A Critical Examination
Andrew Walker and Kristin Aune (Editors)
Category: Doctrine and Theology
There is nothing quite like the word 'revival' to generate excitement among many Christians.
Yet for all of its emotive force, what does the word actually mean? Is it a culturally-bound phenomenon or a biblical one? Is there a difference between a 'revival', a 'renewal' and a 'time of refreshing'? What lessons can be learnt from the famous 'revivals' of the past? Should we expect 'revival' today? These are just a few of the questions addressed in On Revival, the product of a two-day conference held at King's College, London in 2002.
The book is divided into three sections, the first of which examines the biblical and theological scope of the term 'revival'. Max Turner offers a helpful linguistic study of New Testament concepts that may lie behind our word 'revival' as well as an overview of Luke-Acts in order to address the question of whether it provides a biblical paradigm for revival. He concludes that if Pentecost is paradigmatic, it is paradigmatic for 'salvation' more than 'revival'. Mark Stibbe seeks to identify whether there is a common 'narrative' to revivals ancient and modern and concludes that a reawakening of love for God is one of the Spirit's priorities in all revivals.
Section two offers a series of case studies on historical revivals. There is much food for thought and interest here, but perhaps the most stimulating is Meic Pearse's contribution which raises the challenging question as to whether 'revivals' are actually a phenomenon of evangelicalism which is itself a product of modernity. If this is the case (and Pearse argues that it certainly appears that way) then hopes for revival in a post-evangelical, post-Christian culture are perhaps misplaced and we may need to expect God to move in new ways.
The third and final part of the book addresses the contemporary church scene. Steve Latham's helpfully nuanced discussion of the differences between 'revival' and 'revivalism' identifies six levels of what is often called 'revival', ranging from a quickening of the individual believer to the full-blown reversal of secularisation.
Rob Warner's honest appraisal and critique of the 'Toronto Blessing' is a helpful study of the phenomenon of ecstatic spirituality and what it may (or may not) contribute to the church in the long term. And finally, Ian Stackhouse challenges the church to move beyond faddism, a fixation with trying to find a magical panacea for falling church attendance and to seek instead a better and more authentic way of conceiving of mission.
This collection of fifteen essays is impressive in its scope and depth. The range of contributors means that there is much to encourage, stimulate and provoke.
Twenty-first century Britain offers a range of challenges for the church and the questions raised by this book can only be of benefit in helping churches, ministers and individual Christians think through some of the many issues.
Andy Bannister, March 2004
Andy Bannister is a research student at London School of Theology.
Previously published by London School of Theology. Reused here by kind permission.Order from www.christianbookshops.org
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