion in American Culture (Philadelphia, PA: Temple U. Press, 1979).
Wink, Walter. Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992). Wink is prof. of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. He believes that violence and domination are the keys to understanding the world today: "Violence is the ethos of our times. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It has been accorded the status of a religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience to death" (p. 13). Central to Wink's approach is an attempt to be faithful both to the "spiritualistic" and to the "materialistic" dimensions of human existence. He advocates an "integrated worldview" which recognizes both an "inner (spiritual) aspect" and an "outer (material) aspect" of all reality. This perspective informs his sense of social justice: "no struggle for justice is complete unless it has first discerned, not only the outer, political manifestations of the Powers, but also their inner spirituality, and has lifted the Powers, inner and outer, to God for transformation" (p. 317).
Wink's social theology involves a peculiar combination of liberal and conservative elements. On the one hand he takes demonic "Powers" seriously and calls for disciplined prayer to combat them. On the other hand he tends to equate demonic Powers with political structures and power: "the Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity. Nothing depotentiates them faster than deft lampooning. By refusing to be awed by their power, the powerless are emboldened to seize the initiative, even where structural change is not immediately possible" (pp. 178-179).
Wright, Robert. The Moral Animal (New York: Vintage Books, 1994). Robert Wright, a senior editor at The New Republic—who has also written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker and Time, argues that Darwin dealt a "one-two punch" to culture and religion. The first punch was: "the Origin's assault on the biblical account of creation;" the second was: "the Descent's doubts about the status of the moral sense" (p. 328). Wright, who embraces postmodernism as a necessary phase in evolutionary progress, credits Darwinianism with fueling "the postmodern attitude," and predicts that "the future progress of Darwinism may strengthen the postmodern mood" (p. 326). Wright, himself a strong supporter of the 'Darwinian project,' explains the radical nature of Darwin's theory: "In short: if Freud stressed people's difficulty in seeing the truth about themselves, the new Darwinians stress the difficulty of seeing truth, period. Indeed, Darwinianism comes close to calling into question the very meaning of the word truth. For the social discourses that supposedly lead to truth—moral discourse, political discourse, even, sometimes, academic discourse—are, by Darwinian lights, raw power struggles… in human affairs, all (or at least much) is artifice, a self-serving manipulation of image. And already this belief helps nourish a central strand of the postmodern condition: a powerful inability to take things seriously" (p. 325).
Wuthnow, Robert. The Struggle for America's Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1989); Rediscovering the Sacred: Perspectives on Religion in Contemporary Society (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1992); Christianity in the 21st Century: Reflections on the Challenges Ahead (New York, NY: Oxford U. Press, 1993); The Crisis in the Churches (New York, NY: Oxford U. Press, 1997). A professor of social sciences and director of the Center for the Study of American Religion at Princeton University, Wuthnow believes that one of the most pressing questions facing the church in the postmodern world is whether or not it will be able to overcome the rampant individualism of American society and to "sustain a strong sense of community."
In Christianity in the 21st Century Wuthnow affirms that "for centuries the Christian church has been the mainstay of community life in Western society," but warns that today "our society seems to be at a loss for community" (p. 32). Ideally, he agrees with Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), the founder of modern sociology, who believed that (in Wuthnow's words): "The church… does more than merely adapt to its cultural circumstances; instead, it provides the womb in which culture itself is conceived and readied for birth" (p. 20). However, he also observes the widespread decline of the church in America, especially of denominations (pp. 23-26); the declining influence of the church upon people's lives (pp. 199-200); and the "growing secularization of public life itself" (p. 216). Wuthnow concludes that, in spite of "a sober assessment of the future, and perhaps even some level of pessimism," there are grounds for hope. The "greatest resource of Christianity," he says, "is the orientation it poses toward the future itself. Christianity has always included a message of hope. As the United States embarks on a new century, that message will clearly be needed as never before" (p. 217).