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FIRST-PERSON: Asbury, revival and Christian cynicism

Worshipers sang praises to the Lord on the campus of Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., on Monday afternoon (Feb. 13), the sixth day of continuous worship in Hughes Auditorium. (Kentucky Today/Robin Cornetet)

ASHLAND, Ky. (BP) – Wednesday, Feb. 8, Asbury College had a chapel service. Chapel is a pretty ordinary experience at a Christian university. What is extraordinary is that the worship time that began on Feb. 8 is still going on as I write this on Feb. 13.

Participants soon described testimonies of what was going on at Asbury as revival. However, these descriptions of experiencing revival were not academic or scholarly descriptions of revival as historically understood. Instead, they were on-the-ground, in-the-moment expressions of experiencing being spiritually revived.

Sadly, it wasn’t long before many Christians took to social media to question the validity of what was happening at Asbury being described as revival.

“On what basis are we calling this a revival?”

“Emotionalism, singing and flag waving are not revival!”

“No one will know whether this is a revival or not until the fruit of it is examined years from now in the lives of people who are not there on campus.”

These are just a few of the types of comments I have seen from Christians in response to the Asbury revival. It seems that any claim of revival should be considered guilty until proven innocent.

Jonathan Edwards, in The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, lays out the marks of a genuine revival (based on 1 John 4):

  • Jesus is exalted.
  • The Holy Spirit acts against the influence of Satan’s kingdom by preaching sin and repentance.
  • The Bible is exalted and held in high regard.
  • The Spirit of understanding and truth opposes spirits of falsehood.
  • Love to God and man is promoted.

The list Edwards provides lines up well with the reports I have heard from the college students at our church who attend Asbury and what I have seen from others about what has been and is going on at Asbury.

Time will indeed tell, but I am confident our appropriate disposition from the outside looking in at the present should be hopefulness and not cynicism.

We live in a cynical age. Cynicism is in the air we breathe, a cultural norm, our default setting. Being a cynic is easy. Cynics do not do; they critique (from a safe distance) those who do. I remember hearing cynicism once described as over-confident self-referential suspicion. I think that sounds about right.

Cynicism has roots in hopelessness. What is more antithetical to a Christian worldview than hopelessness? Paul tells us, “So now faith, hope, and love abide” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Cynicism is contagious, but so are faith, hope, and love.

I am hopeful about what is taking place at Asbury, and I am also confident that any genuine revival destroys a worldly cynicism from among God’s people. Lord, revive us again.

    About the Author

  • David Prince