"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « On the Use of the Arts in Worship | Main | Summer Reading List by Rev. Charles R. Biggs »

    Can Revival be Engineered?

    There's a very interesting article by Bob DeWaay in the Critical Issues Commentary concerning Recovering Reformation Theology. It begins:

    "A key idea in the contemporary evangelical movement is that revival can be engineered. The Purpose Driven Web site says, “Peter Drucker called him [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.’”1 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.”2 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.”3 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.”4 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.”5 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."

    To read on, click here.

    Posted by John Samson on May 11, 2006 10:10 AM


    Isn't it interesting that the Synergists are the ones who advocate emotionalism calling it revival. The monergist knows that God's soveriegn grace brings salvation AND genuine revival. It does not come by human means at all.

    The essay reminds me of a movie I once saw called "Fried Green Tomatos" While in a courtroom scene the local preacher during a defence of a person said something like, "...when we have our revival every year at this time..."

    These few words reminded me how profoundly and different our understanding of the gospel is. This preacher believed he could simply orchestrate a revival as he so desired by putting up a tent and stirring people into some kind of emotional frenzy. Unbelievers would get caught up in it and "make a decision" But while the Holy Spirit works though the use of means, such as preaching, it is not automatic, but according to His timing and purpose.

    Here is a worthwhile essay on Charles Finney and Revivalism.
    The Evolving Criticisms Against Charles G. Finney and What They Teach us Regarding the Evaluation of Innovations in Worship by Thomas R. Browning (.pdf)

    I beleive that one of the main applications of this lessons to our personal lives is that we can't produce revival even in ourselves. So, when we pray or read the bible or go to church, we must think we are not producing more holiness in ourselves by our efforts, but rather to humbly search for God's favor in our personal growth in faith.

    I don't mean that to pray and read the Bible is useless, but we are not to do this things in a salvation-by-works mental frame (wich I think everyone of us tend to do, more or less) but in hope of God's grace and unmerited favor to lead us to growth and assurance.

    What do you think?.



    I agree with you. Yes, our hearts have been regenerated, but our Souls are still self-focused naturally. We have to have God's grace and Christ's joy to overcome it. (John 15)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    A friend of mine has said he has two things in his heart, cholesterol and sin. The former has gone down considerably, but the latter is still operating strongly. Self-centeredness means centeredness on sin. My self is sinful. It is by God's grace alone that I am reading the Holy Bible and praying. This sincere "need" for the Word of God and for communion through prayer with my Lord and Savior is not only a "cause," but an "effect." God's grace has put our prayers on our lips (we are in a sense praying the prayers he would have us pray, yet we retain our "freedom"). Then our prayers are "answered." Let's remember that we are praying to Him from within His own family. We are adopted. We call him "Abba" or even friend. It is not as though we were lone individuals praying to him, but we pray out of our relationship. He lives in us and we in Him (see John 17). My friend, Pastor Adam, learned I was going to exhort at a tenants' party in Brooklyn, NY. He prayed that the Lord would give me clarity. When I arrived home, I clearly saw what would be said and wrote my outline. His prayer was "answered" within the context of the close relationship and familial association we enjoy with God Almighty. Let's keep pleading with Him and leaning on Him in heartfelt obedience, and the revival we experience as individual Christians on a day-by-day basis will -- eventually -- spring up amazingly as rivers of faith wash whole communities and nations clean.

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