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Revival and Revivalism: Hardcover – July 1, 1994
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'Anyone interested in revivals of religion, whether that interest grows primarily out of the academy or the church, will find Revival and Revivalism a valuable new resource.'
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This is not a new issue. In "Revival and Revivalism", Iain H. Murray looks at two very distinct types of movements. The first Revival, he cites simply the faithful preaching of Christ crucified, and outpourings of God working in people's lives in His own good time and by His own good plan. In the early 1800s, we are introduced instead to Revivalism, which is a manufactured sort of push for "winning souls" in which sentimentalism, emphasizing human ability, and watering down the gospel and need for repentance became the sort of expedient, flashy tool that many embraced. A wide range of theologically suspect (if not outright wrong) positions of this overarching revivalism are covered, from camp meetings where multiple "Apostolic gifts" were expected to be seen as some manner of litmus test for the work of God, to later preachers who downplayed original sin and the radical inability of man to come to Christ on their own. Murray examines how figures such as Charles Finney helped bring this type of change about--a change that is now widely accepted in many Protestant bodies.
Murray does not need to draw the parallels between this movement and much of today's "Religion of Self", easy-believe, flash and numbers-oriented attempts at evangelism. Many churches have sacrificed Bible-based teaching and gospel-centered preaching in exchange for self-help, culture-driven, or simply feel-good messages. Murray notes that in many places in the 1800s where this "Revivalism" allegedly saved many souls, only a few years later the effect was largely gone, leaving a spiritual wasteland in its place. This came from treating sentimentality and emotion as signs of conversion, rather than conviction of sin, repentance, and a desire to abide in Jesus Christ and the bearing of fruit.
At times, Murray's quoting and explanations go on a bit long, and some names and figures tend to run together, making this a somewhat challenging read. But his points about true revival only coming from God, and for the need to treat repentance, conversion, and salvation as deep, life-long concepts that are not just one-and-done experiences, are incredibly relevant to Christianity today. In an era of easy-believism, a low/casual view of the important of doctrine, prosperity teaching, and emphasis on man over God, "Revival & Revivalism" reminds us our duty as Christians remains constant, even when these twisted and base concepts are the popular or prevailing view.
In his book, Murray details the history of the first and second Great Awakenings, giving reasons to believe that the Spirit was at work in both, but detailing the Second Great Awakening's descent from true revival into man-made revivalism. The history and nature of the Evangelical movement is laid bare on the table of Murray's analysis. Brilliant, disturbing and piercing work, a must-read for anyone who wants to know how the Church lost its way in19th-century America, producing the chaos of 20th-century American Evangelicalism.
Some other reviewers have argued that he gives an unfair treatment of Mr. C.G. Finney, I found this not to be the case. I have read other pieces covering this topic which either heap praise undue on Finney, or reduce his reputation to rubble; Murray does neither. He does not hesitate to mention the controversies surrounding the men of the 'new measures', but never does he try to psychoanalyze the motives or hearts of those leaders of the so-called 'new school'.
You learn about the Cane Ridge Revival in Kentucky, both the good and the emotional excesses. You will also learn about the years of the 2nd Great Awakening.
Murray seems to be skeptical of the reliability of Charles' Finney's memoirs. He also is quick to point out that Finney departed from Reformed theology early on and that he denied original sin. He points out that Finney viewed revivals as manmade productions rather than as miraculous manifestations of the Spirit.
There is also an appendix where Murray decries the lack of information about revivals in the deep south of the United States.
I also liked the discussion of the 1857-1858 New York revivals. I did feel that there could have been more coverage given to this particular revival, and how it affected many urban centers in the nation prior to the Civil War.
But this book should definitely be in the shelf of Christians interested in American church history.
Most recent customer reviews
A VERY detailed description of the history of revivals in the time period.
1) This book is poorly written, and can easily confuse the...Read more