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David F. Wells has written his book again. Indeed, reading a new book by Wells is something like my experience of reading new books by Anne Lamott. About 15 pages in, I find myself asking: Isn't this the same book, again?

Readers who pick up Wells's latest, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Crossway), will find themselves covering the same ground he's covered since No Place for Truth (1993).

Wells—a historical and systematic theologian at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary—has a fairly simple "big idea": a tale of loss and recovery. Culture has corrupted the church, and renewal means returning to a set of views we have lost. The argument is couched in potted histories that paint thinly with broad brushes, highlighting how the church has been corrupted by modernity and, especially, postmodernity. For Wells, the word is shorthand for everything-wrong-with-the-world.

The genre is pitched somewhere between jeremiad and rant, with predictable protests, retreaded clichés, and lots of complaints about the 1960s. It's like how I would expect a theological grandfather to harrumph about "kids these days." It will convince no one who doesn't already agree.

Because we've listened to the culture rather than Scripture, we've been suckered into a therapeutic rather than a moral view of God: God is reduced to a Therapist and Concierge. Even many conservative evangelicals effectively worship the god of Oprah. On this point, Wells's diagnosis is helpful.

False Dichotomies

But what's the antidote? As in his previous books, God in the Whirlwind outlines the "view" that needs to be recovered. This view has two countercultural ...

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December 2013

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