I’m sure many of our readers have heard of David Wells’ new book, God in the Whirlwind. It has received many endorsements from many popular Christian teachers and preachers. I’ve appreciated many of Wells’ earlier books, so I purchased this one because everyone said it is an absolute must-read.
I’m hesitant to say as much, however. Let me explain.
First, the content is solid and biblical. In the bulk of the book, Wells explains grace, faith, justification, God’s love and holiness (along with other attributes of God), the Bible, the two Adams, the incarnation and atonement, reconciliation, sanctification, the church, and worship. These topics were explained in a straightforward and Reformation way (although the outline of the book seemed a little random to me). The only (somewhat) notable reservations I had about the theological side of the book were these: First, at one point it seemed like Wells mixed up the historic communicable/incommunicable attributes distinction (p. 80). Second, Wells uses the terms “positional sanctification” and “conditional sanctification” to describe how the gospel relates to sanctification. I’m more comfortable with “definitive sanctification” and “progressive sanctification” (p. 161ff). Third, Wells’ chapter on worship was, in my opinion, rather thin. In it, he basically said we need to be more God- and Word-centered in our worship. True, but I would have liked to see more meat there. These three reservations, however, don’t make me hesitate to say what I’ve already said: the content is solid and biblical.
So why do I hesitate to say with others that we cannot ignore this book? In a word, because everything in the book has already been written in other popular books. The first section of the book was a discussion of how many Americans think of God in a moralistic therapeutic deistic way (Christian Smith). Wells also says Americans tend to go inside themselves to find God and they think of him as a loving cheerleader or therapist who is there to help us be happy. I agree with this, but I’ve read it before in books like Christless Christianity, many of Os Guinness’ books, Modern Reformation, and even in Wells’ excellent earlier books.
The bulk of the book that I mentioned above also has material that has been discussed well in many other venues. In fact, if you have read basic Reformed theological works before, about 60-70% of the book will simply be a review. For example, if you’ve read The Holiness of God by Sproul, Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Horton, and one or two books by Jerry Bridges on sanctification, you’ve already read about these great truths before – and probably in greater depth. Wells’ book simply doesn’t fill a gap in solid Christian literature.
The content of God in the Whirlwind is good. I honestly mean that. I don’t like to not recommend a solid book, but if you’re on a budget, and/or if you don’t like to read similar material twice, you may not need to get this book. Remember, the publicity and marketing blurbs might be helpful in noting which Christian leaders liked the book, but they can’t tell you if you have a book (or books) like this on your shelves already. Furthermore, the marketing blurbs don’t say if books like this have been written previously. My advice is to read the marketing blurbs only after you’ve read (if possible) the contents and themes of the book. This practice will help you use your reading time and budget in a better way.