The First 25 Years of My Christian Life in 1 Paragraph

Our eighth objection to this modern revival system, is that it is so largely built up on the excitement of the feelings. The first and great object of the revivalist seems to be to work directly on the emotional nature of his hearers. If he can stir the depths of the heart with pent-up emotions, if he can play upon its chords until they vibrate and tremble under his touch, until its hidden chambers ring again with responsive longings, until at last the repressed intensity breaks forth in overpowering excitement, he is considered a successful revival preacher. To reach this end the preaching is made up of exhortations, anecdotes and appeals. There are touching stories, calculated to make the tender-hearted weep. There are thrilling and startling experiences, calculated to frighten the more hard-hearted. There are lively, emotional songs, with stirring music, calculated to affect the nervous system and bring about strange sensations. And when the feelings are aroused, when the excitement is up, the hearers are urged to come forward, to go to the inquiry-room, to stand up, or do something to show that they are ready to take the decisive step.

The way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church

From here, the author reflects on the differences between the appropriateness of emotions in religious belief and the inappropriateness of emotionalism in religious belief. He also discusses the Lutheran contrast to the above, that believers are to be grounded in knowledge and understanding of the scriptures.

I recommend this short book. To this commentary, I can only add a couple brief comments.

Firstly, if one does not understand the scriptures and claims belief (pretty common, really), what does he believe? How can it be known that he believes in the God of the Bible?

Secondly, this underscores the necessity of a highly-educated clergy. While this has not been a problem in the specific FE churches I have attended (except where there have been interim pastors), I’m well aware of other FE churches in places I have lived where the lead pastors were not educated or have not been rigorously educated. Unfortunately, a handful of FE pastors I’ve had who were highly educated have not been highly educated in the doctrines of the Bible. It seems that many modern FE seminaries focus much more on social, psychological, economic, church growth, homiletics, or other topics rather than a deep study of the scriptures and the languages they were written in, in addition to deep history of Christian thought and belief. Without a rigorous education, FE clergy are left to lean on the emotionalism criticised above. This isn’t universal in FE churches, but it’s near-universal.

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2 thoughts on “The First 25 Years of My Christian Life in 1 Paragraph

  1. There’s nothing wrong with emotion per se in revival. Like falling in love, it’s a highly emotional thing, but may then be followed by marriage which can be years of hard work.
    I know many people who went through highly emotional conversions and who are still standing 30, 40, or 50 years later. It’s fine. It’s one way in. Not the only way in but one way in.

    • Thanks for your thoughts

      I would agree that there are people who experience highly emotional conversions and that this is fine. I disagree with the usage of the phrase “It’s one way in,” as if entry into the Kingdom of God can happen in one of several ways (hey, look; we disagree and can still get along!).

      This is a difference between Lutheran and FE understandings of conversion (no idea if you’re FE; I’m just drawing distinctions); Lutherans divorce the circumstances surrounding conversion from the mode thereof and we believe that there’s only one mode. We focus on Christ, his work, and his name given to us so that we are adopted as God’s sons with Christ as our brother. We don’t focus on the happenings of the conversion as though they have something to do with justification. This is a topic for another time, but I see the FE focus on the circumstances of conversion as a longing to fill a gap left from having no sacraments that actually mean something.

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