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True Revival, Jonathan Edwards, and The Resurgence

03/30/2011
The Resurgence

The Resurgence

My apologies for posting so many “video of the day” posts recently. My mind has been kind of out of it, been doing a lot of writing for work, and the last thing I’ve wanted to do is actually take the time to write something personal when I get home, let alone stare at a computer or TV screen. All things in moderation, eh?

I’m a fan of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle, as well as The Resurgence, the training school/seminary organization that Driscoll and Mars Hill founded. I listen to Driscoll’s podcast each week, and follow him and the rest of The Resurgence on their blogs. Today they posted an interesting one:

How To Know What Real Revival Looks Like – The Resurgence

Amongst certain friends in my life I have the reputation of being “anti-revival”, “anti-Holy Spirit”, and even borderline heretical. The other day I saw a comment in a book I’m reading about how the author was the “anti-Christian Christian”, and I must admit that sounds like a pretty tempting label to claim for myself. My continual rebellion, or better yet, questioning of what it means to be a Christian continues, as I reject the majority of things tacked on to Christianity, such as Contempory Christian Music (CCM), teetolarism, wearing Christian t-shirts, and the like, but on the other hand I reject the Emergent church, Third Wave Charismania, and other positions that most my age are flocking to. And yet when it comes to the historical, orthodox, central truths of Christianity, I strive to be rock solid. I guess the difference is that while some people engage in “confrontational evangelism” I engage more in “confrontational Christianity”. Tell me why you, as a Christian, are the way you are. Stop and think about it. Etc.

Anyways, what is real revival? I grew up in an Arminian leaning legalistic Baptist church that held yearly revival services as well as bringing in revival speakers constantly, plus I went to numerous youth group events and camp meetings that were designed around the concept of revival. So I’ve seen revival, especially how it doesn’t (appear) to mean anything, go anywhere, and is just a way for the same five or six individuals in a church to get all emotional about some (perceived) backslidden position. (If you listen closely, you can hear several of my friends call me ‘bitter’ right now.)

All that to say I was a little shocked when I read what Jonathan Edwards considers to be negative evidences of a FALSE revival:

What’s stirring in a church is new, unprecedented, surprising.
People are emotionally aroused, trembling and weeping, even passing out.
It attracts attention and causes a public stir.
People have intense experiences, and spiritual things become vividly real.
What draws people in is the example of others.
The people involved misbehave at times, even get weird.
Satan mixes in his delusions.
Some of the people involved fall into bad doctrine and sin.
The preachers scare people with their portrayal of God’s wrath and hell.

Well, I’ll admit, most of those fit the revival services I’ve been a part of. Pretty scary stuff. I remember one speaker at my old church who used to also teach our Bible class…he would start preaching at us, all fire and brimstone, in the middle of our class. Literally, we were spit upon multiple times, the speckle flying in his righteous furious preaching rage. “All people want today is to go to church to feel good about themselves, get fed a little milk, not ever be convicted of their sins…they need to hear about how God is holy and won’t tolerate their sin and that they are going to hell without him!”

And even then, I remember thinking, and may have asked at one point – “If all you do is preach law, beating people down and making their souls tender for the gospel, when will you preach gospel and allow some healing?”

Probably the big not-so-secret is that most of us don’t go to church to hear about law and judgement and hell because we are painfully aware of just how full of shit we are. A mature believer goes to church to get fed by the Word of God and to be reminded of grace and what God has done for them. I’m so tired of hearing people say that the vast majority of people who go to church sin six days a week and then go to church on Sunday to feel good about themselves. At which point there is always the impassioned plea that a church that holds people accountable for their sin is the only place to go to church, and really the only true church. “If you want to be a good Christian, you got to be around the hottest Christians!” I’m tempted to do one better and be a sinner seven days a week and not go to church at all…

I especially weep for friends of mine who have bought into this demonic lie and can’t break free of it. I’m so tired of law being mixed with grace, salvation by grace but justified by the law, reinterpreting of Scripture and calling it “orthodox”…blah blah. Part of the reason I haven’t felt like blogging lately is that mentally I’m no longer fighting so much heresy. God has been faithful to answer my prayer to set me free from such stinking thinking. At least in part, because the scars will remain. Pretty soon, it will all be over, and none of it will matter anymore. It’s almost enough to give me…hope.

And so that this isn’t another masturbatory gloom and doom blog post…I appreciate Edwards’ positive signs of a true revival:

People lovingly raise their esteem of the biblical Jesus, displayed in the gospel.
The movement pushes back against sin and Satan’s hold on people’s lives.
People revere the Bible with a settled conviction that it is God’s truth.
People receive and are helped by sound theology, even though it means they have to change.
People grow in love for Christ and in loving humility toward one another.

Amen…amen.

Still fighting, hoping, and praying.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 03/31/2011 12:30 am

    Stu-

    This is coming from an agnostic so call it what it is….but I think the fantasies that many fundegelicals have over Jonathan Edwards are actually misplaced. I would encourage you to read some of the more secular based views on Jonathan Edwards, especially in literature books. You’ll find things there that you will not find in books that praise Edwards. For example there you will learn about how members of his congregations would pass out and faint after he gave his “Sinners in the Hand of an angry God” sermon. As I recall some of his sermons were so distressing that some people actually committed suicide. I’ve never understood the love affair that many have with Edwards.

    In regards to your comments on revival I grew tired of hearing about revival in the fundy circles I was once involved. But here’s another thought that I seldom heard about when I was a fundegelical. I have a friend of mine who has dealt with some mental health issues. I love him as a brother. But when you hear Christians talk about how someone is sinful, wretched, worthless without Christ, etc.. ever wonder how that plays out in the thinking of someone battling depression? Or suicidal thoughts? Again I think this is another area that shows have toxic Christianity can be on society.

    Not trying to provoke….I just think different having lost my faith in God.

    • stuartblessman permalink*
      03/31/2011 10:14 am

      Yeah, too many people are fanboys of Jonathan Edwards…I’ve largely tried to avoid that, and have only read a few of his writings.

      Here’s the thing, though…I believe people are sinful, wretched, and worthless even with Christ. Any worth, true worth, that can be found is found only in Christ, but all people are definitely sinful and wretched. Yeah, it may not be loving to tell people that they are sinful and wretched, but Christians firmly believe that to be the truth and try to demonstrate it as such, and if they are honest, will readily admit it about themselves. And I think that’s the difference between the gospel and whatever else. It may be distressing for your friend friend to hear he is sinful, worthless, and wretched without Christ, but the gospel says that ultimately is ok, that with Christ his life may not be any better but would probably be more blessed.

      Many of the greatest men of God (and I’m sure some women) battled severe depression and suicidal thoughts all their life. They were brutally honest about it. I know I have my fights with depression as well, and can tell you of friends who’ve contemplated suicide. God did not take those thoughts from them, they weren’t delivered, they continued to struggle. But it was their faith in Christ that kept them going even in the dark times, a sure knowledge that no matter what, they were justified before their God and loved by Him.

      What I’d say to your friend is that it sucks he battles with depression, to the extent I can understand I understand, and that while Jesus never makes the promise that he will cure him of his depression or magically deliver him, there is still a great amount of security, faith, trust, and hope that can come out of a relationship with Christ.

      One of the reasons I like reading Michael Patton’s blog is because he’s brutally honest about his depression, and the struggle he has with faith on top of it.

      I’m actually debating writing a tongue in cheek blog post about how I’ve lost my belief in grace. But I haven’t lost my faith in God just yet…some days, tho…

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