God in the Whirlwind
How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God

Written by David Wells
Reviewed by Richard Schoenert

In many of David Wells’ previous volumes (e.g., No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland and The Courage to Be Protestant), the author provided us with a penetrating critique of Western culture, particularly as it negatively influences the contemporary church. It could be argued that those works offered no solution to the problem. This latest book provides such a solution. But if the reader is looking for a new
methodology, it won’t be found here. Instead, like a biblical prophet, Wells draws us back to the missing element in the life of much of the contemporary church: the holy-love of God, by which he means the fullness of God’s character as revealed in Scripture.

I couldn’t help but compare Dr. Wells’ suggested answer to the theme of two Christian classics: Knowing God by J.I. Packer and The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. Readers of these volumes may recall the quotation from C.H. Spurgeon’s first sermon as the Pastor of New Park Street Chapel (he was 20 at the time) with which Packer begins his book:

“The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”

Or, one thinks of this statement by Tozer: “The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.”

Like Tozer, David Wells is calling for the Church to purify and elevate her concept of God, rather than presenting Him, as does our culture, as our personal cheerleader, therapist and friend. Wells is really advocating the same solution offered by the biblical writers (e.g., Psalm 42:1-2, 63:1-2).

Let me emphasize some practical ways in which the book impacted me. First, I find that the world, the devil and my own sinful heart are always pulling me inward to seek my own well-being through life’s pleasures and material comforts. I appreciated the challenge of this book to find my ultimate joy and satisfaction in the Lord, not myself.

Secondly, as a pastor, responsible for the content and form of worship, I need the ongoing reminder of Wells’ chapter on corporate worship where he stresses the importance of being God-centered, not needs-driven: “Needs-shaped worship is invariably self-focused....Sermons, in this atmosphere, are almost always aimed simply at providing a lift, some inspiration.... In contexts like these, we can be in worship without being aware of the centrality, goodness, and greatness of God, of his grace, and of Christ’s self-giving in the incarnation and cross” (p.190). I asked myself this challenging question: Is the worship of our church about giving God glory and being renewed by the gospel, or just offering some inspiration, comfort and social connections? Is our starting point the God who is outside of us and above us, or what we think we need and want?

Imagine what our churches would be like if they became known for worship, service and evangelism that flowed from a passion to promote and reflect God’s holy-love! We would be distinct from our culture, while offering a message of reconciliation and redemption. And isn’t this what Jesus had in mind for the Church?

Dr. David Wells, Distinguished Senior Research Professor, previously served as the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology. He taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and chaired its division of systematic theology before joining the Gordon-Conwell faculty in 1979. He has written 20 books; is on the board of the Rafiki Foundation, Inc., an organization that establishes orphanages and schools in 10 African countries to raise and train orphans within a Christian framework; and for many years was a member of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

Dr. Richard Schoenert served for 12 years as Senior Pastor of North Shore Community Baptist Church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, and for 24 years as Senior Pastor of Calvary Church, Roseville, Minnesota. In “retirement,” he returned to the Beverly Farms church as Intentional Interim Pastor during its pastoral search. He and his wife, Valerie, desire to serve other churches in similar ways, while also ministering to pastors in Eastern Europe as extended short-term missionaries with One Challenge International. Rich and Valerie have three adult children and nine grandchildren.