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Posts Tagged ‘David Cloud’

(revised 04/20/14)

For quite awhile now, I have been reading the literature (and visiting the churches) of Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB). I would point out that they span an increasingly wide variety of doctrinal positions, some more biblical than others. I am especially impressed by IFB David Cloud and churches that take his positions. Some of the most obvious of these views are: holding to the King James Bible (and the Textus Receptus NT and Masoretic OT), opposing Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), etc.

However, coming from a Wesleyan Holiness background, there are some beliefs of mine which do not quite match those of IFB churches, including those in Bro. Cloud’s circle. One of these which I hold is the Arminian position of conditional eternal security. So I was fascinated when I recently came across an association/denomination called the Free Will Baptists. This is how Wikipedia begins its article on the Free Will Baptists:

Free Will Baptist is a denomination of churches that share a common history, name, and an acceptance of the Arminian theology of free grace, free salvation, and free will.

Wow! From what I’ve researched so far, this sounds like the kind of association/denomination I’d love to attend and/or join.

Some background: I left the Evangelical Friends Church International aka EFCI years ago, and have vowed I will never become an EFCI member again. Today the EFCI is continuing to back Spiritual Formation’s heretical contemplative Richard Foster, who got his start in the EFCI. Also, the EFCI continues to be heavily involved in heretical Emerging/Emergent teachings – in spite of repeated warnings.

Note – just as I am beginning to research the Free Will Baptists, I am discovering that various Free Will Baptist churches, schools and individuals (including many in high leadership positions) are drifting away from separatist fundamentalism, the KJB, etc. They, like the EFCI and many other evangelical denominations, are having more and more “itching ears” for the heresies of Spiritual Formation and the Emerging/Emergent church movements. Thus, I can only recommend Free Will Baptist churches and schools which are continuing to hold strongly to separatist fundamentalist teachings and practices. The most obvious trait I’ve found in the separatist fundamentalist churches and schools, is that they continue to hold exclusively to the KJB. Thus, in this and future blogs I write about separatist fundamentalist Free Will Baptist churches and schools, I plan to simply refer to them as KJB Free Will Baptists.

I should mention a few distinctives of the Free Will Baptists. I am very impressed with some of these distinctives; I have mixed feelings regarding others. I hope to explore Free Will Baptist doctrines in other blogs.  Following is a good summary of Free Will Baptist distinctives/differences from other denominations, found here:

Distinctive

 There are a few doctrinal positions on which Free Will Baptists hold a distinctive position, even from other groups with whom we may enjoy close fellowship and cooperation. So the question often arises, “What’s the difference between Free Will Baptists and..

Southern Baptists, Missionary Baptists, or Independent Baptists? –

 We believe the Scriptures give consistent emphasis to the responsibility every Christian has to continue to trust Christ throughout his life (Hebrews 3:6, 14, 10:23). Contrary to what some say Free Will Baptists do affirm salvation by grace through faith only, and further insist that the faith that saves is an on-going and active faith. (John 10:1-21). Further, Free Will Baptists believe that there are sufficient warnings in scripture that suggest the possibility that one may forfeit the faith (Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:29), though such a forfeiture is not probable. We do not believe that the forfeiture of the faith is easy, nor sudden, but do affirm the truth that if such state is reached, there remains no more sacrifice (Hebrews 6:6). Consequently, that person who forfeits his faith is irreversibly lost.

Nazarene, Methodist, Holiness Groups? These groups are generally called Wesleyan , the founder of which was the 19th century Methodist Evangelist, John Wesley. A key distinctive of their  theology is the teaching that a person may experience a second, definite work of grace, at which time the believer reaches a point of entire sanctification, and from that moment forward, the believer is capable of living a sinless life. We believe, on the other hand, that the Holy spirit is at work in the believer’s life to progressively mold him into the image of Christ, and that this process will not be completed until we reach eternity.

Assembly of God, Charismatic/Pentecostal Churches? We believe that the sign gifts mentioned in the historical record if the early church (the book of Acts) were used by God for the unique purpose of validating the authority of the Apostles, through whom He transmitted the Holy scriptures (I Corinthians 12-14). Do we believe that these gifts have ceased altogether? No, we do however assert that with the completion of the New Testament canon, the need for, and exercise of these sign gifts faded. We do not seek a Baptism of the Spirit sub-sequent to salvation, nor support the use of tongues or other sign gifts as evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Christian life.

Presbyterian, Reformed Churches? Rather than affirming the predestination of specific individuals for grace, as the Reformed Churches do, we believe that when acted upon by the Holy Spirit, and individual as the freedom of will to accept or rejects God’s offer of salvation. We do not believe, as we are often accused, in a works oriented salvation, affirming with Paul that faith is not a work (Ephesians 2:8-9). Further, we agree that sinful man is dead in sin, that is, he is unresponsive and insensitive to the work and presence of God unless and until he is acted upon from the outside by the Holy Ghost. Once the individual has experienced this work of grace by the Holy Ghost, it is given that he should persevere in that faith until the end. We hold that whosoever will may exercise his God given freedom of the will to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and in believing, receive everlasting life. (John 3:16)

I have reposted the current (as of 02/18/13) Wikipedia article on the Free Will Baptists below. Click here for the original source of this article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding in orange, and inserted comments in [bolded orange in brackets].

Free Will Baptist

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Free Will Baptist is a denomination of churches that share a common history, name, and an acceptance of the Arminian theology of free grace, free salvation, and free will. Free Will Baptists share similar soteriological views with General Baptists, Separate Baptists and some United Baptists. Evangelism and the self government of the local church are highly valued. The denomination remains relatively small-town demographically and is especially strong in the southern United States and Midwest, although it was once also strong in New England. The National Association of Free Will Baptists reports just over 250,000 members. The National Association’s offices are located in the Nashville, Tennessee neighborhood of Antioch. The denomination operates a regionally accredited college, Welch College (formerly Free Will Baptist Bible College), in Nashville; North American and International Missions agencies; and a publishing house, Randall House Publications. Smaller groups unaffiliated with the National Association are the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, the United American Free Will Baptists (African American), and well as several local associations in the South.

Theology and practice

Free Will Baptist congregations believe the Bible is the very word of God and without error in all that it affirms. Free Will Baptist Doctrine holds to the traditional Arminian position, based on the belief in a General Atonement, that it is possible to commit apostasy, or willfully reject one’s faith. Faith is the condition for salvation, hence Free Will Baptists hold to “conditional eternal security.” An individual is “saved by faith and kept by faith.” In support of this concept, some Free Will Baptists refer to the Greek word translated “believeth” found in John 3:16 KJV. This is a continuous action verb, and can thus be read, “..that whosoever believes and continues to believe shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The concept is not of someone sinning occasionally and thus accidentally ending up “not saved,” but instead of someone “repudiating” his or her faith in Christ. [1] Thus “once saved always saved” is rejected by the denomination. Many Free Will Baptists believe that once a person has truly turned from his or her faith, it is impossible for that individual to return to Christ(Hebrews 6:4-6) and the person will have reached a point in which God will have ceased to deal with his or her heart, disabling the individual from even desiring to repent (John 6:44, Genesis 6:3,Romans 1:21,28). Thus Free Will Baptist do not believe that an individual can oscillate between being lost and saved. There exists some Christian denominations which believe that salvation can be lost and found repeatedly; Free Will Baptists do not fall into this grouping. Free Will Baptists believe that once a believer has abandoned his faith and has lost his or her salvation, there is no more hope for that person. The book of Hebrews offers many supporting verses to this concept, particularly chapters 2:1; 3:6,12-14; 4:1,11; 6:4-8,11,12 & 10:23-39 where the Apostle Paul consistently warns that one must “hold fast” till the end.

On Perseverance of the Saints from the official Treatise:

“There are strong grounds to hope that the truly regenerate will persevere unto the end, and be saved, through the power of divine grace which is pledged for their support; but their future obedience and final salvation are neither determined nor certain, since through infirmity and manifold temptations they are in danger of falling; and they ought, therefore, to watch and pray lest they make shipwreck of their faith and be lost.”

Free Will Baptists observe at least three ordinances: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Washing of the Saints’ Feet, a rite occurring among some other evangelical groups but not practiced by the majority of Baptist denominations.

Free Will Baptist congregations hold differing views on eschatology, with some holding premillennial and others amillennial views. Churches advocate (voluntary) tithing, totally abstaining from alcoholic beverages, and not working on Sunday, the “Christian Sabbath.”

Historical sketch

Free Will Baptists can be traced to General Baptists from England who settled in the American colonies in the late seventeenth century. The first Baptists, who originated with the ministry of Thomas Helwys near London in 1611, were General Baptists. That is, they believed that the atonement of Jesus Christ was “general” (for all) rather than “particular” (only for the elect). They were Arminian in doctrine.

Benjamin Laker was an English Baptist who arrived in colonial Carolina as early as 1685. Laker had been associated with Thomas Grantham, an illustrious General Baptist theologian and writer, and had signed the 1663 edition of the General Baptists’ Standard Confession of Faith. The earliest Free Will Baptists in America developed from English General Baptists in Carolina, who were dubbed “Freewillers” by their enemies and later assumed the name.

Two distinct branches of Free Will Baptists developed in America. The first and earliest was the General Baptist movement described above, known as the Palmer movement in North Carolina, from which the majority of modern-day Free Will Baptists have their origin. The later movement was the Randall movement, which arose in the late eighteenth century in New Hampshire. These two groups developed independently of each other.

The “Palmer” Line

In 1702, a disorganized group of General Baptists in Carolina wrote a request for help to the General Baptist Association in England. Though no help was forthcoming, Paul Palmer, whose wife Johanna was the stepdaughter of Benjamin Laker, would labor among these people 25 years later, founding the first “Free Will” Baptist church in Chowan, North Carolina in 1727. Palmer organized at least three churches in North Carolina.

His labors, though important, were short. Leadership would descend to Joseph Parker, William Parker, Josiah Hart, William Sojourner and others. Joseph Parker was part of the organization of the Chowan church and ministered among the Carolina churches for over 60 years. From one church in 1727, they grew to over 20 churches by 1755. After 1755, missionary labors conducted by the Philadelphia Baptist Association converted most of these churches to the Particular Baptist positions of unconditional election and limited atonement. By 1770, only 4 churches and 4 ministers remained of the General Baptist persuasion. By the end of 18th century, these churches were commonly referred to as “Free Will Baptist”, and this would later be referred to as the “Palmer” line of Free Will Baptists. The churches in the “Palmer” line organized various associations and conferences, and finally organized a General Conference in 1921. Many Baptists from Calvinistic Baptist backgrounds, primarily Separate Baptists, became Free Will Baptists in the nineteenth century.

The “Randall” Line

While the movement in the South was struggling, a new movement rose in the North through the work of Benjamin Randall (1749–1808).

Randall initially united with the Particular or Regular Baptists in 1776, but broke with them in 1779 due to their strict views on predestination. In 1780, Randall formed a “Free” or “Freewill” (Randall would combine the words “free” and “will” into a single word) Baptist church in New Durham, New Hampshire. By 1782 twelve churches had been founded, and they organized a Quarterly Meeting. In 1792 a Yearly Meeting was organized.

The “Randall” line of Freewill Baptists grew quickly. However, in 1911, the majority of the Randall Line churches (and all the denominational property) merged with the Northern Baptist Convention. Those churches that did not merge and remained Freewill Baptist joined with other Free Will Baptists in the Southwest and Midwest to organize the Cooperative General Association of Free Will Baptists in 1916.

The Union of the Lines

Fraternal relations had existed between the northern and southern Free Will Baptists, but the question of slavery, and later the Civil War, prevented any formal union until the 20th century. On November 5, 1935, representatives of the General Conference (Palmer) and the Cooperative General Association (a mixture of Randall and Palmer elements west of the Mississippi) met in Nashville, Tennessee to unite and organize the National Association of Free Will Baptists. The majority of Free Will Baptist churches organized under this umbrella, which remains the largest of the Free Will Baptist groups to this day.

Free Will Baptist Bodies

Other major Free Will Baptist groups include:

  • Original Free Will Baptist Convention – a North Carolina based body of Free Will Baptists that was organized in 1913 and initially joined the National Association of Free Will Baptists, but split from the National Association in 1961 due to some inner differences. The Convention comprised the majority of North Carolina-based Free Will Baptist churches, though a minority would split from the North Carolina state convention and maintain affiliation with the National Association. The Convention also maintains mission activity in eight countries – Philippines, Mexico, Bulgaria, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Liberia, and Guinea.
  • United American Free Will Baptist Church – the largest body of African-American Free Will Baptist churches, organized in 1901 and headquartered in Kinston, North Carolina.
  • United American Free Will Baptist Conference – a body of African-American Free Will Baptist churches that withdrew from the United American Free Will Baptist Church in 1968; headquartered in Lakeland, Florida.
  • Unaffiliated Free Will Baptist local associations – a number of local Free Will Baptist associations remain independent of the National Association, Original FWB Convention, and the two United American bodies. Researchers have identified 10 such associations, though there may be more. The unaffiliated associations of Free Will Baptists include over 300 churches with an estimated 22,000 members. They have no organization beyond the “local” level.
    • Eastern Stone (TN)
    • French Broad (NC)
    • Jack’s Creek (NC,TN) Has member churches in these states according to the 2008 Minutes of the Jack’s Creek Free Will Baptist Association
    • John-Thomas (NC,KY,WVA,VA)
    • Mt. Mitchell (NC)
    • Original Grand River (OK)
    • River Valley Association (AR)
    • Stone Association of Central Indiana (IN)
    • Toe River (NC,TN, & SC)
    • Western (NC)
    • Western Stone (TN)

Notes

  1. ^ [1].

Sources

  • A Free Will Baptist Handbook: Heritage, Beliefs, and Ministries, by J. Matthew Pinson
  • A History of Original Free Will Baptists, by Michael Pelt
  • Baptists Around the World, by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
  • Dictionary of Baptists in America, Bill J. Leonard, editor
  • Encyclopedia of Religion in the South, Samuel S. Hill, editor
  • Sub-Groups Within the Baptist Denomination (in the United States), by R. L. Vaughn
  • The Free Will Baptists in History, by William F. Davidson

External links

Wikisource has the text of the 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article [[s:The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Baptists, Freewill|]].
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In recent years we have heard much about Lordship salvation vs. “easy believism” (also called “easy prayerism”). This debate has been especially fierce among Independent Fundamentalist Baptists. For example, Bro. David Cloud has been accused (falsely) of extreme Lordship salvation, because he opposes Jack Hyles’ emphasis on easy believism/easy prayerism.

Bro. Cloud has written a number of articles on this subject. Click here for one of these articles, entitled “WHAT’S WRONG WITH MOST SOUL WINNING COURSES?”

I was pleasantly surprised today, when a Facebook Friend recommended the article reposted below. The article emphasizes many of the same points as Bro. Cloud’s article. Click here for the original site of the following repost.

Revival and Revivalism – A Review by Bobby Jamieson

 

‘How did we get here?’ is a question that is always relevant and often illuminating. Yet contemporary evangelicals don’t ask it as often as they should.

In his book Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750-1858,1 Iain Murray tells a story that helps explain how evangelicals — Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and more — got to where we are today.

FROM REVIVAL . . .

The book’s title tells the whole story in a nutshell. Over the one hundred and nine years Murray examines, from 1750 to 1858, American evangelicals’ understanding and experience of evangelism morphed from ‘revival’ to ‘revivalism.’

Background: The First Great Awakening

Not that what came before 1750 wasn’t important. From about 1735 to 1740, under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and others, the American colonies experienced a massive spiritual enlivening which came to be known as the First Great Awakening. This phenomenon was driven by preaching that emphasized the biblical truths of the holiness of God, the gravity of sin, man’s enslavement to sin, and the need for the Holy Spirit to give new birth so that people might repent, believe, and be saved.

Though superficial responses to such preaching inevitably got mixed up with the true, contemporaries of these events regarded them as a genuine revival. They believed this spiritual movement had been caused by God’s sovereign choice to pour out his Spirit in a profound and unusual way, thus causing the ordinary, biblically appointed means of evangelism to bear extraordinary fruit.

Heirs of Edwards and Whitefield

Murray’s story, then, begins with the heirs of the First Great Awakening who ministered from New England to Virginia, men such as Samuel Davies and Alexander McWhorter (Chs. 1-4). These pastors held to the same theology that drove Edwards’ and Whitefield’s preaching, and they had been personally impacted by the events of 1735-1740. Throughout the second half of the eighteenth century, these men and the ministers who followed them periodically experienced the blessing of God on their ministries in ways that also merited the label ‘revival.’

Revival: Gift of God, not Guaranteed Result

Like their predecessors, these pastors knew that revivals were the sovereign work of God and could not be explained in any other way. Therefore, they preached the gospel, pleaded with sinners, and prayed for fruit like they had for years; and for reasons known only to God, he sometimes blessed these labours remarkably, and sometimes he didn’t. These revivals, in other words, were neither planned by men nor achieved by men. They did not involve any unusual or novel evangelistic techniques. They were understood, therefore, to be gifts of God.

. . . TO REVIVALISM

Then, beginning around 1800, revival began to break out on a greater scale across the young nation, from the northeast to the western states of Kentucky and Tennessee. And what’s truly remarkable is that this large-scale revival continued in one form or another for about thirty years, rightly earning it the title of the Second Great Awakening.

The Second Great Awakening

In the beginning, this revival was understood in the same terms as previous ones. Yet over time, theological and practical shifts began to occur that amounted to a revolution by the revival’s end. (For this part of the story, see chapters 5 through 12.)

For example, in 1800 in Cane Ridge, Kentucky the Presbyterians’ outdoor ‘communion seasons’ (which followed a traditional Scottish practice) became the flashpoint for what looked like a major movement of the Spirit. The meetings grew quickly. Ministers from other denominations, such as the Methodists, shared in the preaching. Large numbers of people who were unaffiliated with any church travelled great distances to come and hear. Many people responded to the preaching and singing, sometimes in disruptively dramatic ways.

Eventually, the leaders divided over how to respond to excessive displays of emotion in these meetings. Some — most of the Presbyterians — thought such displays should be permitted or rebuked depending on the case, while others — the Methodists — tended to treat all of them as proof of the work of God’s Spirit.

From this point, the Methodist leaders of this work in Kentucky took a strategy that was originally a response to revival — namely, protracted outdoor meetings — and made it a key component of their efforts to bring about revival. Further, these Methodists and some others, undergirded by a radically different doctrine of conversion, began to focus their efforts on inducing outward, immediate responses to the gospel.

Two Major Shifts

The story runs along similar lines elsewhere. By the 1820s and 1830s, two major shifts had occurred throughout American evangelicalism.

The first was a doctrinal shift regarding conversion. Up to 1800, evangelicals almost universally believed and preached that God must sovereignly give someone a new nature to enable him or her to repent and believe. By the 1830s, this was widely replaced by an understanding of conversion in which the decision to repent and believe lay entirely within an individual’s own power.

This led to (or, in some cases, followed) a shift in evangelistic practice. Many evangelicals adopted practices that sought to bring about an immediate decision. The ‘anxious bench,’ the altar call, singling people out personally in public prayer, warning hearers to respond immediately or else lose their chance to repent — all these practices and more grew out of the new belief that conversion was something within a person’s power to achieve, or even to effect in others.

The Result: Revivalism

The result of these two shifts was that church leaders began to regard revival as something that could be infallibly secured through the use of proper means — ‘proper’ being whatever would induce an immediate decision or external token of decision. This understanding was most vigorously promoted by Charles Finney, but by the end of the Second Great Awakening it had become a given among a strong majority of American evangelicals. Historian William McLoughlin even went so far as to say that by the mid-nineteenth century, this new system was the national religion of the United States (277).

Thus, revivalism was born. To be sure, revivalism grew up in the soil of genuine revival. But this new practice of revivalism radically differed from the previous understanding of revival it so quickly supplanted. A ‘revival’ became synonymous with a meeting designed to promote revival. Unlike previous generations, evangelicals after 1830 gained the ability, so to speak, to put a revival on the calendar months in advance.

The goal of such revivals was to secure as many immediate decisions for Christ as possible. As such, awareness of the possibility of false conversion seemed to simply vanish from the evangelical consciousness. Few asked whether their new measures just might create as many false converts as true disciples

SEVEN LESSONS FOR PASTORS

At the risk of stating the obvious, it doesn’t take too much effort to see how we got from the 1830s to the evangelistic practices that many of us take for granted today. That holds true whether we’re thinking of stadium-based crusades or churches which seek to recreate that atmosphere every Sunday.

Yet, as Murray rightly argues in the book’s final chapter, this type of revivalism and the theology that supports it represent a serious departure from both a biblical doctrine of conversion and a biblical practice of evangelism. Therefore, Revival and Revivalism should inspire us to reflect critically and carefully about our churches and our evangelistic practices.

Toward that end, here are seven lessons from the book that should be especially relevant for pastors.

1. Don’t Confuse an External Act with Inward Change.

First, don’t confuse an external act with inward change. Murray writes about the beginnings of the altar call, Nobody, at first, claimed to regard it as a means of conversion. But very soon, and inevitably, answering the call to the altar came to be confused with being converted. People heard preachers plead for them to come forward with the same urgency with which they pleaded for them to repent and believe (186; see also 366).

It’s possible to walk an aisle, pray a ‘sinner’s prayer,’ and do any number of other activities without being converted. And it’s possible to be converted without taking any of those particular outward steps (though of course conversion will always manifest itself in visible fruit).

Therefore, pastors should not speak about any external action as if it were identical with conversion. And they should be wary of evangelism techniques which seem to equate the two.

2. Beware of Producing False Converts.

Second, beware of producing false converts. Of course it’s inevitable that some people who initially profess faith will later prove unrepentant, but pastors can evangelize in a way that either minimizes or multiplies false converts. For instance, Murray cites Samuel Miller to the effect that the anxious seat (precursor to the altar call) promotes ‘the rapid multiplication of superficial, ignorant, untrained professors of religion’ — that is, false converts (366).

3. Be Cautious about Giving Immediate Assurance of Salvation.

Third, be cautious about giving immediate assurance of salvation. Perseverance, as the New Hampshire Confession says, is the grand mark of a true Christian (Heb. 3:6, 14). Faith makes itself known by its fruits — whether good or bad, true or false (Matt.7:15-27). Yet Murray points out that the new revivalistic methods were actually founded on the promise of immediate assurance:

But the anxious-seat evangelism wanted to do away with any doubts in those who made the public response. The whole strength of its appeal . . . lay in its suggestion that a response would ensure salvation. To have conceded that there was no sure connection between answering a public appeal and being converted would have been to undermine the whole system. (368)

In other words, the whole point of the new methods was that a response guaranteed salvation. And on that basis, preachers assured people of their salvation immediately and unreservedly simply for coming forward at the end of the service.

Assurance of salvation is possible for the youngest and weakest Christian, but it should always be grounded in the objective work of Christ and corroborated by the fruit of a transformed life.

So pastors, be cautious about giving immediate assurance of salvation. And be careful not to give it on the wrong basis.

4. Tether your Ministry to What God Requires in his Word.

Fourth, tether your ministry to what God requires in his Word. In some ways, the crucial turning point in Murray’s narrative comes when the early nineteenth-century Methodists came to regard certain novel, extra-biblical practices — long-duration outdoor camp meetings, techniques to secure immediate decisions, and so on — as the crucial keys to producing conversions (184).

Certainly, Christians are free to pursue evangelism in ways that are not directly exampled in Scripture. If Paul could rent the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9), why shouldn’t modern evangelicals evangelize in stadiums? But the catch is that these new methods became mandates. They became magic bullets. And they became the givens without which people could not imagine anyone getting saved.

Instead, place your confidence in what God has required you to do — preach the Word. Trust that God has given you, in his Word, what you need to be a faithful pastor. Labour with the tools he’s given, and trust that he will cause your work to bear fruit.

5. Make Sure your Theology Drives your Practice, not Vice Versa.

Fifth, make sure your theology drives your practice, not vice versa. Murray writes about the spread of the altar call among Baptists, who in the early 19th century were almost unanimously reformed in their soteriology:

It had not captured anything like the majority of the churches in the 1830s but there can be no doubt that, with the Baptists also, it was the alleged success of the new evangelism which hastened both its adoption and the gradual doctrinal shift to justify it. (325-326)

In this case the practical tail wagged the theological dog. The logic of the new evangelism worked its way into their theological system and re-wrote the DNA. Without realizing it, huge numbers of Baptists adopted an evangelistic method that was not only at odds with their theological commitments, but eventually undid them.

6. Don’t Equate Outward Success with a Divine Endorsement.

Sixth, don’t equate outward success with a divine endorsement. During the conflicts Murray chronicles between the old guard and the new, the revivalists often played the trump card of outward success (282). As one contemporary pastor has famously put it, ‘Never criticize what God is blessing.’

The first problem with the argument from success is that ‘success’ is not always success. Murray writes,

What was indisputable was that making ‘conversion’ a matter of instant, public decision, with ascertainable numbers immediately announced in the religious press, produced a display of repeated ‘successes’ on a scale never before witnessed (283).

But how many of these ‘decisions’ represented genuine conversions? How many were baptized, joined churches, and began new lives? If the numbers back then match the numbers generated through similar methods today, the likely answer is, ‘Not many.’

The second problem with the argument from success is that, in one way or another, God is always blessing us in spite of ourselves. Every time God uses a pastor’s preaching to convert people, he’s blessing that man’s work in spite of that man’s sins and errors. So how can you be sure that God is blessing a ministry because of some new method rather than in spite of it?

Certainly we should expect God to bless preaching and practices that are in line with his Word. But we can’t reduce his workings to the mechanics of ‘most faithful’ = ‘most blessing.’ Nor can we work backwards from apparent success to discern what must be correct theology and practice.

7. Celebrate the Normal.

Murray writes of the earlier generation of ministers who regarded revival as a gift from God, ‘The men of the Old School, while believing in revival as fervently as they did . . . nevertheless knew no biblical reason to be cast down by the normal’ (385). These men knew that most of the time, ministry is slow and plodding work. They knew that some sow and others reap. They ‘believed that God would grant his blessing in the measure that was appropriate — whether in its heightened form . . . or in quieter ways’ (385).

So, finally, don’t be discouraged by slow-ripening fruit. Instead, rely on God to work through the regular means of grace. Celebrate the normal.

GOOD REASONS WHY IT’S ALREADY BECOMING A CLASSIC

As I hope this review has proved, there are many good reasons why Revival and Revivalism is already becoming a classic. It’s long, dense, and somewhat rambling, but it more than repays the time and effort it takes to get through it. I commend it to all present and aspiring church leaders, and to any Christian who likes to ask, ‘How did we get here?’



Note:

1. Revival and Revivalism
Iain H. Murray
480 pages, clothbound
£15.00, $33.00
ISBN 978 0 85151 660 8

Bobby Jamieson is assistant editor for 9Marks, author of the 9Marks Healthy Church Study Guides (Crossway, forthcoming 2012), MDiv student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church. This review article is taken from 9Marks Journal, March/April 2012.

 

By Bobby Jamieson

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[blog under construction]

The more I read about apostasy in today’s evangelical denominations, the more I believe we should separate from them. But what exactly does “separation” mean? And why does it have such a negative connotation among evangelicals?

In the following four YouTube audios, independent fundamentalist Baptist David Cloud explains Bible separation as practiced by fundamentalist Baptists:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

And here are two articles by Bro. Cloud about biblical separation:

Dialogue or Separation, by David Cloud (updated 8/25/08)

In Essentials Unity, by David Cloud (updated 12/07/10)

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