Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Archive for the ‘Whitefield’ Category

3 Month Introspective

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Introspective

So, I’ve been blogging consistently for three months.  This is the week of Christmas and I’ll be all over the place.  I thought I would briefly summarize the 3 months of blog series on here:

Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future, Parts 1-7:  We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked at the roots of liberalism, the Protestant split and suburbanization, and defined and outlined evangelical populism and their game plan for reaching America.  Finally we assessed the current status of American evangelicalism and then made some predictions of future trends.

Introduction to Apologetics, Parts 1-7:  We looked in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise Pascal and Alvin Plantinga.  Finally, we employed the three phases football as an analogy for the different apologetic schools and I likened Tim Tebow to the presuppositionalists.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Parts 1-10:  We looked at some analysis of some shifts evangelicalism will need to make moving forward:  Doctrine, Worldview, Urbanization, Globality/Mobility, “Post-Modernism,” American Culture(s), Contextualization, Balance, and Final Analysis.

Top ~10 Books by Topic:

Top 10 Systematic Theology Texts

Top 10 Devotional Classics

Top 10 Books on the Church

Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

Top 10 Books on Culture

Top 10 Books on Eschatology

Top 5 Books on Worldview

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

Top 10 Books on Church History

Top 40 Books to Read While in College

Top 10 Books on Missions, Discipleship, and Evangelism

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

Top 10 Apologetic Works

Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

Top 10 Books by John Piper

Top 5 Children’s Books

Best Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms of the Christian Church

A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

Up Next:  We will be looking at some thoughts on the economy and investment and then delve into the mind of Friedrich Nietzsche…

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Written by Michael Graham

December 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future… Part 2

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Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

The First Great Awakening [1730s and 1740s] (as well as the Second that followed [1790-1840]) relied heavily on mass marketing to get people to the revivals.  Whitefield would send assistants up to two years in advance to a city to setup venue and distribute flyers.  Once there, people were confronted with a serious and emotional display of their status before God apart from accepting Christ.  People responded to this bad then good news by equally emotional responses.  Consider what Nancy Pearcey says regarding these revivals:

This kind of intense emotional conversion experience is exactly what the camp meetings of the First and Second Great Awakenings aimed to produce.  No profound teaching, no high church ceremonies, no theological subtleties, no solemn hymns.  Instead the revivalists used simple vernacular language and catchy folk tunes, delivered with lively theatrics to catch people’s attention and move their emotions.  Evangelical preachers broke with the older pattern of using sermons to instruct, and began to use their sermons to press hearers to a point of crisis, in order to produce a conversion experience.  Instead of talking about a gradual growth in faith through participation in a church, evangelicals began to treat a one-time conversion event as the only sufficient basis for claiming to be a Christian.  – Total Truth, p. 263.

The revivals were controversial.  The whole of Presbyterians in America were split in two in the Old Side-New Side controversy.  It is easy to empathize with people being heated over the matter.  On the one hand, the Holy Spirit appeared to be doing a great work and regenerating many hearts, bringing repentance and faith all over the colonies transcending denominational lines.  On the other hand, how many of these people were legitimately changed?  Were people just whipped into an emotional fervor and coerced into conversion?  Were these people ever connected to a local church to be nurtured, catechized, and discipled?

Jonathan Edwards, although not a Presbyterian, sought to bring some peace and truth to the matter and wrote Religious Affections.  Edwards evenhandedly carves out a Biblical middle-ground appropriately defending the role of emotions and the heart.  In essence, Edwards correctly saw that right beliefs (orthodoxy), right emotions (orthopathos), and right actions (orthopraxis) all go together.

Unfortunately, not everyone read Edwards, Religious Affections.  Consider some of the seeds the First Great Awakening planted among infant evangelicals:

The focus on an emotional response; the celebrity-style leader; the engineered publicity; the individual detached from his local congregation.  Pearcey, Total Truth, p. 268.

At times, we can see these seeds grown full and writ large in evangelicalism.  No sub-group is immune.  The Reformed types love their heroes, dead and living.  The charismatics can get carried away at times.  The para-church can become  de facto church surrogate.  The big box/megachurch/Christ-Depot/Willow Creek/Saddleback folk can sometimes get caught up in the mass marketing publicity and business model approaches.

Next time, we will look at the Second Great Awakening…

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future… Part 1

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George Whitefield

I have been reading a bit recently on evangelicalism as a movement in the United States.  I want to devote a few posts to defining evangelicalism and providing some analysis of its strengths and weaknesses, past and present.  I have been influenced heavily by Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth, Iain Murray’s Revival and Revivalism, David Well’s No Place for Truth, Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars.

We shall work our way from the past toward the present and then future, but before we do anything we must try to define evangelicalism.

Many things have served the muddy the term “evangelical” – the politicization of the Christian Right (ie. Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson), fundamentalism (is it part of evangelicalism or not), and the broadness of its history and key figures (ie. Jonathan Edwards, John Darby, and George Whitefield).

Our working definition of evangelicalism will be from David Bebbington (Cambridge), who describes the movement by four distinctives:

1.  Biblicism:  taking the Bible seriously (and typically holding to the doctrines of inerrancy and  infallibility)

2.  Crucicentrism:  having Jesus’ work of atonement on the cross as the central focus of the Scriptures and ministry

3.  Conversionism:  emphasis on need for all peoples to be converted to Christianity

4.  Activism:  the belief that Christians must be active in expressing their beliefs publicly

The movement has its beginnings in the First Great Awakening in the early 1700s.  It was first in Great Britain and then the United States.  Key to its expansion was the vivid theatrical preaching and promotional methods of George Whitefield.  In 1735-1739, Whitefield first takes the preaching and revival to Great Britain.  At this time John Wesley, a friend from their time at Oxford, had a dismal ministry in Georgia and was invited by Whitefield to come and take over the preaching and revivals in Great Britain.  Wesley, by his own admission, was uncoverted at this time preaches until he finally believes the gospel (under the counsel of a Moravian named Peter Bohler).  Whitefield then take his preaching and revival to the colonies.   Whitefield preached some 18,000 sermons and gave some 12,000 exhortative speeches in his 30 years of ministry.  He preached to every major city on the Eastern seaboard of the United States, crossed the Atlantic 13 times, and preached in Scotland, Wales, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Bahamas.  Without amplification, Whitefield preached regularly to several thousand people.  It is estimated that 80% of the entire population of the American colonies heard him preach at some point.   In America alone he preached to 10 million people.  It was with great fervor and very broad sowing that evangelicalism germinated.

Next time we shall examine the [controversial] methods of the First Great Awakening…

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