"Calvinists can be both revivalist and fundamentalist"

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Kevin T. Bauder's picture

First, the referenced article trades on an equivocation of the term "revivalist." If a revivalist is simply someone who yearns to see an awakening of God's people, who hungers for a turning to God on the part of sinners, and who preaches and labors to that end, then no one I know of objects to revivalism.

As a vision of Christian life and ministry, however, revivalism grows out of a specific philosophy and entails a specific methodology. It radically alters--and in my view undermines--the life of faith, the understanding of Christian service, the centrality of worship, and the leadership of the church. This is the specific and technical sense in which the term "revivalism" is used, and it is antithetical not only to Calvinism but also to traditional Arminianism and the Keswickism.

Which leads to a second observation. Some people who reject revivalism also reject Keswick. I do not. I think revivalism is a very bad thing, but on balance I am rather fond of Keswick. Not that I agree with the specific Keswick theory of the Christian life! But Keswick was less about a theory and more about loving Jesus Christ. It was about glorifying God and rejecting self effort as a way of making one's self pleasing to God--the very kind of self-effort upon which revivalism thrives.

Some enemies of Keswick tend to mix up the two. So do some friends of revivalism. They should, however, be kept separate.

Charlie's picture

On top of Bauder's observations, I wish to point out that George Marsden is the source of the quotes on Calvinism. Marsden, like his former student Noll, uses the term "Calvinist" very loosely, really to mean any denomination that traces its heritage to the Reformed church. Marsden's works have focused mainly on New School Presbyterianism, much of which was a direct repudiation of previous Calvinist orthodoxy. Many New-School Presbyterians (Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher, Albert Barnes) followed the New Haven Congregationalists (whom Noll identifies as Calvinist) in denying original sin, the bondage of the will, and the penal substitutionary model of the atonement. Needless to say, the fact that that sort of "Calvinist" embraced revivalism and Keswick theology is quite irrelevant if one is asking what believers in confessional Reformed othodoxy did or did not embrace. Thus, the question for Marsden and for anyone quoting Marsden is among what sorts of "revivalist Calvinists" in England did Keswick views arise and take hold? Old-School Presbyterian B.B. Warfield wrote quite strongly against Keswick and Dispensational views of sanctification, and Keswick ideas never (to my knowledge) gained any purchase among the Westminster group.

To piggy-back on Bauder, anyone looking to delineate between Calvinist revival and non-Calvinist (or at least non-Dordtian) revivalism should pick up Iain Murray's http://www.amazon.com/Revival-Revivalism-Iain-H-Murray/dp/0851516602 ]Revival and Revivalism .

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Jim Hollandsworth's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
First, the referenced article trades on an equivocation of the term "revivalist." If a revivalist is simply someone who yearns to see an awakening of God's people, who hungers for a turning to God on the part of sinners, and who preaches and labors to that end, then no one I know of objects to revivalism.

As a vision of Christian life and ministry, however, revivalism grows out of a specific philosophy and entails a specific methodology. It radically alters--and in my view undermines--the life of faith, the understanding of Christian service, the centrality of worship, and the leadership of the church. This is the specific and technical sense in which the term "revivalism" is used, and it is antithetical not only to Calvinism but also to traditional Arminianism and the Keswickism.

Dr. Bauder,

Thank you for the important insights. This discussion has been especially helpful as I think through every angle of my thesis. Please allow me to respond.

Your first observation points out the critical need to define terms. As you have noted, a revivalist – in the general sense – could be anyone who hungers for and preaches toward spiritual awakening. In a more technical sense, a revivalist would be one who, driven by a particular philosophy, utilizes certain methods for “producing” revival.

While you and I might disagree on some of the particulars, I would certainly agree with you in principle that revivalism in the most technical sense is manipulative, pragmatic and, therefore, unbiblical. You have obviously attempted to castigate this aspect of revivalism in Central’s recently-published Ethos Statement. However, I am deeply concerned that the Statement, along with your definitions of revivalism, ignores an entire segment of revivalism – both historic and contemporary – that abhors human manipulation (i.e. man-“produced” revival, which is not revival), while recognizing a responsibility on the part of man to aggressively seek after revival by faith.

For this very reason, I am suggesting that you need to include a third, more practical definition of revivalist and revivalism, one that makes room for those who are in the classic Keswick tradition. Central’s Ethos Statement dangerously ignores this valid segment of revivalism by broad-brushing all of revivalism as “a threat to biblical Christianity.” Below is a quote of Central’s position on this subject that is especially troubling to me and many others within fundamentalism.

Quote:
Another version of Fundamentalism that we repudiate is revivalistic and decisionistic. It typically rejects expository preaching in favor of manipulative exhortation. It bases spirituality upon crisis decisions rather than steady, incremental growth in grace. By design, its worship is shallow or non-existent. Its philosophy of leadership is highly authoritarian and its theology is vitriolic in its opposition to Calvinism. While this version of Fundamentalism has always been a significant aspect of the movement, we nevertheless see it as a threat to biblical Christianity.

There are certainly elements of the Statement with which we could both agree. However, I am part of a new breed of fundamentalists, who are actually a resurgence of an old school, who believe that progressive sanctification is facilitated by crises throughout the life. When the apostle Peter wrote, “but grow in grace,” he surely had in mind not only the gradual steady growth Christ accomplished in his life, but also the numerous crisis moments he experienced when walking with Christ – public profession of Christ (Matt. 16:13-19); rebuke by Christ (Matt. 16:21-23); surrender to Christ (Luke 5:1-11); walking to Christ on water (Matt. 14:25-31); rejection of Christ and re-dedication to Christ (Matt. 26:69-75 and John 21).

My own personal spiritual life was radically altered when I surrendered my life to Christ at school camp in 1980 under the powerful (yet far from manipulative) preaching of Les Ollila. Throughout life I have experienced crisis spiritual moments as well as steady, incremental growth. The same is true for so many others. This experience is consistent with the teaching of the Word and the position of historic fundamentalism, including many of the men who contributed to The Fundamentals, both Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike, as I have noted in my recent article. Nevertheless, Central’s broad-reaching Ethos Statement would lump this segment into the category of revivalistic and decisionistic and therefore a “threat to biblical Christianity.” I am concerned that this could be counterproductive for fundamentalism, which is why I would urge you to expand your definition of revivalist and revivalism to make room for the classic Keswick-type position.

Thank you again for your helpful remarks. Further input and feedback would be greatly appreciated. This is a branch of the fundamentalism discussion that merits much more thoughtful attention.

Jim Hollandsworth
http://eternalviewpoint.com/ www.eternalviewpoint.com

Pastor James Hollandsworth
Tri-City Baptist Church
www.tri-city-baptist.com

Jim Hollandsworth's picture

Charlie wrote:
... the question for Marsden and for anyone quoting Marsden is among what sorts of "revivalist Calvinists" in England did Keswick views arise and take hold?

Charlie,
Thank you for the insights. You have given me some things to ponder as I continue to develop my thesis.
Jim

Pastor James Hollandsworth
Tri-City Baptist Church
www.tri-city-baptist.com

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Jim,

You are attempting to insert a third category into the discussion, but I really don't think it can be done. The crux of the matter is this question: Are crisis decisions the normal mechanism that God uses to produce spiritual change in the lives of His children? If you answer "yes" to that question, then you are a revivalist and the rest of the system is going to follow.

Notice, however, the pivotal word "normal." The normal Christian life is not always the average Christian life. The normal Christian life is one of uniterrupted growth, but even Scripture presents few if any real-life examples of Christians who actually lived out the norm. This leads to a secondary question. Under what circumstances are crisis decisions desirable?

There are two answers to that question. The first is that crisis decisions may be needed when believers have been neglecting or resisting growth. Perhaps they are entertaining serious sin; perhaps they are simply negligent in their duties. Under those circumstances, confrontation and persuasion are required, and that kind of confrontation an persuasion may be manifested from the pulpit as well as other places.

Nevertheless, this kind of confrontational preaching is not the norm. Rather, it is done to address an abnormal situation and should never typify the ministry of any preacher. When this kind of preaching becomes a pattern of ministry, it turns into a perpetual berating of the saints and leads to a twisting of both devotion and leadership. The consequences are so hideous that they cannot be overstated.

Also, it is important to make the proper appeal. This is true in all preaching, but it is particularly true in confrontational preaching that is meant to persuade a negligent or stubborn Christian. You can get visible decisions by appealing to passions such as shame, guilt, and pride. These decisions, made for the wrong reasons, always produce the wrong results. Right decisions must involve an appeal to the mind through the affections. The fact that this distinction is lost on most Fundamentalists is one reason that we have been so open to manipulative revivalism.

I said that there were two circumstances under which crisis decisions might be made. The second circumstance involves a decision that significantly alters the course of one's life. It may involve a life's partner. It may involve a life's calling (and NOT just a calling to "vocational" ministry). These decisions are a normal part of Christian growth and they are best addressed in the context of a church in which the whole counsel of God has been carefully presented and the affections have been carefully nurtured. Such decisions may be made at a moment when a preacher touches on them, either directly or tangenially. But they are not the sort of decisions for which a preacher ought to aim.

It is right that every young person should be available to the Lord to be a missionary. It is right that every young person should be asked to consider missions. It is wrong, however, if young people are made to think that they are settling for spiritual second-best if they become accountants or auto mechanics.

In short, we recognize that believers will make certain kinds of crisis decisions at turning points in their lives. Under certain very limited circumstances, we may use confrontation and persuasion to bring people to the point of decision. But we will limit ourselves to the proper appeals, and we will be careful not to build a ministry around the crises. The only legitimate ministries are built around a vision of the normal Christian life as one of incremental growth. The crisis must be treated as an aberration.

Let's face it. Fundamentalism does not have a very good track record on this count. I grant you that many Fundamentalists have been revivalists. I don't see that as a vindication of revivalism, but as an indictment of Fundamentalism. If revivalism were the only version of Fundamentalism, then I could not and would not be a Fundamentalist. Fortunately, that is not a choice that I have to make.

Kevin

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
I grant you that many Fundamentalists have been revivalists. I don't see that as a vindication of revivalism, but as an indictment of Fundamentalism. If revivalism were the only version of Fundamentalism, then I could not and would not be a Fundamentalist. Fortunately, that is not a choice that I have to make.

Amen and Amen

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim Hollandsworth's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

I grant you that many Fundamentalists have been revivalists. I don't see that as a vindication of revivalism, but as an indictment of Fundamentalism. If revivalism were the only version of Fundamentalism, then I could not and would not be a Fundamentalist. Fortunately, that is not a choice that I have to make.

Dr. Bauder,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my appeal to refine your definition of revivalism and revivalist. Your response helps me to understand the rationale that undergirds your Ethos Statement.

You are obviously approaching this discussion (and the broader one via Central’s Ethos Statement) from a Calvinist grid of thinking, which is fine with me because I believe that traditional Calvinism can exist in harmony with both fundamentalism and revivalism (the broader revivalism that I have distinguished from your more restrictive description), as I wrote in my last post on the subject. In fact, what I demonstrated in that article is that Calvinists and non-Calvinists, including revivalist non-Calvinists, have always cooperated within fundamentalism. They even co-authored The Fundamentals.

I would suggest that your position is new. The kind of revivalism that I have described in our discussion has never been a point of fundamentalist separation. Only manipulative, flesh-dependent revivalism and divisiveness should be rejected. Furthermore, refusing any kind of fellowship with revivalist brothers while encouraging graded fellowship with conservative evangelicals appears to be a new set of boundaries for fundamentalism, boundaries that make Calvinism the primary issue, though it never has been the primary issue of fundamentalism. I fear that this may prove to be a regrettable mistake, one that contradicts the cooperative spirit of historic fundamentalism.

Jim Hollandsworth

Pastor James Hollandsworth
Tri-City Baptist Church
www.tri-city-baptist.com

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

In short, we recognize that believers will make certain kinds of crisis decisions at turning points in their lives. Under certain very limited circumstances, we may use confrontation and persuasion to bring people to the point of decision. But we will limit ourselves to the proper appeals, and we will be careful not to build a ministry around the crises. The only legitimate ministries are built around a vision of the normal Christian life as one of incremental growth. The crisis must be treated as an aberration.

Let's face it. Fundamentalism does not have a very good track record on this count. I grant you that many Fundamentalists have been revivalists. I don't see that as a vindication of revivalism, but as an indictment of Fundamentalism. If revivalism were the only version of Fundamentalism, then I could not and would not be a Fundamentalist. Fortunately, that is not a choice that I have to make.


I spent a good portion of my childhood in a fundamental, independent methodist church. Looking back on it, I still have a lot of good things to say about that ministry, but in college and beyond it took me a long time to really understand that the "crisis" should be an aberration rather than the norm. One of the very noticeable things about independent methodism vs. other branches of believing Christianity was the magnitude of the revivalistic philosophy.

This was a great summary and a great post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Dave Barnhart

Jim's picture

I'm not sure of the boundaries of the definitions but while I believe in the reformed time line of sanctification (starts with regeneration .... a general upward trending with Christian maturity .... steps / missteps / failures and successes (all successes and growth attributed to the Holy Spirit!); I acknowledge that their may be times of great decision ... major crossroads.

Those major decisions may be as a result of Holy Spirit empowered preaching. I will call this "revivial"

(With apologies to Drs Bauder and Hollandsworth, I may be missing something here!)

Also ... I advocate:

  • Active cooperation in sanctification
  • And (while I am not in favor of hi-powered emotional invitations) decisional preaching
rogercarlson's picture

Jim,
I understand your distinctions in theory. But I am not sure they work in practice. I grew up in revivalists churches, that would all give lip service to your view. Yet in practice, everything was done to "set the mood." It was manipulative, though not intentionally. I still remember one well-known evangelist in the church where I was youth pastor have his wife continue working on a girl until she made a decision. The people who brought me later told me that the young lady said she finally just said what the evangelists wife wanted her to say so she could get out of there. To my knowledge, that young lady has never darkened the door of a church again.

I lean toward Bauder's view because the default is unintended manipulation. Lip service is given to allowing the Spirit to work, but because many on that side believe that it is the evangelist and the Spirit that do the work, they keep going until a "decision" happens. And often, those decisions are false. I should know, I was one of those. By God's grace, He saved me 17 years later!

I would sum up by saying, I can agree with your theory, but it usually doesn't carry over into practice.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Jim Hollandsworth's picture

Jim Peet wrote:

Also ... I advocate:

  • Active cooperation in sanctification
  • And (while I am not in favor of hi-powered emotional invitations) decisional preaching

Amen. I can't argue with your bullet points above.

Jim

Pastor James Hollandsworth
Tri-City Baptist Church
www.tri-city-baptist.com

Jim Hollandsworth's picture

rogercarlson wrote:

I would sum up by saying, I can agree with your theory, but it usually doesn't carry over into practice.

Roger,
I understand that your experience suggests there cannot be a practical form of revivalism that is not manipulative. However, I am thankful that you can, at the very least, agree with my theory. I believe that good theory can become practice, so I trust in the years ahead you will begin to experience within fundamentalism a new form of revivalism that is consistent with biblical principles. I am optimistic that this will happen! Thanks for sharing your ideas.
Jim

Pastor James Hollandsworth
Tri-City Baptist Church
www.tri-city-baptist.com