Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Second Great Awakening (Part 2)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's interesting to wade through 19th century writings. I'm used to the blunt, concise, staccato, Hemingway style of narration. I never realized how he and others transformed how Americans write. The flowery language of the past has been replaced with efficiency and conciseness. Finney wrote well. He wrote very succinctly for his day. It's just that the sentences are still long and at times convoluted. Whatever authoring style you favor, it's a fascinating read into the heart of early 19th century revivalism.

Did you know that many of our social institutions and churches were founded during this revival. Many hospitals, churches, the YMCA, schools, other philanthropic organizations, even the Mormon faith were birthed from this great move of God (tares and wheat grow together). Church attendance increased. Many came to know Jesus. It set our country in the right direction, and for many years we experienced the afterglow of its blessings: financial, spiritual, social, and educational. This was a true, blue revival. The Toronto Blessing, Lakeland, and even the Jesus Movement were limited in scope. The Second Great Awakening transformed a wide swath of the church and society!  It built our nation.

As I look at the present day landscape, we will need another revival of this magnitude to resuscitate our dying country. Only God can breath life into our terminal condition. Only a mighty inundation of the Holy Spirit can save us.

Charles Finney traveled from town to town preaching the Gospel. It's interesting that he didn't preach in any churches, but instead school houses and homes. The church locked him out. They didn't like his direct manner, home-spun English, Arminian theology, and expectation of a response from hearers. He questioned the pious religiosity and formalism of the church. He challenged the use of archaic, theological language from the pulpit. He used simple language with the directness of a court room lawyer (he was a practicing lawyer before his conversion). It worked. Many turned to Jesus. Many found life when pressed to make a decision.

Finney began the whole mass conversion and crusade tradition. Before then, salvation and evangelism happened through indirect means. Calvinism promoted a hyper-sovereignty view of conversion. God gave faith. God gave repentance. God made the heart to choose Him. If this wasn't happening in your life, then you shouldn't turn to God. You were not ready. Finney blew this out of the water by putting the responsibility firmly in the sinners hands. He demanded a response to the Gospel message.

The fascinating thing about all of this is that both sides preached truth. God is in control, but we also need to choose. It's a partnership. Man tends to polarize theology and church life through their misguided thinking and stupidity. Division is just sin. It's plain and simple. Calvinism and Arminianism have been at each others throats for centuries. Finney, the revivalist, revealed a new and old facet of God's grace during this move of the Spirit. He made the Gospel understandable again to the common folk. He raised up the imago dei view of man by giving him the noble duty of choosing who and what to believe in.  God is sovereign and man is made a little lower than Him. He has a God given responsibility to make right choices.

I will end it here. I need to run. Bless you folks. I will write more tomorrow."Where's my Finney book? Ha! Where's my Bible?"


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