Monday, July 24, 2006

David Wells on the Holiness of God (1)

In his God in the Wasteland (1994, IVP) David Wells argues that, "The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgement is too benign, his gospel too easy and his grace too common." In this, the first of two posts, Wells challenges us with a Biblical vision of the majestic holiness of God:
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The Holy, by its very nature is in a realm we cannot enter as consumers but only as sinners, in sackcloth and ashes. Indeed we cannot approach the Holy at all; we must wait for the Holy to approach and and reconcile us to itself in Christ. The revelation of the Holy would be unbearable if we saw it in any other way than from within the redemption it grants us. The knowledge of God as holy, though taught throughout the Old Testament, must in the end be taught supremely by the Son, by his death in our place, before we can see all that God would have us see. The cross, writes P. T. Forsyth, "is the creative revelation of the holy and the holy is above all revealed in the Cross, going out as love and going down as grace."
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Without this holiness of God, sin has no meaning and grace and grace has no point, for it is God's holiness that gives to the one its definition and to the other its greatness. Without the holiness of God, sin is merely human failure but not failure before God, in relation to God. It is failure without the presumption of guilt, failure without retribution, failure without any serious moral meaning. And without the holiness of God, grace is no longer grace because it does not arise from the dark clouds of judgement that obscured the cross and exacted the damnation of the Son in our place. Furthermore, without holiness, grace looses its meaning as grace, the free gift of God who, despite his holiness and because of his holiness, has reconciled sinners to himself in the death of his Son. And without holiness, faith is but a confidence in the benevolence of life, or perhaps merely confidence in ourselves. Sin, grace and faith are emptied of any but a passing meaning if they are severed from their roots in the holiness of God. "Love" says Forsyth, "is but its outgoing; sin is but its defiance; grace is but its action on sin; the Cross is but its victory; faith is but its worship."
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From God in the Wasteland p. 144-145.
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The fear of the LORD
is the beginning of widsom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One
is understanding.
(Proverbs 9:10)

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