An Interview with David Wells

Justin Taylor: I was recently able to sit down with David Wells to talk about his new book, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Crossway, 2014). We talk about why this is the hardest book he has ever written, how it is different from what he’s written before, and why he spends so much of his time working with orphans in Africa.  

Is Your Church a Learning Community?

David Wells reflects on the fact that apostolic Christianity was shaped into a set of clear teachings and doctrines: “Christianity, in these and texts like them, is described as the faith, the truth, the pattern of sound words, the traditions, the sound doctrine, and what was delivered in the beginning. This is what the apostles taught, it is what they believed, it is what they “delivered” to the church, it is what is “entrusted” to the church. Christians are those who “believe” this teaching, who “know” it, who “have” it, who “stand” in it, and who are “established” in it. The New Testament letters were written to remind believers about their responsibilities in relation to this teaching, this faith that has been delivered to the church in its final and completed form. The apostles, we read, write to “remind” them of it, urge them to “pay close attention” to it, to “stand firm” in it, to “follow” it, to “hold”

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God takes action in Christ

“God takes action in Christ against sin, death, and the devil. The doctrine of justification is not about the workings of impersonal law in the universe, or about manipulating its outcomes, but it is about God. The moral law is simply the reflection of the character of God, and when God acts to address the outcomes of the broken moral law, he addresses these himself, himself taking the burden of his own wrath, himself absorbing in the person of Christ the judgment his righteous character cannot but demand, himself providing what no sinner can give, himself absorbing the punishment no sinner can bear and live.” — David F. Wells The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 201 (HT: Of First Importance)

Are Evangelicals Doctrinally Weak?

In the book God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards, Piper writes about the present state of evangelicalism: I resonate with the lament of Os Guinness and David Wells that evangelicalism today is basking briefly in the sunlight of hollow success. Evangelical industries of television and radio and publishing and music recordings, as well as hundreds of growing mega-churches and some highly visible public figures and political movements, give outward impressions of vitality and strength. But both Wells and Guinness, in their own ways, have called attention to the hollowing out of evangelicalism from within. In other words, the strong timber of the tree of evangelicalism has historically been the great doctrines of the Bible—God’s glorious perfections, man’s fallen nature, the wonders of redemptive history, the magnificent work of redemption in Christ, the saving and sanctifying work of grace in the soul, the great mission of the church in conflict with the world and the flesh and

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The weightless god of evangelicalism

The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace too ordinary, his judgment too benign, his gospel too easy, and his Christ is too common. David Wells from God in the Wasteland, p. 30 (HT: Todd Pruitt)

The Revolutionary Reformers

“What was revolutionary about the Protestant Reformers was their insistence that God is not savingly known through created nature as paganism had proposed, or through human nature as the medieval mystics had thought (and some evangelicals now think), or through the Church and its sacraments as the Roman Catholic Church taught, but directly, by the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the biblical Word, the internal and supernatural work of the Spirit creating the spiritual climate in which Scripture might be received. The Reformers rejected all assertions that there are channels of saving grace in nature, human nature, or the Church. They held that there are no intermediaries between God and the sinner save for Christ himself, and they insisted that this unique role could not be usurped without destroying the faith that claimed his name. Christ’s role is a sine qua non, they argued, because the judgment of God on the one side and human corruption

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Non-Conversational Preaching

David Wells, in his barn-burning book The Courage to be Protestant: “Preaching is not a conversation about some interesting ideas. It is not the moment in which postmoderns hear their own private message in the biblical words, one unique to each one who hears, and then go their own way. No! This is God speaking! He speaks through the stammering lips of the preacher where that preacher’s mind is on the text of Scripture and his heart is in the presence of God. God, as Luther puts it, lives in the preacher’s mouth. This is the kind of preaching that issues a summons, which nourishes the soul, which draws the congregation into the very presence of God so that no matter what aspect of his character, his truth, his working in this world is in focus, we leave with awe, gratitude, encouragement, and sometimes a rebuke. We have been in the very presence of God! This is what great preaching

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“The majesty of God’s forgiveness . . .”

“The majesty of God’s forgiveness is lost entirely when we lose what has to be forgiven. What has to be forgiven is not just what we do but who we are, not just our sinning but our sinfulness, not just our choices but what we have chosen in place of God. . . . When we miss the biblical teaching, we also miss the nature of God’s grace in all its height and depth. In biblical faith it is God’s grace through Christ that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” – David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 167. (HT: Of First Importance)

Evil & the Purposes of God

“The mystery of iniquity is at work in the world during this interim time, and it is not always clear how its malignant work is being checked, overridden, or woven into the glorious purposes of God. We need to remember, though, that while Judas betrayed Christ, and woe to him for doing so, it was God’s plan that Christ was thus betrayed. Evil by its very nature opposes the purposes of God, but God, in his sovereignty, can make even this evil serve his purposes.” – David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 206. (HT: Of First Importance)

Hope so?

“Christian hope is not about wishing things will get better. It is not about hoping that emptiness will go away, meaning return, and life will be stripped of its uncertainties, aches, and anxieties. Nor does it have anything to do with techniques for improving fallen human life, be those therapeutic, spiritual, or even religious. Hope has to do with the knowledge of ‘the age to come.’ This redemption is already penetrating ‘this age.’ The sin, death, meaninglessness of the one age are being transformed by the righteousness, life, and meaning of the other. What has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it. More than that, hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, that endures. It knows that evil is doomed, that it will be banished. This kind of hope has left behind it the ship of ‘this age,’ which is

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Holiness Coming Down in Grace

“Biblical holiness begins with the Holy. But the holy, by its very nature, can be approached only when we come as sinners. He is never accessible to us as consumers. We come in sackcloth and ashes, not as buyers. Indeed, we cannot approach the Holy at all on our own terms. We must see that the Holy has first approached us in Christ and, through him, reconciled us to himself. The revelation of the Holy would be unbearable were we to see it in any other way than from within Christ. In Christ, what we are seeing is God’s holiness in its action on our sin. Without Christ we would have to bear that judgment in ourselves What we see instead is holiness coming down in grace and, in Christ, going forth against our sin in triumph.” – David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 240. (HT: Of First Importance)