Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Reformed Response to the Asbury University Revival


A Reformed Response to the Asbury University Revival

by Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.


2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)

14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.


Because of all the recent publicity I have decided to write a brief response to the popular revival which is currently in progress at Asbury University, formerly known as Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky.  But first a little background information about myself and my history with Asbury Theological Seminary.  I was a master of divinity student at Asbury from 1992 to 1995.  Before that I earned my bachelor of arts degree with major in pre-seminary and a minor in systematic theology at Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God, Lakeland, Florida in 1991.  Southeastern also changed its name to Southeastern University.  It seems to be a trend to downplay denominational affiliations but the basic theology of both Asbury and Southeastern remains, in the former case Wesleyan holiness movement and in the latter case classical Pentecostalism from an Assemblies of God perspective.

Both Southeastern University and Asbury Theological Seminary are in line with an Arminian doctrinal stance.  In fact, most of the classical Pentecostal denominations are an outgrowth from the theological roots of the Wesleyan holiness movement and some subsequent influence from Reformed versions of the holiness movement by way of the Keswick holiness movement and the Higher Life holiness movement.  The Anabaptist influence is involved after certain holiness groups moved on from the Wesleyan view of entire sanctification as a second definite “work” of grace to embrace supernatural empowerment for witness as part of that second work of grace.  Of course, some Pentecostal denominations add the supernatural empowerment for service as a third work of grace instead of combining it with the second work of grace in entire sanctification.

The Assemblies of God holds to two definite works of grace, namely salvation being the first work of grace and the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the second definite work of grace that would include both entire sanctification and the empowerment for supernatural gifts necessary for evangelism and world missions.  (Acts 1:8).  The other major Pentecostal denomination is the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee.  The Church of God holds that there are three definite works of grace:  salvation, entire sanctification, and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

The history behind revivals in the United States is too long to go into here.  But suffice it to say that as far as I can tell only one of those revivals had any significant Reformed theologians involved and even then only two of the ministers were Calvinists, namely Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.  The First Great Awakening was initiated when a Calvinist and Reformed Puritan pastor named Jonathan Edwards read his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.  The Anglican ministers, John Wesley and George Whitefield, were also included in the First Great Awakening.  Although Wesley and Whitefield were both Methodists, Wesley was a radical Arminian while Whitefield was a moderate Calvinist who tried to get along with John and Charles Wesley.

Moreover, the Wesley brothers were self-avowed enemies of more consistent Calvinists like Augustus Toplady, who translated the Italian theologian, Jerome Zanchius’s work, The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination.  John Wesley hated Calvinism so much that he took one of Toplady’s tracts and abridged it with all kinds of critical interpolations inserted and then rewrote the end of the tract with a sentence that Wesley wrongly attributed to Toplady.  The tract was really a strawman argument against Toplady’s Calvinist position.  Wesley then signed the tract as the Reverend Mr. A.T.  Toplady’s response in a letter written to Mr. Wesley points out two egregious emendations and interpolations. 

As an instance of your want of honour, veracity, and justice, I refer to the following paragraph, 1. as published by me; and 2. as quoted by you.

1.  " When all the transactions of providence and grace are wound up in the last day, he (Christ) will then properly sit as judge, and openly publish, and solemnly ratify, if I may so say, His everlasting decrees, by receiving the elect, body and soul into glory: and by passing sentence on the non-elect (not for having done what they could not help, but) for willful ignorance on divine things and their obstinate unbelief; for their omissions of moral duty, and for their repeated iniquities and transgressions." Doctrine of Absolute Predestination.

2.  "In the last day Christ will sit as Judge and openly publish and solemnly ratify his everlasting decrees, be receiving the elect into glory, and by passing sentence on the non-elect (not for having done what they could not help, but) for their willful ignorance of divine things and their obstinate unbelief; for their omissions or moral duty, and for their repeated iniquities and transgressions which they could not help." Wesley Abridgment, p. 9.  [Italics in paragraph 2 indicate Wesley’s interpolation].

Whether my view of the doctrine itself be, in fact, right or wrong is no part of the present enquiry: the question is, have your quoted me fairly? Blush, Mr. Wesley, if you are capable of blushing. For once publicly acknowledge yourself to have acted criminally: "unless", to use your own words on another occasion, "shame and you have shook hands and parted."  Your concluding paragraph, which you have the effrontery to palm on the world as mine, runs thus:

"The sum of all this: one in twenty (suppose) of mankind are elected; nineteen in twenty are reprobated. The elect shall be saved, do what they will; the reprobate shall be damned, do what they can. Reader, believe this, or be damned. Witness my hand, A T."

In almost any other case, a similar forgery would transmit the criminal to Virginia or Maryland, if not to Tyburn. If such an opponent can be deemed an honest man, where shall we find a knave? - What would you think of me, were I infamous enough to abridge any treatise of yours, sprinkle it with interpolations, and conclude it thus:

“Reader, buy this book, or be damned. Witness my hand, John Wesley?"

And is it thus you contend for victory? Are these the weapons of your warfare? Is this bearing down those who differ from you with meekness? Do you call this binding with cords of love? Away, for shame, with such disingenuous artifices. At least, endeavor to conceal that narrow sectarian spirit, which betrays itself more or less in almost every thing you write. Renounce the low serpentine cunning, which puts you on falsifying what you find yourself unable to refute. 

(Toplady to Wesley).

The point being made is that the vitriolic relationship between the Wesleyan Arminians and classical Calvinists continues to this day.  When I was a seminary student the claim was often made that Wesley was a genius at preserving the results of the revivals held in open fields because Wesley created classes where new converts could study the Bible and Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons where his theology was formally outlined in the form of sermons, while Whitefield was not so organized and had less lasting effects from his outdoor preaching.

Be that as it may, the vitriol of the Wesley’s towards Toplady continues to this day in the way the Wesleyan holiness and Pentecostal holiness preachers and theologians respond to the more logical and propositional approach of classical and traditional Calvinists. The same can be observed from the Free Will Baptists and the Southern Baptists who have forgotten that the Southern Baptist Convention was once a solidly Calvinist denomination.

Unfortunately, much of the First Great Awakening was characterized by emotionalism and what Wesley called enthusiasm.  Even Wesley recognized that this sort of response would be short lived.  In fact, Wesley wrote and entire sermon criticizing the enthusiasts, namely the Anabaptists.

18. A second sort of enthusiasm is that of those who imagine they have such gifts from God as they have not. Thus some have imagined themselves to be endued with a power of working miracles, of healing the sick by a word or a touch, of restoring sight to the blind: yea, even of raising the dead -- a notorious instance of which is still fresh un our own history. Others have undertaken to prophesy, to foretell things to come, and that with the utmost certainty and exactness. But a little time usually convinces these enthusiasts. When plain facts run counter to their predictions, experience performs what reason could not, and sinks them down into their senses.

Sermon 37, The Nature of Enthusiasm.  Acts 26:24.

Wesley’s sermon also goes through a series of false conversions, which also could be applicable to the current revival at Asbury University.  But this kind of enthusiasm was not unique.  The same kind of emotionalism resulted from Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, because the sermon struck fear into those who were unsure of their salvation.  The difference is that the Puritans never claimed to have recovered the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit while the Anabaptists of Wesley’s day were making those kinds of claims.  As you can see from the above and from the whole sermon, Wesley would not have approved of the Asbury revival, especially if he saw some of the exorcisms that have been reported. 

I cannot speak for the entire revival because I have not watched any significant amount of the live feed of the events occurring there.  However, I did see enough of at least one evening that lasted several hours to discern that the entire evening was devoted to singing the charismatic praise songs and that there was a numerous amount of shouting and hand waving and clapping.  I did not observe any preaching when I fast forwarded through the hours long service.  The Jon Harris video did show a brief session where a young minister preached from a basic text and that is about as much as I could observe. 

As far as I can tell the revival is just what I would characterize as a recycling of the saints with little to no outreach to unchurched people who have never believed the Gospel.  Of course, with Arminians this is nothing new.  At least Wesley was able to establish classes for new believers to help preserve the results of his field preaching and his circuit rider preachers.  From all appearances the Asbury revival seems to be characterized by the enthusiasts, though I do not doubt that there are some genuine testimonies of those who have repented of serious and egregious sins as one young lady testified that she had rejected homosexual or lesbian sins.  But the question is whether or not there is any serious preaching against sin?  Another question is why are Christians from all over the country and the world coming to Asbury to witness the revival?  Why is there no real outreach to unbelievers?

These kinds of things have been going on for almost 200 years.  One example from history would be the Cane Ridge, Kentucky revival of 1801.  The meetings were inter-denominational and part of the Second Great Awakening.  The meetings were sponsored by the Presbyterians but there were Methodists and Baptists in participation as well.  At the end of the meeting there was an interdenominational communion service.  The Cane Ridge revival downplayed doctrinal differences and emphasized unity and the emotional responses of the crowds.  Although the results of the meetings were initially positive, I am critical of the revival because it gave rise to several heretical movements including the Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ.  The Disciples of Christ focuses mostly on the communion of believers apart from any doctrinal commitments whatsoever.  That denomination today is almost totally liberal in theology and practice with no Evangelical doctrinal standards whatsoever.  The Church of Christ rejects the Old Testament books of the Bible and the CoC is sectarian in that they also reject any fellowship with other Christian denominations.  The CoC is heretical on the issue of Pelagianism because rejects original sin, total depravity and justification by faith alone.

Another result of the Cane Ridge revival was the participation of Charles Finney, who was later ordained as a Presbyterian but who had little to no theological training or knowledge due to his legal background.  Finney also rejected the doctrine of original sin and total depravity, both of which are integral to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.  In short, Finney was for all practical purposes a Pelagian heretic.  It was Finney who is considered one of the precursors to the later Wesleyan holiness movement and subsequently the Pentecostal revival that began at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles on April 9th, 1906 where a black holiness pastor named William J. Seymour presided.

The problem of deprecating the more logical approach of classical Calvinism continues today.  Recently a sermon by Dr. Derek Thomas of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina took aim at the cerebral and intellectual aspect of Presbyterianism.  But I would ask is why criticize what is the greatest strength of Calvinism, namely its strict adherence to logic, rationalism, and reason as the key to understanding and applying the propositional statements in the Holy Scriptures?  Proper and correct thinking is basic to understanding the Scriptures, especially the logical principle of contradiction.  If Christianity is just about emotional responses to persuasive preaching, we are in very deep trouble.  Persuasion that is not based on a solid and rational exegesis of Scripture may move the audience emotionally—which can be purely manipulative—but does it contradict the plain and clear teaching of Scripture?  Perspecuity of Scripture matters when one is dealing with important doctrinal issues and it must be remembered that the whole Bible can be summarized into a systematic arrangement of the propositions within the Scriptures because God does not breathe out contradictions, antinomies, lies, or errors.

The Asbury revival is not biblical because it was basically just a 24 hour a day praise and worship service among the Arminians and the Charismatics and Pentecostals.  It produced no real revival of conversions in the nation at large.  Basically, sugar coating apostasy does nothing but hide the truth.  For there to be a real revival, the thinking of the public must be affected towards a more biblical and Christian worldview, especially in the realm of morality and ethics.  As it stands now our legal and political system is dominated by postmodernism and relativism such that murdering unborn babies, who are the image of God, means nothing to them.  The LGBTQIA+ ideology is now promoting the mutilation of children to produce future objects of perversion for the homosexuals and cross dressing drag queens and surgically altered homosexuals who wish to masquerade as the opposite biological sex.  This is a demonstration that the doctrine of the so-called “reformed” doctrine of common grace and the postmillennialism of the theonomists is a losing theology that leads to compromise and apostasy not only of nations but of reformed denominations.  If there is to be a revival that is true to Scripture, then the reformed denominations need to repent and return to their classical foundations.  If the current trajectory continues, there will be only a small remnant of true visible churches left.




No comments:

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.