What Does Revival Look Like?

fireWhen the First Great Awakening occurred in the 1730s and 1740s, Americans experienced a great outpouring of the Spirit of God. Many cried out in terror from a deep awareness of their sins. Many more wept for joy as they experienced genuine forgiveness and the power of the Spirit giving them new life.

Concurrent with these works of God, many false professions were also reported. While the Spirit “awoke” many from their spiritual tombs, Satan also manifested himself as an angel of light by deceiving many into believing they had experienced God when, in fact, they had not (cf. 2 Cor 11:14). As pastors of the era observed, many reported having heavenly visions while others heard God speak sweet words to them. Yet, what made these experiences prove false was the way that such people showed no corresponding change in behavior (i.e., holiness towards God and love towards others), nor was there explicit trust in Christ’s death and resurrection.

What does revival look like?

This was the question being asked in that era. And today, we ask it from another angle: How would we know revival if it came? Would it merely increase religiosity in our culture? Would it mean less crime, better families, or improved race relations? Or is there something more Christ-centered, even cross-centered, that must be seen? These are vital questions when considering revival and perhaps the best answer can be found from the Great Awakening itself. Continue reading

Why Should You Study Church History?

chIn the introduction of his book, Christian History Made Easy, Timothy Paul Jones gives a compelling answer to that question. Let me quote him at length.

In a classic Peanuts comic strip, Sally carefully labels her paper, “Church History.” As Charlie Brown glances over her shoulder, Sally considers her subject.

“When writing about church history,” Sally scrawls, “we have to go back to the very beginning. Our pastor was born in 1930.

Charles Schulz’s comic strip may be amusing, but it isn’t too far from the truth. In sermons and devotional books, Christians encounter names like Augustine and Calvin, Spurgeon and Moody. Their stories are interesting. Truth be told, though, most church members have a tough time fitting these stories together. The typical individual’s knowledge of church history ends with the apostles and doesn’t find its footings again until sometime in the twentieth century.

Still, the story of Christianity deeply affects every believer in Jesus Christ. The history of the Christian faith affects how we read the Bible. It affects how we view our government. It affects how we worship. Simply put, the church’s history is our family history. Past Christians are our mothers and fathers in the faith, our aunts and uncles, our in-laws and –in a few cases—our outlaws!

When a child in Sunday School asks, “How could Jesus be God and still be like me?” she’s not asking a new question. She is grappling with an issue that, in AD 325, three hundred church leaders discussed in a little village named Nicaea [ni-SEE-ah], now the city of Iznik in the nation of Turkey. Even if you’ve never heard of Iznik or Nicaea, what those leaders decided will influence the way that you frame your response to the child’s question.

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why are there so many different churches?” the answer is woven somewhere within two millennia of political struggles and personal skirmishes. When you read words like “predestined” or “justified” in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, it isn’t only Paul and your pastor who affect how you respond. Even if you don’t realize it, Christian thinkers such as Augustine and John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards also influence how you understand these words.

So, if the history of Christianity affects so much of what we do, what’s the problem? Why isn’t everyone excited about this story? Simply this: A few pages into many history books, and the story of Christianity can suddenly seem like a vast and dreary landscape, littered with a few interesting anecdotes and a lot of dull dates.

Despite history’s profound effect on our daily lives, most church members will never read Justo Gonzalez’s thousand-page The Story of Christianity. Only the most committed students will wade through all 1,552 pages of Ken Latourette’s A History of Christianity. Fewer still will learn to apply church history to their lives. And so, when trendy novels and over-hyped television documentaries attempt to reconstruct the history of Christianity, thousands of believers find themselves unable to offer intelligent answers to friends and family members.

What we don’t seem to recognize is that church history is a story. It’s an exciting story about ordinary people that God has used in extraordinary ways. What’s more, it’s a story that every Christian ought to know. (Christian History Made Easy by Timothy Paul Jones, pp. 6–7: Book and DVD)

Do you believe that? I hope you do. Continue reading

My Twelfth ‘Old Book’

My son, beware of anything beyond these.
Of making many books there is no end,
and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
— Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV –

On Monday I listed eleven old books that every Christian should read. I asked you what the twelfth book should be. Here are the books suggested.books

  1. The Scandal of the Incarnation selections from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (Jason Miller)
  2. The Bondage of the Will (John T. Jeffery) 
  3. On the Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther (Jeffery Hutchison)
  4. Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade**
  5. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (Ben . . . )
  6. The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Ben . . . )
  7. The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards (Josh Philpot)
  8. Lives of the Three Mrs. Judsons by Arabella Stuart (Jerod Harper)
  9. Holiness by J. C. Ryle (Cade Campbell)
  10. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Terry Braswell)
  11. In His Steps by Charles Sheldon (Terry Braswell)
  12. The Cross of Christ by John Stott (Tony . . .)

From the responses, it looks like we have our next twelve. I would heartily commend ten of them, with caveats about a few. Continue reading

B. B. Warfield and the Second Beatitude

warfieldNinety-three years ago today, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, a native of Kentucky and a world-renowned theologian went to be with the Lord. His death came six years after his wife’s, a woman who had spent years bedridden in their home in Princeton, New Jersey.

Nearly fifty years earlier (1876), Warfield had married Annie Pearce Kinkade. She was the descendent of Revolutionary War hero, George Rogers Clark. And when they wed, they were ready for a lifetime of happiness together. Presumably Warfield would teach; Annie would tend to the home and raise children.  I say presumably, because such were not the circumstances God gave them. Continue reading

Evangelism Then and Now: The Same Seed, A Different Soil

[This is the most recent “Feeding on the Word” article from our church newsletter]

Over the last few decades Americans have witnessed an unprecedented move away from traditional marriage toward a choose-your-own-adventure approach to sexuality. Influenced by academics, funded by political action groups, and promoted by entertainment personalities, our culture has bought into the notion that sex without limitations is the apex of American freedom.

It should not surprise us that the neighbors we are called to reach have enormous relational baggage. Their sordid stories break our hearts, confound our wisdom, and shut our mouths. Even if we believe—as we ought—that God can save the worst sinner, we see broken people and wonder what to do. Continue reading

Postmodernism and Evangelical Thought (4): A Wise and Selective Appropriation

After surveying many of the key figures and concepts that make up postmodern thought, the question becomes: Is postmodernism salubrious or toxic for evangelical theology?

The answer, not surprisingly, differs depending on who is speaking.  In what follows, I will list three postures to take towards postmodernism.  In today’s evangelicalism, some like Stanley Grenz, John Franke, and Roger Olson have gladly appropriated postmodern thought, others like Douglas Geivett and Scott Smith have rejected it. Still others, most sensibly, have selectively and wisely incorporated some but not all aspects of postmodernism.  We will consider these in turn as they explain how postmodernism has impacted evangelical theology. Continue reading

Postmodernity and Envangelical Thought (3): The Basic Tenets of Postmodernism

Yesterday, I outlined a number of the basic features of modernity. Today, I pick up by looking at the shift from modernity to postmodernity.

Postmodernism’s Progenitors: Jacques Derrida and Friedrich Nietzsche

It has been said that in the history of Western thought there have been two French Revolutions that gave birth to modernism and postmodernism.  In the Enlightenment, Frenchmen Rene Descartes brought about a new way of thinking when his Cogito turned Western thinking towards the subject.  Instead of keeping God at the center, now all centered on man.  This was the first French Revolution.  The second was the rise of Jacques Derrida, who not only questioned the Author of the universe, he questioned every single author who rose in his place.  Derrida has rightly been esteemed as the forefather of postmodern thought, and for good reason. Continue reading

Postmodernity and Evangelical Thought (2): Modernism’s Contribution to Postmodernity

If we are to understand Western thought, it is vital to have a handle on modernity and postmodernity. Today and for the rest of the week, I will outline a basic trajectory of Western thought from modernity to postmodernity and how Christians should engage these historically-related schools of thought. Continue reading

Postmodernity and Evangelical Thought (1): An Introduction

Postmodernism (PM) can be defined as a mood that questions authority, denies absolute truth, and locates meaning in the language of local communities.  While PM is the product of twentieth century thought, its precursors go back much further in history.  For instance, Friedrich Schleiermacher espoused a view of doctrine that was impermanent and always changing relative to the community in which it was experienced.  While situated more than a century before the likes of Derrida, Lyotard, and other philosophers of language, Schleiermacher’s liberal theology anticipates the postmodern turn.

Still, the question of authority, truth, and community predates Schleiermacher, too.  In John 18:38 Pilate, in a discussion about kingdoms, authority, and truth, asks Jesus, “What is truth?”  The relativism in his question comes not from a philosophical system of Western thought; it comes from the human condition that stands outside of the Garden.

Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, their offspring has sought to assert their own authority, to make up their own laws, and to live in their own cities of men.  Over time, as Western Civilization once again threw off the constraints of God’s Word and church tradition, the question of the hour is that of Pilate: What is truth?

This series of blog posts aims to give an answer to the postmodern mood that undergirds our ambient culture.  To answer the question about postmodernism we must first consider modernism, as post-modernism stands in direct relationship to his period of time and thought.  Second, I will survey postmodernism and its major contributing voices.  And third, this series will consider the effect postmodernism has had on evangelical theology, and what evangelicals must do to wisely and selectively appropriate the tenets of postmodernity.

As we go along, let me know what you think.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Albert Mohler and Southern Seminary: A Word of Thanksgiving

I know Thanksgiving is a month away, but I cannot help but give thanks today for the impact Southern Seminary and Albert Mohler have had on me. This week marks President Mohler’s twentieth anniversary at Southern Seminary, and the folks there have put together an excellent twenty-five minute video chronicling the journey of this great school.

I cannot begin to express how much Southern Seminary and its president, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, have had on me. For the last nine years, Southern has invested pearls of wisdom and truckloads of biblical gold into my heart and life. So great is Southern’s impact on me, there’s not a day that goes by which I do not think of Southern, its faculty, my peers, and the truths I learned there.  Continue reading