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EDUCATION BRIEFS: Golden Gate lecture addresses revivalism

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–David Bebbington, professor of history at Scotland’s University of Stirling, delivered this year’s Deere Lecture at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking on “Revivals, Revivalism and the Baptists.”

“Revivals were defined in the 19th century as those outpourings of the Spirit which resulted in the quickening of the church and the conversion of sinners,” Bebbington said, describing the characteristics of 19th-century revivalism as “mass conversions of unbelievers as well as outbursts of fresh vigor that stirred whole congregations or even larger bodies of Christians.”

The phenomenon of revival, he said, exerted a major influence on the life of many evangelical denominations, including Baptists.

Bebbington discussed three ways in which the term revival has been employed over the centuries: a planned event such as a Billy Graham crusade, a spontaneous event in a congregation or a spontaneous event affecting a larger region.

“The Baptists were rarely innovators in the field of revivals. Rather, Baptists usually copied and were influenced by other denominations,” he said.

The congregational model had great repercussions for Baptists, Bebbington said. Characteristics included a minister in charge, tight discipline, Calvinist theology and gradual conversion. He explained that revival among Congregationalists developed not in England, but in New England, where the Congregationalists migrated in the 17th century to escape the tyranny of Charles I.

“The greatest advocate of the Congregational approach was Jonathan Edwards, who in 1734 in Northampton preached a powerful sermon on justification by faith, which precipitated a revival,” Bebbington said.

“The movement in Northampton was one of the first expressions of the Great Awakening that swept America during the coming decades. As this movement developed, it remolded Baptist life in America.”

The Methodist model, with John Wesley as its central figure in the mid-1700s, also influenced Baptists.

“Led by laymen, not trained ministers, their revivals were excitable as opposed to restrained meetings. Arminian instead of Calvinist, they looked for instant conversions and held long meetings, sometimes over a period of days. These characteristics were an effective formula for church growth,” Bebbington said. “The Baptist approach to revival during the 17th century had, in many places, become little different from that of the Methodists.”

Bebbington described the synthetic model of revival, developed in the 1800s in Kentucky by Barton Stone and in upper New York State by Charles Finney, as encouraging physical prostrations, women speaking and protracted meetings.

“These revivals were planned and organized,” he said. “This newer approach encouraged immediacy, with no need to wait for salvation. Their leaders were called revivalists and ignored boundaries, and they were labeled nondenominational.”

The synthetic style of revival triumphed during the 19th century “with a largely homogeneous evangelical approach to awakenings,” Bebbington said. “It was adopted by many Baptists in America, Britain and elsewhere.”

During the later 19th century, the modern style of revival emerged, Bebbington said, noting that it came in response to the changing social conditions of the time.

“It was urban, with leaders concentrating on industrial and commercial centers and targeting whole cities as opposed to particular congregations,” he said, explaining that the leaders were businessmen and the revivals were interdenominational and were conducted with a restrained tone.

“The most obvious form of the revival phenomenon in the later 20th century was the Billy Graham crusade,” Bebbington said. “The evangelist was a Southern Baptist, and many Baptists gave him their support, but his meetings were scrupulously interdenominational.”

Bebbington described how revival also was a global force during the 20th century.

“The epicenter for the global spread was the Welsh Revival of 1904-05. Events were so dramatic that visitors came to witness them and returned home to share the atmosphere with their congregations in Pennsylvania, Madagascar and Patagonia.”

The Deere Lectures were named after Derward Deere, who served as a Golden Gate Seminary professor of Old Testament from 1950-68.

SPRADLIN EXAMINES RIGHTEOUSNESS — The Apostle Paul did not have a righteousness of his own but only righteousness that comes by faith, California pastor Roger Spradlin said during a Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary chapel service.

“Everyone who is honest must admit that we are not capable of our own righteousness. We are sinful,” said Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield and vice chairman of the SBC Executive Committee. “Much of the Bible is written to show the inadequacy of human righteousness. No one goes to heaven because they’re good.”

Spradlin, speaking from the Book of Philippians on Oct. 1, said righteousness from God can’t be earned but is a gift God grants to those who believe.

“When we receive salvation, God pronounces us righteous. It happens in a moment,” he said, adding that glorification, which Paul also mentions in Philippians 3, happens in a moment as well.

“But sanctification, the development of Christian maturity and the result of knowing God is a progressive action which develops over a lifetime,” he said.

Spradlin identified two types of “knowing.”

“You can technically know about someone, or you can have a relationship and experientially know the person. This second definition is the type of knowing to which Paul refers,” he said.

After salvation, believers still have the tendency to sin, Spradlin said, noting, “We need power to resist sin, the power of spiritual transformation. Sanctification changes the way we live on a daily basis.”

Part of experiencing God and developing Christian maturity is sharing Christ’s pain and sufferings, Spradlin said.

“We want strong faith, but we don’t want to be tested; we want patience, but we don’t want trials; we want to grow, but we don’t want pain,” he said, noting that God uses pain to shape His children. “Our pain can enable us to enter into His suffering, to feel a portion of what He felt, to know Him.”

Spradlin challenged students to imagine the great heart of God.

“How He grieves over the culture we live in. All around us are broken lives,” he said. “The greatest requirement is to love God. Then you will love the souls that God loves.

“… You know about Him, but don’t make it all about head knowledge. Don’t forget to really know Him.”
Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

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