News Articles

Canadian-born prof exhorts U.S. evangelicals to revival

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Christian commentator Cal Thomas got it wrong.
Thomas criticized President Clinton’s recent action in offering more federal money to encourage volunteerism, suggesting instead the nation needs “spiritual awakening,” not more government programs.
It’s the church, and evangelicals in particular, in desperate need of revival, according to Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“If the nation as a whole needs a spiritual awakening, what shall we say about the church?” Block asked in a May 6 chapel address at the Louisville, Ky., seminary.
In a searing message delivered from a naturalized citizen who continues to hold dual citizenship in his native Canada, Block denounced the haughty spirit of American evangelicalism. Those believers affiliated with seminary education — a “gospel ghetto” — who strive for theological orthodoxy without “heart and humility” are among those in need of spiritual renewal, he said.
The “picture of American evangelicalism” is not a pretty one, according to Block.
“You know there is something wrong with the church when attendance is one-half the membership; when the rate of divorce among supposedly born-again folks is virtually indistinguishable from the rate among pagans; when the notes in the study Bible have more authority than the text itself; when in our worship we spend more time lauding ourselves for our love for God than confessing our sin; when the ripened harvest cries for reapers, but we concentrate on filling our church with spectators.”
Preaching from 2 Chronicles 7:11-16, a familiar text to many evangelicals, Block offered “the Lord’s prescription for revival.” He noted that the text comes after Solomon’s construction and dedication of the temple and the message of the passage is addressed to the people of God, not their pagan neighbors.
“When we speak of revival, we speak of something happening to the people of God,” Block asserted. “The world does not need revival. Being dead in their trespasses and sins, they need rebirth.”
Block cited several indications of believers in need of revival:
“Those who claim the privilege of being God’s people, but reject the call to holiness are the ones who need revival” as well as Christians “impressed with their own love for God, but who bear no fruit of his love from them,” Block said.
Zeroing in on verse 14 of the text, Block preached that four conditions are necessary for revival: brokenness, prayer, seeking God’s face and abandonment of sin.
The humility called for in the passage is in stark contrast to evangelicals today who have “adopted an arrogant, abrasive style that has little connection with our confession that we are only sinners saved by grace,” Block insisted.
“Revival will not come to this campus until we students and staff fall down on our knees to repent of our hubris, our flirtations with the world, our dishonesty, jealously and bitterness. God is not impressed with theological orthodoxy if it is carried with a swagger.”
The type of prayer called for in the passage is not a “friendly conversation, a chat with the Lord about myself, dialoguing with God,” but is like that of Daniel who “prays, pleads for grace, fasts, puts on sackcloth in mourning and sits in the ash heap,” Block said.
Calling it a “misrepresentation” and “perversion,” Block quoted Baptist author Cecil Osborne’s assertion, “there must be something truly wonderful about me for God to love me” as an example of the type of contemporary arrogance ill-fitting the prescription for prayer.
“The truth is there must be something truly wonderful about God for him to love me,” Block said.
God hides his face from his people because of their sin, Block said. “When God hides his face, his people must examine their hearts for the cause. It always lies in human sin. When those who have experienced God’s marvelous grace do not express their gratitude with wholehearted obedience, they ought not be surprised if their prayers go unanswered, and he seems to have withdrawn.”
The abandonment of sin, the last prescription for revival, may not be possible without re-education on what sin is, Block said.
“But now that we are enlightened, tolerant, nonjudgmental and open to alternative lifestyles, we have dispensed with words like ‘sin,’ ‘evil,’ ‘wickedness,’ because they imply some kind of normative ethic,” Block said.
“Some of us are more interested in success than in faithfulness; more driven by ambition than a passion for holiness; more impressed with our gifts than with our sinfulness; more interested in making an impression with the movers and shakers in the denomination than in walking humbly with our God.”
When God’s people follow 2 Chronicles 7:14’s “recipe for revival,” God will hear them, forgive their sin and remove the effects of sin, Block said. It’s worth noting, he said, that the promised result does not include “miraculous signs and wonders sweeping the land as evidence of revival. The effects are really quite unspectacular, but they strike at the root of human need.”
Block warned even the seeking of revival could be motivated by the wrong reasons.
“Could it be that our longing for revival is off base?” Block asked. “Could it be that we are looking for a quick fix, a shortcut which may arise from a carnal desire to experience what others have experienced, without going through the pain of brokenness, penitence and confession?”
Rather, like other aspects of the Christian life, Block said, “Revival is not a primary goal for which we should strive; it is the byproduct of an agenda set by the Lord.”

    About the Author

  • James A. Smith
  • James A. Smith, Sr.
  • Sr.