Sunday, April 6, 2014

A review of God in the Whirlwind by David Wells

A review of God in the Whirlwind; How the Holy love of God reorients our world by David Wells.

Publisher's description:

"Building on years of research, writing, and cross-cultural ministry, renowned author and theologian David Wells calls our attention to that which defines God’s greatness and gives shape to the Christian life: the holy-love of God.
In God in the Whirlwind, Wells explores the depths of the paradox that God is both holy and loving, showing how his holy-love provides the foundation for our understanding of the cross, sanctification, the nature of worship, and our life of service in the world. What’s more, a renewed vision of God's character is the cure for evangelicalism’s shallow theology, with its weightless God and sentimental gospel.
Written by one of evangelicalism’s most insightful minds, this book will help you stand firm in your faith despite the changing winds and raging storms of the modern world."

As David Wells explains in his preface, twenty years ago he was tasked to answer the question "What is it that accounts for the loss of the church's theological character?"  It took him five books to answer that question, but he acknowledges that though his analysis was thorough, his solution for this problem wasn't as explicit as he would have liked.

That's where this volume comes in.  Wells knows the problems in evangelism, and here he offers the cure.  Starting with our cultural obsession with individual happiness and the popularity of the prosperity gospel, he starts shooting holes in the very common "God is my therapist" self centered mentality that is all the rage in American evangelicalism.  In chapter 1 he states; "we are summoned to know Him only on His terms." This sets the stage for the rest of the book as Wells unpacks it's central theme;  "How should the holy-love of God define and shape our sanctified lives?"

From there Wells begins laying out the main thesis of this book, his concept of holy-love.  There is nothing innovative or novel in this idea, nor is there intended to be.  Instead Dr. Wells takes two theological constructs every christian should understand, God's holiness, and God's love, and ties them together.

Wells starts with love, a love that comes from above, not below, a love initiated by God and descending to us.  A love expressed fully in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This was so helpful, because we naturally looked inward, and we constantly need to be taken back outside of ourselves and pointed back to God through Jesus Christ.  I loved how Dr. Wells expressed this:

"We could not make our way back to Him, so He made His way to us;  we could not make our way up to Him, so He made His way down to us."

Next,  Wells describes the holiness of God, saying that "It is impossible to think of the love of God apart from His holiness."  It is in understanding this holiness that we come to understand that to know God, we must be separate from what corrupts life.

Chapter 6 covers the justification and makes the book well worth buying just for that chapter alone.

Things got even better in chapter 7, Walking with God, where Dr. Wells nicely ties our sanctification into our justification.  His treatment of positional (definitive) and conditional (progressive) sanctification was very thorough and very helpful.  It was helpful for me to see how the gospel isn't a stand alone concept separate from a sanctified life, but instead having been justified we will bring forth good works.  Once again, there is just "standard" theology here, nothing innovative or new, but the way that Dr. Wells explains these things is just so clear and helpful.  Convicting to me was how he tied our love for others to the holiness of God and His love for us as sinners.  How can we withhold forgiveness and kindness when a Holy God has extended forgiveness and kindness to us.  A powerful reminder of what happens when we truly see our sin and the grace and love of God in response to our sin.

In Chapter 8, Dr. Wells starts out by saying that worship is essential to our sanctification, and goes on to explain what true worship is.  This chapter was particularly helpful, and is a great treatise on worship.  I think this will be my go to resource from now on for the subject of worship, it is brilliant in my humble opinion.

Dr. Wells concludes the book with Chapter 9, entitled "And come, let us serve", obviously a chapter on service.  I would sum up the theme of this chapter by the following quote:

"We have been freed from, in order that we might be freed to, and that means being freed for.  We have been freed from ourselves to Christ and for His service."

It doesn't get any better than that!

So, in closing, this is where Dr. Wells takes us in his unique way, from his unique perspective.  I found that often when reading this book I was reading things from a perspective that is rarely seen in much of evangelical theological offerings.  This book did re-orient my thoughts of God and His love.  I was helped immensely by this book and will refer back to it often.  I highly recommend this book and give it 5 stars!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

To hear David Wells talk about this book go here for a recent interview that he did with Justin Taylor.

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