Category Archives: David Wells

“We need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word” by David Wells

“The age in which believers live is already ‘the age to come.’ It is totally different from the culture in which they also live.

All believers live in both of these worlds. They cannot escape the one to live in the other. That is the miscalculation that both mystics and monks have made.

Nor yet can believers simply curse the darkness in this world, for they can still see all the marks of its divine creation. They must live in this world and light a fire for it because it is cold and dark.

They live in the midst of their culture but, to change the image, they live by the beat of a different Drummer. They must hear the sounds of a different time, an eternal time, listening for the music from a different place.

For that world is theirs. It is Christ’s world. It is the ‘age to come.’ They have been received into this world.

It penetrates their existence even now. They live in their own culture in order to be the outposts of this other world.

In the one world, they are but sojourners and pilgrims. In the other, they are permanent residents.

But how are we to do this? How are we going to hear this music? How are we going to hear the divine Drummer whose beat gets lost in all of the noise of our modern world?

We are constantly distracted, always under pressure, constantly bombarded by e-mails. We have unwanted telephone calls.

We are alerted to the arrival of text messages. Families have music lessons and football games, and there are hikes to be organized.

Parents have demanding jobs; some have endless traveling to do. And we are all besieged by the world into which we are wired.

It has become a great temptation even as it is a great fascination to us. Indeed, in 2013, almost half of the American adults surveyed acknowledged this.

Like everything in the modernized world, our information technology has two sides to it. It blesses with one hand and then takes away with the other. And, most importantly here, what it takes away is our capacity to have a functioning worldview.

Without that, our doctrine of God becomes emasculated. An emasculated view of God will never be able to sustain the life of sanctification to which we have been called.

Information and entertainment technologies have annihilated distance, enlarging the circle of our knowledge and, indeed, of our presence. Or, would it be truer to say that the entire world with all of its events, movies, and music has entered our homes?

Once we had to be where the events were happening, where the music was being made, to know about it. Now, all that is needed is a camera and it is splashed across the whole world.

This instant access to information worldwide, to all of its sights, sounds, and happenings is an extraordinary benefit. It has made us citizens of the entire world with an ability to communicate with any other citizen in this world instantaneously.

It has the capacity to lift us beyond our naturally parochial boundaries. At the same time, though, as our knowledge of the world grows— indeed, at an exponential rate— our capacity to have a worldview becomes much diminished and our ability to pay attention to God and His truth is often undermined.

God, we need to remind ourselves, is not just an experience or an idea. The saving knowledge of God comes within a framework which God Himself has disclosed. It is a framework of ideas that corresponds to what is there in the world, in reality, in God Himself.

If this worldview breaks down under the bombardment of news, e-mails, videos, blogs, and music, then what is lost is also what is at its center. It is God Himself, or I should say, it is our understanding, our ability to make sense of who God is that breaks down. And that is where our sanctification breaks down, too.

Technology greatly expands and enlarges our abilities and it mightily expands what we can know. But this is a two-way street.

If it enables us to be everywhere, it is also the case that the whole world– at least its sounds and sights— can enter our minds, too and, once in, it can then enter our souls.

This potentially imperils any functioning worldview. Why is this so?

It is partly because of the sheer volume of what is coming in. It overwhelms us. Since 1960, the amount of data and information individuals are absorbing, because of all of our new technology, has tripled.

If this technology expands our capacity to know things, it also multiples the things that are thrown at us to know. When all of this was just taking shape, Neil Postman warned about ‘information glut,’ and a little later David Shenk spoke of ‘data smog.’

They were right. That is what we now have. Our minds are choked with too much to know. And things are only intensifying.

What allowed all of this to happen only keeps expanding. The iPad and iPhone now massively increase our capacity to access media while we are on the run. The iPod and MP3 massively increase the amount of music we can consume.

With the ability to multitask, American teenagers are now packing in an additional two hours of media consumption per day, bringing their total to more than ten hours.

In addition to the sheer volume is the rapidity with which the whole of the media-filtered, technology-delivered world is changing.

It never stands still long enough for us to take our bearings on it. What is important and what is not, what is weighty and what is ephemeral, what is tragic and what is trivial, meet us with about the same intensity.

It becomes hard, sometimes, to tell which is which. Our world blurs amid the rapid flow of facts, factoids, images, voices, laughter, entertainment, and vapid commentary.

We slowly lose the capacity see the connections between things. Life seems to have no shape.

It looks like a sequence of fast-moving but random experiences with no center and little meaning. Not only does a Christian worldview disappear; the very capacity for such a thing becomes tenuous.

How, then, will we hear this other music from another place? How will we hear that Drummer’s beat above the sounds of this world?

I will say only this. There are no easy answers and there are no painless ones. But, at the same time, it is not impossible.

It is not impossible for us, if it is important to us, to choose what we are going to do and then to focus on doing it. The real question is how deep—or how shallow— is our desire to know God?

We need to begin by asking what is at stake. What might we be in danger of losing amid the noise and frenzy of our modernized societies here in the West?

We are in danger of being squeezed into the mold of the modernized world with its low horizons of knowing, its relativism, and its superficiality.

This threatens our identities as knowers of God, those for whom he is the center, for whom his holy-love defines what moral reality is, and before whom we stand.

It threatens how we see life and how we live in the world. It threatens all of that.

Recognizing this danger, we need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word, to study it, mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest its truth.

This truth must shape our whole understanding of life as we recognize from whom this truth comes and why God has thus given it to us. This must take precedence.

It must take precedence even at the cost of phones, e-mails, the Internet, texts, TV, Facebook, music, and all of the other ways that our technology wires us into a major competitor for our time and attention.

Innocent though these things may be, they stand in the way of our knowing God if they steal from us the time that we need for that pursuit. And we do need time.

This kind of daily discipline used to be an undisputed part of Christian practice. But it appears to have fallen on hard times. And the result will be, once again, that we will be in danger of ‘forgetting’ God.

In the Old Testament, as we have seen, this had to do with the disobedience of not paying attention to God and His truth. And today, we are in danger of reaching the same end, though by a different route.

Now, we are simply too preoccupied, too frenzied, living simultaneously on too many fronts, so that we just do not have time. We are not able to find this central space in our lives.

When David spoke of the ‘Meditation of my heart’ (Ps. 19:14; 49:3 cf. Ps. 119:15, 23, 99), he was speaking of being in God’s presence, reflecting on His truth, learning how to walk with God, being before the face of God.

This Word he stored up in his heart ‘that I might not sin against you’ (Ps. 119:11). That is what we need to do and where we need to be every day.

This will happen only if we are deliberate about it and are willing to give up whatever stands in our way to this end.

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.

If, however, we carve out this center for our lives, we will be in the place where Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians can be realized in us despite our very modern lives:

‘May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God,’ he wrote, ‘and to the steadfastness of Christ’ (2 Thess 3:5). That is what God, the Holy Spirit, will do.”

–David F. Wells, God in the Whirlwind (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 182-186.

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“Here is hope” by David F. Wells

“To the Church has been given the charge of proclaiming the Word of God. This revelatory Word is not a concatenation of human opinions and ideas but rather is God’s own proclamation, the very means by which He speaks, even into postmodern society.

It is, therefore, the making possible of what would be entirely impossible without the grace of God and the powerful working of the Spirit through whose work, and despite the stammering and faltering lips of the preacher, is heard once again the divine summons to stand before God and hear His Word.

Here is hope. We have not been cast adrift upon an infinite ocean but, rather, we find ourselves in a universe not of our own making where all our best thoughts of God are swept away as upon a ferocious current only to be replaced by the eternally simple speech of the triune God.

He draws near through His Word, He lifts the fallen, He feeds the hungry, He corrects the wandering, He rebukes the self-sufficient, and everywhere there is found the sweet fragrance of His grace where He has spoken through His Word and ministered by His Spirit.”

–David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 176.

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“Without this transcendent Word” by David F. Wells

“The issue of inerrancy basically focuses on the nature of the Bible. It is entirely possible for those who have sworn to defend the concept of biblical inerrancy to function as if they had no such Word in their hands.

Indeed, it happens all the time. And the sad fact is that while the nature of the Bible was being debated, the Bible itself was quietly falling into disuse in the church.

Without this transcendent Word in its life, the church has no rudder, no compass, no provisions. Without the Word, it has no capacity to stand outside its culture, to detect and wretch itself free from the seductions of modernity. Without the Word, the church has no meaning.

It may seek substitutes for meaning in committee work, relief work, and various other church activities, but such things cannot fill the role for very long. Cut off from the meaning that God has given, faith cannot offer anything more by way of light in our dark world than what is offered by philosophy, psychology, or sociology.

Cut off from God’s meaning, the church is cut off from God; it loses its identity as the people of God in belief, in practice, in hope. Cut off from God’s Word, the church is on its own, left to live for itself, by itself, upon itself.

It is never lifted beyond itself, above its culture. It is never stretched or tried. It grows more comfortable, but it is the comfort of anaesthesia, of a refusal to pay attention to the disturbing realities of God’s truth.”

–David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 150.

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“The kingdom of God” by David F. Wells

“The kingdom of God, in the Gospels, is never a realm. It is a rule. And it is the rule of God. The primary idea in this language is that God Himself has begun to rule. It is present, but this reign still has to be concluded and consummated at some point in the future.

Let us not miss an important point here. It is that this reign, this rule, is something God is doing. The reason, clearly, is that this is not something that emerges from ‘below,’ which we ourselves can get going. It must come from ‘above.’ We cannot bring it about; only God can.

We can search for the kingdom of God, pray for it, and look for it, for example, but only God can bring it about (Luke 12:31; 23:51; Matt. 6:10, 33). The kingdom is God’s to give and to take away. It is ours only to enter and accept (Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32).

We can inherit it, posses it, or refuse to enter it, but it is not ours to build and we can never destroy it (Matt. 25:34; Luke 10:11). We can work for the kingdom, but we can never act upon it. We can preach it, but it is God’s to establish (Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:9; 12:32).

God’s inbreaking, saving, vanquishing rule is His from first to last. It has no human analogues, no duplicates, no parallels, and no surrogates. It allows of no human synergism. The inbreaking of the ‘age to come’ into our world is accomplished by God alone.

This is all about the spirituality that is from ‘above’ and not at all about that which is from ‘below.’ It is about God reaching down in grace and doing for sinners what they cannot do for themselves. For if this is God’s kingdom, His rule, the sphere of His sovereignty, then it is not for us to take or to establish.

We receive, we do not take; we enter, but we do not seize. We come as subjects in His kingdom, not as sovereigns in our own.”

–David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 196.

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“The church is to be otherworldly in the world” by David F. Wells

“The church is utterly unlike any other organization in the world. In the church are those who belong to another world. At least that is supposed to be the case. Why is this? Because when it gathers, it is hearing a summons to stand before the God of all eternity, to worship in awe before Him, to acknowledge His greatness, to humble itself, to learn to live in this world on His terms, and to do its business as His. It is in all these ways otherworldly.”

–David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 223-224.

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“The temptation the church always faces” by David F. Wells

“The temptation the church always experiences is to be like the world. It is the temptation to enjoy the comfort of a majority, to be at home, to be at peace, to have no enemies. Is it not true that we all yearn for such an experience? However, if the church is to be truly successful, it must be unlike anything else we find in life.”

–David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 224.

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“Rethink your thoughts about the church” by David F. Wells

“The church is not our creation. It is not our business. We are not called upon to manage it. It is not there for us to advance our careers in it. It is not there for our own success. It is not a business. The church, in fact, was never our idea in the first place. No, it is not the church we need to rethink.

Rather, it is our thoughts about the church that need to be re-thought. It is the church’s faithfulness that needs to be reexamined. It is its faithfulness to who it is in Christ, its faithfulness in living out its life in the world, that should be occupying us.

The church, after all, is not under our management but under God’s sovereign care, and what He sees as health is very often different from what we imagine its health to be. The church, let us remember, is called the ‘church of God’ (Gal. 1:13; 1 Cor. 15:9).

Churches are ‘the churches of Christ’ (Rom. 16:16) because they are His, bought by His precious blood. Christ not only constituted the church (Matt. 16:18), but God has given us the blueprint for its life in Scripture.

What we need to do, then, first and foremost, is to think God’s thoughts after Him, think about the church in a way that replicates His thoughts about it. We need to ask ourselves how well, or how badly, we are realizing our life in Christ in the church, how far and how well churches stand as the outposts of the kingdom of God in our particular culture.”

–David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 222-223.

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