Book Review - Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition


Pentecostal Outpourings

Smart, Robert Davis, Michael A. G. Haykin, and Ian Hugh Clary, eds. Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016. ISBN 9781601784339. 280 pages.

Nearly all Christians say that they desire “true revival,” but few agree on what that phrase means. Evangelicals sometimes distinguish between “revival” and “reformation,” associating the former with individual spiritual renewal (usually through mass conversions) and the latter with outward societal change. Furthermore, many evangelicals will contrast “true (or genuine) revival” with “false revival.” Iain Murray captures this contrast in his well-known work entitled Revival and Revivalism. What is it that distinguishes between true revival and the excesses of revivalism? Should Christians pray for revival? How should they seek it, and what should they expect when it comes?

These questions are particularly vexing for those within the Reformed tradition. Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition brings together a coterie of Reformed historians to argue that true revival is not merely compatible with Calvinistic theology, but that historical revivals have been heavily influenced by Reformed preaching and represents a consistent understanding of the true gospel. Despite the real and lasting results of these revivals, the historical record is difficult to interpret because true revivals have often included mixed reports of unnerving enthusiasm or manipulative revivalistic tactics. Parsing these confusing elements requires a foundational understanding of true revival, defined as follows by Robert Davis Smart in the introduction:

Pentecostal Outpourings demonstrates that revival is a sovereign gift from God in which, for a special season, His normal and true work of advancing His kingdom is sped up or quickened so that more is accomplished through His servants in a shorter period of time. Revivals cannot be merited by us but have been secured by another—Jesus Christ. Jesus tells His disciples that His righteous life and atoning death won for us “the promise of My Father” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). When Jesus ascended to the Father and sat down at the right hand of God, He poured out His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This once-for-all historical and redemptive event was not the last time Christ poured out His Spirit in redemptive history. Subsequent outpourings of the Holy Spirit, working by and with the Word, are reviewed in this volume in order that we may seek God earnestly to revive His church once again soon.

Each chapter in Pentecostal Outpourings focuses on the history of revivals within a particular area and denominational tradition and is written by a specialist. As a result, the chapters provide detailed and reliable historical scholarship tracing the impact of revivals, usually beginning with the “Evangelical Revival” or “Great Awakening” and carrying forward through twentieth century. In some cases, chapters conclude with an extended theological analysis of the historical events (e.g., the chapter by Eifon Evans on the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists). Each well-written chapter includes numerous historical examples from individual conversion narratives, the writings of revival preachers, and contemporary historical records. A few of these memorable stories include the remarkable revival stirred by the harsh preaching of “crazy James Glendinning” in Ireland, the eventual misappropriation of Jonathan Edwards’s revival apologetic by later revivalists, and Andrew Fuller’s growth out of hyper-Calvinism to the zealously evangelistic Calvinism that eventually led to William Carey’s missionary endeavors. Of course, these are but a few highlights, and the time would fail me to tell you about the countless ordinary believers who came to lasting faith in Christ through the revival preaching that is recounted in this volume. To fully appreciate these revival stories, you just have to read the book.

Many similarities stand out in these accounts of revivals which took place in vastly different locations, among divergent denominational traditions, and at different times. It is immediately obvious that true revival is no respecter of denominations. It occurs, often without warning or harbinger, wherever and whenever God pleases according to His sovereign plan. Genuine and lasting revival cannot be manufactured, yet many times it does occur amongst people who have earnestly prayed for it. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to distinguish between true revival and excessive emotional enthusiasm, which many times occur simultaneously. Careful pastors who are aware of this repeatedly seek to steer their people towards the Scriptures in an effort to curb excesses.

Those who read this book will be forced to reflect on their own relationship to God’s providential work. Evangelical Christians will come away from this work with a renewed longing for genuine revival, resulting in earnest prayer and renewed passion for faithful preaching and teaching of the Bible. But I suspect that even readers who are not evangelicals may be drawn to this volume, perhaps curious about evangelical claims of divine intervention. Although this book alone won’t be sufficient to overcome agnostic doubts, such readers will find such striking similarities in the genuine revival accounts that they may be driven further in a search to evaluate the claims of the Christian gospel itself.

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Table of Contents:

Preface — Steve Lawson
Introduction — Robert Davis Smart

  1. Revival in the British Isles
  1. “The Power of Heaven in the Word of Life”: Welsh Calvinistic Methodism and Revival — Eifon Evans
  2. “Melting the Ice of a Long Winter”: Revival and Irish Dissent — Ian Hugh Clary
  3. “The Lord Is Doing Great Things and Answering Prayer Everywhere”: The Revival of the Calvinistic Baptists in the Long Eighteenth Century — Michael A. G. Haykin
  4. Revival: A Scottish Presbyterian Perspective — Iain Campbell
  1. Revival in America
  1. Edwards’s Revival Instinctive and Apologetic in American Presbyterianism: Planted, Grown, and Faded — Robert Davis Smart
  2. “The Glorious Work of God”: Revival among Congregationalists in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries — Peter Beck
  3. Baptist Revivals in America in the Eighteenth Century — Tom Nettles
  4. Dutch Reformed Church in America (the 18th century) — Joel Beeke

A Concluding Word—A Call to Seek God for Revival Today — Robert Davis Smart

Editors and Contributors

  • Editors
    • Ian Hugh Clary is a research and teaching assistant and fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He lectures in church history at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, and in theology at Munster Bible College, Cork, Ireland, and is an associate minister at West Toronto Baptist Church, Toronto.
    • Michael A. G. Haykin is professor of church history and biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies based on the campus of Southern.
    • Robert Davis Smart is lead pastor of Christ Church of Bloomington, Illinois. He teaches part time at seminaries, with an emphasis on revival and spiritual formation.
  • Contributors
    • Peter Beck is associate professor of Christian studies and director of the honors program at Charleston Southern University. Additionally, he currently serves as lead pastor of Doorway Baptist Church in North Charleston, South Carolina.
    • Joel R. Beeke is the president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he also serves as professor of systematic theology and homiletics. In addition, he is a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation.
    • Iain D. Campbell is minister of Point Free Church of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis. Eifion Evans is a retired Presbyterian minister, having pastored churches in Wales and Northern Ireland.
    • Tom Nettles is a retired professor of historical theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He presently serves as senior professor of historical theology.

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