Why We (Still) Need Reform: Part 3
Finding God Again
In my God in the Whirlwind, I have developed what is the answer to our ailment. The indulgent God has done nothing good for the Church. It is time to return to the biblical God. But this is meaningless unless we start where Scripture starts. That is, we must start with the God who is objective to us.
He stands outside of us, outside of our circumstances, outside of our subjectivity, and summons us to come outside of ourselves, to know him. We do not enter into ourselves to find him as if, all along, he had been hiding there among our intuitions. Rather, he breaks in on us. He enters our world, our private world, and when he enters it he does so on his terms and not on our own. This in no way denies our need for the Spirit’s illumination of Scripture and our own regeneration. It is simply affirming that our crippling self-preoccupation, our deeply privatized view of reality, must be set aside if we are to come before our triune God as he has revealed himself to be. This is what Christian faith is really about.
Being God-centered in our thoughts and God-fearing in our hearts means that we want God’s character to define who we are, how we think about life, and how we live in our world. And we can know what his character is like! It is true that God is greater than our greatest thoughts about him but he has also given us truths about himself that are within our comprehension.
With respect to his character, I suggest a shorthand way of speaking of this: God’s holy-love. Holiness is his moral perfection. And just as the light breaks into the various colors of the rainbow, so his holiness also breaks out in different ways. Sometimes it shines as justice, sometimes as goodness, and sometimes as wrath. And if his holiness is his moral perfection, then it must include his love for that perfection would be incomplete without that love. And his love, in turn, also breaks out into its own colors of mercy, patience, long-suffering, kindness, and generosity.
However, this love and this holiness are always bonded together in the single character of God. This is who he is. That is why I have spoken of his holy-love and placed a hyphen between the two words. When God acts, he acts in his holiness and his love together and never the one without the other.
And so it is when we come to think of the work of Christ. It was God’s love that took action on our sin but the way that happened in the death of Christ required a reckoning with God’s holiness. God’s love provided what God’s holiness required.
David F. Wells (PhD, Manchester University) is distinguished senior research professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA and is author of the prominent series of books including No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland, Losing our Virtue, Above All Earthly Pow'rs, and The Courage to be Protestant. Dr. Wells's forthcoming book is entitled God in the Whirlwind.