Revivals — What are they? This might seem to be an easy question to answer but, what really are they? What if someone says that there will be a revival held down the street the next month or that a revival has just been happening in a nearby church. Do they mean the same thing? Can revivals be created or is it solely a blessing from a gracious God?
vOne helpful book on this topic is this book by Iain Murray. In it, Murray wants to the current generation to recover the biblical understanding of revivals. Murray first shares his observation from the most part of christian history, the definition of revivals has remained unchanged through the years, and only recently has there been a new meaning to this word, and one of the chief reason for that was due to Charles Finney.
Then Iain sets aside one chapter on Finney alone, examining his life and teaching with an added emphasis on his theology of revival — specifically on what Finney thinks can “bring” revival today?
Logically, Iain then moves on to the topic of man’s responsibility with regards to revivals, “Do revivals only come because of what man is doing?”. Iain fights for the reformed (and historical) understanding of revivals that revivals are not products of man but God, and God alone. However, Iain is able to balance with a clear emphasis on the responsibility of man. In this book, Iain argues for the reformed understanding of conversion and revival, christians would (and ought) to be the people who pray most fervently for revivals since God is the sole initiator of reviving people’s soul.
Next, Iain then talks about the work of the Holy Spirit within a revival, how he would work in the lives of these people and convert them, or create in them an awareness of their lostness in sin or created a deeper love for God within their hearts. Following which, Iain then elaborates on how christians should evaluate experiences, which is a topic that comes up often in revivals. Iain very helpful reminds readers that we have to ground all interpretation of experience from scriptures, and not from such experiences first. Which leads on to the next topic of fanaticism. Iain warns of the dangers of such experiences driven revivals, both because scriptures does not support it, and because history has shown it to be very unhelpful too. Lastly, Iain very helpfully summarise the 6 marks of true revival.
What is good within this book, is the amount of historical facts Iain is able to bring to the readers. Indeed Iain has made a convincing case, using what he has learnt from scripture and how that is supported by what has happened in history. If you hold to an alternative view of revival, or want to find out what he bible has to say about this topic, I strongly urge you to read this book. This would give you a strong grounding from the word of God, and also from church history, of the biblical understanding of revival.