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  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation


God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World

Author: David F. Wells

Publisher: Crossway, Wheaton, 2013, 272 pages. ISBN: 978-1433531316

 Also available in Kindle (B00HDHUU0S)


Renowned author and theologian David Wells calls our attention to that which defines God’s greatness and gives shape to the Christian life: the holy-love of God. In this book Wells explores the depths of the paradox that God is both holy and loving, showing how his holy-love provides the foundation for our understanding of the cross, sanctification, the nature of worship, and our life of service in the world. Wells brings his influential critique of late modern culture and the church down into practice.

 Best chapter

Chapter 1: God Our Vision, Culture our Context

“The goal of Christ’s redemption was, after all, that we might know God, love him, serve him, enjoy him, and glorify him forever. This is, indeed, our chief end. It was for this end that Christ came, was incarnate, died in our place, and was raised for our justification. It was that we might know God.” Kindle location 225

“The second challenge I am going to mention you may have experienced even in the short time since opening this book! It is the extraordinary bombardment on our mind that goes on every day from a thousand different sources that leave us distracted, with our minds going simultaneously in multiple directions. How, then, can we receive from Scripture the truth God has for us if we cannot focus long enough, linger long enough, to receive that truth? Every age has its own challenges. This is one of ours. It is the affliction of distraction.” Kindle location 226

“However it happened, the external God has now disappeared and has been replaced by the internal God. Transcendence has been swallowed up by immanence. God is to be found only within the self. And once that happened, the boundary between right and wrong—at least as we had thought about these things—went down like a row of falling skittles.” Kindle location 493

“When God—the external God—dies, then the self immediately moves in to fill the vacuum. But then something strange happens. The self also dies. And with it goes meaning and reality. When these things go, anything is possible.” Kindle location 498

“The Bible’s view, by contrast, is quite different because its world is moral. Ours today is deeply, relentlessly, and only therapeutic. The Bible’s world is defined by God’s character of holiness. Ours today is not. It is psychological.” Kindle location 538

“Christianity, though, uniquely combines love and holiness because in God’s character they are, and always have been, combined. However, I am thinking of God’s love and his holiness here as comprising the many aspects of his character of which Scripture speaks. I therefore am going to be speaking of God’s holy-love. This term is not entirely satisfactory. It may even suggest precisely what I am arguing against, that love is basic and holiness is secondary and is what qualifies that love. But that is not what I mean. The problem is that if I cannot use the shorthand of holy-love, I am stuck with something that is unworkably cumbersome. It would be something like “God’s holiness-and-God’s-love-in-their-union-with-each-other.” If I were to use this long description as many times as I use holy-love in the pages that follow, readers would quickly find it annoying! So, I am staying with holy-love.” Kindle location 551

Best quotes

“From first to last, this age, this kingdom, is God’s. It is his to give and to take away; it is ours only to enter and to receive. And we cannot enter it on our own terms, or buy it as we might a product in the mall. No, the kingdom is where and how God rules, and this rule is exercised only in and through Christ. It is his kingdom. This is the kingdom that, in its post-resurrection phase, Paul speaks about so triumphantly.” Kindle location 1163

“In the first century, it was the cross that dispelled thoughts like these. It was to the cross that the early church fathers returned again and again as they confronted their pagan world. How could anyone think that God is hostile to human life, or indifferent to it, or removed from it, if he gave his own Son? That was their argument.” Kindle location 1252

“These attributes of God—eternality, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence—are entirely without parallel in our personal experience. We know nothing like these attributes in ourselves. However, God’s love is in a different category. With this we can connect, because here he seems to be much more like us. And we do think that we know what love is like, because we have experienced love in our lives.” Kindle location 1295

“God’s love descends to us. His is the initiative from first to last. When he took action on our sin, it was his love that offered up his Son to be the Mediator between himself and sinners. It was his love that sent the Holy Spirit to open sinners’ eyes to understand the meaning of that gift. We could not make our way back to him, so he made his way to us; we could not make our way up to him, so he made his way down to us.” Kindle location 1314

“Love and holiness belong together and work together. Love is characteristic of every aspect of God’s being as well as every action that issues from it. This is equally true of his holiness. When he created, what came forth was good, and, at the same time, he created in love. God’s holiness and his love are always and everywhere inseparable because they equally belong in the same utterly perfect and glorious character.” Kindle location 1423

“In our time, as we have already seen, all religion which is from “below” dissolves the hyphen in God’s holy-love. It thinks of the love of God apart from its connections to his holiness.” Kindle location 1426

“It is impossible to think of the love of God apart from his holiness. The reason is that God’s character is encountered as he is, as the encounter with the one, almighty, and all-glorious ruler of eternity. So, when it comes to his character, it is all about the unity, the mutual interpenetration of his holiness and his love.”  Kindle location 1651

“God’s holiness, then, is not only the opposite of evil; it is the measure by which we know evil to be evil. It illumines everything, and everything is revealed by him for what it is: right or wrong, true or false, good or bad, righteous or evil. It is this holiness, Hannah said, by which ‘actions are weighed.’” Kindle location 1888

“Christ’s incarnation and his atonement need to be understood in light of each other. He came to die, and he died that we might live. At Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel, ‘God with us.’ At Easter, we celebrate the cross, ‘God for us.’ There is a seamless history that runs from Christ’s incarnation to his cross and on to his resurrection.” Kindle location 2509

“If sanctification is all about becoming more like God in his character, then clearly this can happen only as the lost moral image of God (Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:10) begins to be restored. It is restored in Christ. Indeed, Paul says that we have been ‘predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’ (Rom. 8:29). And Christ is himself ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1:15). But this process of transformation is a lifelong and complex one, with quite a few stops and starts along the way.” Kindle location 2820

“Let us make no mistake about this. If we do not do this aright, if we are not daily seeking God’s face, if we are not pondering the truth he has given us in his Word, if we are not daily being nourished in our souls by it, and if we are not daily repenting of our sin where we need to, our faith will wither and our walk with God will disappear.” Kindle location 3089

“This God-centeredness is far easier to speak about than actually to do. This is true of our worship as well as more broadly in our lives. We know ourselves to be astonishingly unfocused and, even worse, self-focused. We are a wild array of hopes, plans, daydreams, preoccupations, inward aches, confusions, and unfulfilled desires. We are prone to divided attention. We also are, in our inward world, an accumulation of bad habits, willful sinfulness, and poor appetite. Being God-centered therefore goes quite against the stream of who we are and what we have become—both in our sin and in our sinfulness.” Kindle location 3581

“Once, we mistakenly saw our own captivity as freedom. Equally mistakenly, we also saw serving Christ as loss. But the truth turned out to be exactly the opposite of what we had once thought. The first paradox, then, is one that Jesus gave us: ‘For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ (Mark 8:35–36).” Kindle location 3843

“In the kingdom of God, greatness is the exact opposite of what it is in the world. In God’s kingdom, greatness is all about giving ourselves away, even as Christ did. It is what inverts the pyramid. Those on the bottom of life’s hierarchy, those on the margins of life, its peripheral people, those who simply do not count, the powerless, are those who, if they are true servants of Christ, are great.” Kindle location 3872

“When we are God-centered in our thoughts, God-fearing in our hearts, when we see with clarity what his character of holy-love is like, he begins to have weight in our lives. When that happens we become, not just occasional visitors to the eternal, but its permanent residents, its citizens.” Kindle location 4010

Best illustration

“In 2010, the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization was held in Cape Town. Four thousand delegates attended from 198 countries. Among them was a young woman, Gyeong Ju. She was born in Pyongyang, North Korea. Her father had worked within the inner circle of Kim Jong Il, the country’s former, iron-fisted leader. However, there was a falling out in his entourage and her father had to flee. The family started over again in China. It was there that, for the first time, they heard the gospel and came to believe in Christ. Not long after this, her father felt Christ’s call to return as a missionary to North Korea. He did. In 2006, after he had returned, he was unfortunately discovered. He was arrested and, it appears, executed. But now his young daughter is resolved to return to North Korea as a missionary herself as soon as she is able. Why? With her father’s death still fresh on her mind, why would she do this? How could she even contemplate doing it? One can only say that it is because the love of Christ constrains her and because the Lord of the harvest has called her to go. And she is willing to serve. It is because of God’s holy-love that people do these kinds of things. It is this love that ‘has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ (Rom. 5:5). This explains why there is this kind of selfless serving.” Kindle location 3928

 Best idea

“That is why we must come back to our first principles. And the most basic of these is the fact that God is there and that he is objective to us. He is not there to conform to us; we must conform to him. He summons us from outside of ourselves to know him. We do not go inside of ourselves to find him. We are summoned to know him only on his terms. He is not known on our terms. This summons is heard in and through his Word. It is not heard through our intuitions.” Kindle location 514

 Best take away

“In this book, I have decided to think of this as his ‘holy-love.’ And there is a hyphen between these two words! There are two reasons for this hyphenation. First and most obviously, it is that alongside the declaration that ‘God is love’ we need to set the parallel and accompanying biblical truth of his holiness.” Kindle location 1381

“Second, the hyphen between these two sides of God’s character is our reminder to ourselves that actually there is only one character in God. There are not two sides to it. He is simultaneously loving and holy in such a way that we never encounter his love without his holiness or his holiness without his love.” Kindle location 1386


“A rich, deep, faithful-to-scripture and thought-provoking book that needs to be read with moments to ponder the significance of Well’s train of thought. This book is for the serious reader who wants to go deep into the holy-loving character of God.


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