David Wells honestly reflects on his previous work in examining the church and culture, when he says, “I assumed an answer to the dilemmas unearthed and was not always as explicit in setting this out as I should have been” (13). This volume seeks to remedy some of that and also pinpoints what was lost in the church through capitulation to culture. David calls this the “‘weight’” of God’s character or his holy-love (14). God in the Whirlwind then is an exploration of God’s character. An exploration of how that should transform the church and the culture around us. His approach is grounded in Scripture, not culture (18). “God stands before us. He summons us to come out of ourselves and to know him” (18).
David does this deftly. While the thrust of God in the Whirlwind is God’s character, it’s explored in the face of the culture. A kind of biblical theology of God’s holy-love with an eye to the history of the church in the culture (40). “Jesus would be surprised to see how easy the kingdom of God has become as we have made ourselves relevant to the culture” (33). Another example of his careful exegesis melding with his eye for the culture comes when defining love. As a Christian, he connects loves meaning with the death of Christ as a sacrifice and contrasts the world’s psychological, felt-needs love (34).
This fusion of holy-love is important. As David says, “An alibi of love can never be the justification of what is un-holy” (172). Something many in the church today have forgotten. Many times a hermeneutic of love is used to explain away Scripture focused on holiness. Again, “We believe the gospel, not only so that our guilt might be forgiven, but so that henceforth, on a daily basis, we might live for Christ, walking in his ways, living by the Holy Spirit’s power who leads us into the paths of godliness” (159). The gospel glues holiness and love together. Jesus sacrifices for us and makes us progressively holy. He sets us apart as the Church, his Bride, and nothing will taint his Church (Eph. 5).
It’s a timely book. There’s a lot of ink being spilled about the problems the church faces and what a solution would look like. In a way that’s not trite or simple, David draws us back to the character of God and the gospel as the solution. His answers work because he’s a careful observer of culture and the church and his method is a whole Bible theology. If you’re looking for a pop theology filled with all the tired questions and answers, don’t buy God in the Whirlwind.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and also writes for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel Centered Discipleship, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.