When revival hits, should we expect the participants to have all their theological ducks in a row and align with our particular shibboleth? There is a lot of discussion surrounding the multi-day worship service, which is still going on at Asbury University. Some are glowing about it with unmitigated acceptance, and some seem to believe it is the deceiver’s work. I tend to think most of us are somewhere in between. I have not been to the event nor spent much time looking into it, but I did want to address one of the common themes I see coming from its critics.
The most common concern I hear is some variation of the argument that the theology there is bad. The doctrine being taught lacks precision, the gospel is often watered down with sentimentalism, and some of the testimonies are cringe-worthy, but this does not mean that God is not moving.
If anything, I would expect revival to be a bit of a mess because it will be a place under tremendous spiritual warfare. If God is moving, so is the enemy, but this is not my point. My point is that I would never expect a place where revival or reformation is breaking out to have all their theology perfect. Theological maturity comes in time through the study of the Scripture. When I read Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, there are some that are dead wrong, as he was just beginning to see the errors in the Roman system of the time, but that does not mean God had not started a good work.
Every time I walk into a church to teach a class, I need to figure out where they are in their theological understanding to know where I should begin. Every class is at a different level when taken as a group. Also, each student tends to be at different stages in their spiritual growth. Some are ahead of the class average, and some are behind.
The goal in every one of these situations is for the Holy Spirit to be active so that we can all make spiritual progress in conforming our lives to the image of the Son. This need for growth includes me as the teacher. There are usually people in the class further along than me, and their interaction benefits the whole group. Of course, some people articulate things poorly or improperly, but we have all been there at some point, and will likely do it again in the future. We are all still learning.
The fact that untrue things may be said in a Bible class or at a revival meeting does not automatically mean the Holy Spirit is absent. He may be drawing the dross to the surface to wipe it away. What is encouraging is that people are excited enough to want to worship, study his word, and talk about what he has done in their lives.
As long as they are united in the essentials of the faith, I would expect all kinds of variations on the non-essentials, many of which I would think are seriously wrong. However, I would not conclude from that, that it is not a genuine revival: even if some bad actors show up to make their mark.
Will there be spiritual immaturity and some biblical illiteracy amongst a group of people experiencing revival? Of course. A group of mature, biblically grounded, and long-time Christians getting together to worship would not be a revival; it would be church. And if it had no tainting of sin, with no room for spiritual growth, it would be Heaven. It is not the healthy that need revival. It is the sick, and none of us are beyond the need for further healing.
This article is not my attempt to validate the Asbury revival meeting. To a certain point, it is healthy to be skeptical; it is what good Bereans do. Suppose there are heretical teaching or sinful practices taking place. In that case, we should call them out, but simply because the attendees do not align with us on secondary matters, or even if some of the people giving testimonies are theologically imprecise and sometimes wrong, does not mean that God is not getting a hold of them. Sanctification is not instantaneous. Only time will tell if this is a genuine move of the Spirit or another enthusiastic gathering of professing Christians caught up in a cultural moment.
9 thoughts on “Revival and Bad Theology”
Well said. Thank you.
Thank you for making these wise points here. I also felt skepticism and some doubt about the authenticity of this mass revival, mostly bc huge gatherings can stir fervent emotions.
But you aptly and fairly describe how true faith and fleshly emotions can both be present. And God can still be working.
Good post brother.
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Doug, you nailed it. Thanks for bringing clarity to this subject. As you pointed out, skepticism is normal. But much of the criticism reminds me of the way that the Pharisees approached Jesus.
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Sooo Xcited about what Holy Spirit is doing
in Kentucky +…this was prophesied a couple of years ago…FatherGod IS sooo
faithful!!!!!!! May all His Glory spread to
every State in Jesus’ Mighty and Holy Name I declare!!!!!!! Amen Amen and Amen!!!⚓️
Well stated brother! I was just reading Hebrews 12:14-17 when I saw your article. I wonder how many arm-chair critics are guilty of verses 14-15 in particular. Granted, in love, with patience, we should also carry out and explain verses 16-17 to the newer and weaker brothers and sisters, but with out 14-15 being a reality, no one will strive for the later. Here are couple of my thoughts if you are interested. https://wp.me/p49Shk-1Xr Blessings, Jeremy
PS I also added a link to your article within mine. Blessings!
I’ve been looking into this revival thingy in recent days, hoping to learn more about it. I am grateful for God’s movement, and for finding your blog. Thanx for helping me think about this.
While much of what you said has merit to it, some is just not right. First, how do you know that this is a work of the Spirit of God? You do not know that, it is just a hope. Secondly, comparing this revival to Luther posting of the 95 thesis to the Wittenberg church door is simply silly. That was over 500 years ago! Has the church not learned anything since that time? The revival then was against a heretical church, is Asbury heretical? The University at Asbury is supposed to be a place of Christian education but they do not adhere to correct doctrine and they allow this to take place on their campus. Remember a large portion of the NT epistles warn of false teaching. Have we forgotten this warning and accept anything that is a God Thing? Thirdly, I have seen personal testimonies and reports on YouTube that purport that those in leadership positions are members of LGBTQ movement. God will not bless that which He says is suppressing the Truth. see Romans 1. Fourthly, Asbury has a long history of such revivals all the way back to 1907. Is this just a way for the University to advertise themselves, like a commercial? Or could this be a breaking out of mass hysteria by those who are psychological induced by the emotional environment that has been created? A mob ruly or unruly is the stull a mob just the same. Scripture states that the Word is to be preached and to be done decently and in order. The revivals of the OT always were begun by the preaching of God’s Word. Where is that at Asbury?
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