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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
I know there are different voices in the wind whispering and pandering formulas to getting a revival in our times. One popular televangelist, Benny Hinn has proposed that the death of Billy Graham will truly open the flood gates of heaven. Well I don’t think people should be seeking out their pitch forks and hunting down poor ol’ Billy. You see, biblical illiteracy has reached very high levels in the church that anything goes these days. Critical Issues Commentary has an interesting post:
”For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9)
A key idea in the contemporary evangelical movement is that revival can be engineered. The Purpose Driven Web site says, “Peter Drucker called him [Rick Warren] ‘the inventor of perpetual revival’ and Forbes magazine has written, ‘If Warren’s church was a business it would be compared with Dell, Google or Starbucks.’” The Purpose Driven movement can cite this business management guru approvingly only because they have a faulty theology of human ability. For example, Rick Warren says, “It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart. . . . It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person’s felt needs.” If this were true one could use modern marketing principles to sell people on their need for Christian religion and convince them to convert in order to find satisfaction of their felt needs. But it is not true.
Furthermore, it might surprise many people that this idea is not new. Charles Finney first proposed it one hundred fifty years ago. Finney wrote, “A revival is not a miracle according to another definition of the term ‘miracle’ — something above the powers of nature. There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else.” Finney wrote more: “A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means — as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.” Finney’s position that there is some innate power in man that can be motivated by some discoverable process makes an engineered revival plausible.
So how does one create a revival by the right use of means? Finney tells us: “There must be excitement sufficient to wake up the dormant moral powers, and roll back the tide of degradation and sin.” Finney and Rick Warren claim that revival can be engineered by human efforts. This belief is grounded on the idea of human ability. It is plausible to them only because Finney and Warren believe that there is some principle, be it a “dormant moral power” or “felt need,” that can be excited into action to cause people to become Christians and live godly lives. Neither Finney nor Warren would deny that the Holy Spirit’s work is necessary. But in their theology, the Holy Spirit is always everywhere doing His part. It becomes our business to find the key to unlock something in sinners to get them to do their part.
This theological perspective is fully at odds with the doctrines of the Reformation. The Reformers taught human inability and bondage to sin. They taught monergism (that salvation is fully an act of God) not synergism (that salvation is a cooperative effort between man and God). They taught that only a sovereign work of grace (grace alone) brought salvation. The ideas of Finney and Warren suggest that man has some innate principle or ability that could be stirred up by the revivalist with the right method, and thus anyone could be saved. In this article we will discuss this belief system and suggest a return to the doctrines of the Reformation.
Charles Spurgeon in his day lamented, “Much is being said these days about “revival.” The world looks on in amazement as people are “slain in the Spirit” and stuck to the floor with “Holy Ghost Glue.” Then again, I look on in amazement at such things, too. Is this what revival is supposed to be?” He was right. Today, many things pass for revival. Sometimes a spirited gospel song is considered a revival. Perhaps when a few people shout, “Amen”, or “Hallelujah”, it is considered a revival. When several folks get saved in one meeting, some call that revival. These are all good things, but not necessarily revival.
A revival is God’s quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives. It therefore begins with one person -a Sovereign God. He alone can regenerate a sin infested soul, birth it anew causing it to live and sustain it. Why does He stoop so low? Why does He even care about sinners? Well God is not willing that any of His own should perish. In short, a revival shows itself to be genuine by its effects upon the religious, the fraternal and the missionary life of the church.
“Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Psalm 85:6.
“The hearing of the gospel involves the hearer in responsibility. It is a great privilege to hear the gospel. You may smile and think there is nothing very great in it. The damned in hell know. Oh, what would they give if they could hear the gospel now? If they could come back and entertain but the shadow of a hope that they might escape from the wrath to come? The saved in heaven estimate this privilege at a high rate, for, having obtained salvation through the preaching of this gospel, they can never cease to bless their God for calling them by his word of truth. O that you knew it! On your dying beds the listening to a gospel sermon will seem another thing than it seems now.” ~Charles Spurgeon