While I’ve been convalescing and taking care of my wife after our recent car accident, I’ve set off on a torrid pace in reading. The following are some snippets from some of the texts that I’ve engaged with over the past week. Below is my account of Sunday’s readings.
The Epistle to the Hebrews (ESV Translation). I wasn’t able to go to church so I decided to attempt to read large portions of Bible books during my time on the disabled list. I do have regular Bible reading plan, but Hebrews is my favorite book. I derived much encouragement from this letter to a church of Jewish background that was tempted to return to Judaism while suffering severe persecution. The writer is sympathetic to the plight of this church. His love for this church and his pastoral encouragement comes through loud and clear, and doesn’t keep him from giving his readers a “talking-to” where needed.
Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray. This book has stared at me for several years from my seat in the family room for several years. I expected a hagiographic treatment of the leaders of the First Great Awakening in America. Luminaries such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and Samuel Davies were men of God whose preaching was blessed by the Holy Spirit in the conversion of those outside of Christ and the strengthening of the Church from within. After reading the first hundred pages, I’m encouraged to see that while Murray believes that the Great Awakening was a giant boon to American Christianity, there were unsalutary developments as well, and his view of the Revival is more nuanced than I expected.
Murray has challenged the view that I’ve about the Great Awakening for many years. Protestant church historians are largely divided into two camps on whether the Great Awakening was a positive development for American Christianity. On one end are historians such as D. G. Hart and Nathan Hatch, who believe that the Great Awakening was harmful to the development of the development of the American church because the revival preachers operated largely outside of the individual church. Because the church and its catechetical role tended to be bypassed by the revival preachers, the effect was a Christianity in America that was fundamentally individualistic rather than churchly, and harmful to the growth and development of the Church. The tother camp, championed by Iain Murray, believes that the First Great Awakening was beneficial to the American Church, while the confluence of events known as the Second Great Awakening fostered deviance from orthodox Christianity.
For the last fifteen years or so, I’ve largely held to the second view. However, Murray presents a more nuanced view than I expected. He makes a persuasive case that the reason that the preachers of the Great Awakening often bypassed the institutional Church was not because they held a low estimate of the Church, but that often the Church as an institution (organized gatherings under the rule of elders, pastors, buildings, etc.) was still in an organizational and developmental phase, and thus lacked the capacity for the churchly Christianity that is the norm of the Reformed churches.
I’ve only reached pate 100, but I’m glad that I took this book off the shelf and I’m really profiting from it.
Serving With Calvin by Terry L. Johnson. Much of this book is a rehash of other writings of Johnson that has been expanded and put into a more polished form. However, Dr. Johnson has been one of the most influential men in the way that I view the ministry of the gospel. I’ve really profited from his theological vision and his encouragement to combine such vision with the daily and weekly tasks of gospel ministry.