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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Clinton Presidency and the Possibility of Revival.



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Hillary Clinton could well be our next president. This is horrifying to many conservative and Evangelical Christians. Indeed, there is much spiritual danger to Christians from a Liberal Supreme Court. Certainly the radical pan-sexuality of recent decades will continue under a Clinton administration. Some Christians are speaking and writing as if this is the definite end of the USA as we know it. That is possible – many things are possible, but it is by no means a given. And the fear, may I say hysteria, in some of the Christian press and blogs are quite high. [1]  

In a fair, and in fact wonderful, interview on NPR radio (Oct. 16) Max Lucado said that the worst thing about the election is that Christians have lost much of their joy by fretting over the poor choice they have this election and its possible aftermath.[2] Beth Moore wrote in her blog that God will still be on his throne the day after election day – probably a revelation to many.[3]

What is missing in most Evangelical and Spirit-filled Christians is a trust in the power of prayer. God can send revival to shake and change a nation, even when it has fallen to a low state such as we have experienced in the last decades.
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Let me give a historical example, the election of 1800. That election pitted President John Adams, running for his second term, and leader of the Federalist Party, against Thomas Jefferson, leader of the Democratic-Republican party. Adams was, solidly pious and orthodox. Jefferson was none of those things. In fact, he was a Deist who believed in a God “out there” who did not interfere in creation, i.e. miracles did not happen, even the ones in the Bible.  Jefferson famously took a Bible and cut out all of its miracles, leaving Jesus as a nice moral teacher. 

Image result for thomas jeffersonFurther, Jefferson was an early advocate of the French Revolution, and still supported it when it turned violent. Adams and most traditional Christians were aghast that the French Revolution had morphed into its terror, guillotine, and a fiercely anti-Christian stand. 

In the campaign if 1799 the Federalists made much of Jefferson’s radicalism and assured everyone that if he won American would become just like France, guillotines in Washington, women raped in the streets, ministers killed and churches burned down. How is that for catastrophic expectations? The Federalist campaign propaganda seems funny to us today, but it was deadly serious then.

That Christian propaganda was not prophetic. In fact, Jefferson is today ranked as a “pretty good” (but not great) president. He did not import any guillotines, and the morality of the country did not fall apart.  

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Spiritually, Jefferson’s Deist beliefs had little influence on the religious atmosphere in America. Rather Americans experienced the Second Great Awakening (1799-1820+), which transformed the nation into a majority Evangelical nation and practically knocked out Deism. Since Deism is a demonic idea with “principalities and powers” under-girding it, it never really disappears but lingers in individual persons, as in the village atheist, or in seminaries as liberal theology, Unitarian Churches, etc.

The Second Great Awakening flowered during the Jefferson administration. It began on the American frontier starting 1798 or so, caught fire in 1799, and had its greatest single revival event in 1801 at Cane Ridge, Tennessee. The revival at Cane Ridge attracted perhaps 30,00 folks and practically emptied the Tennessee frontier.
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The Second Great Awakening invented the “Camp Meeting” where people came together in open fields and brought wagons and tents and food to stay a few days.[4] The best thing is that the camp meeting idea spread, and soon the Methodists and Baptist were all having “camp meeting” in many locations. Revival fervor and spiritual phenomenon such as the “falling” (being slain in the Spirit) spread through the country. The end result was that church-going increased from about 17% in the 1780s to over 40% by the 1820s.

Thomas Jefferson had no clue as to what happening to the USA spiritually.  He died in his belief that “fanatical” (i.e. Evangelical) Christianity would disappear in a generation. The last laugh was on him!

In fact, the highly evangelical Methodist denomination took to camp meetings like a duck to water, and with the camp meetings used as an evangelical event, experienced its greatest growth. Methodism became the major Protestant denomination in America by the Nineteenth Century. The Methodists continued to be an evangelical and revival denomination (“Shouting Methodists”) until the seminaries poisoned their graduates with various liberal types of theology (Deism reincarnated as “Death of God” theology, Liberation theology, etc., in the Twentieth Century.

Back to the Second Great Awakening. Without taking away anything from the sovereignty of God to bring revival to His church, it seems that there was a relationship between the Second Great Awakening and remnant, faithful congregations who prayed for revival all during the 1790s. These were mostly small frontier churches of Scottish Presbyterian origins. Some of the pastors had memories of the great Scottish revivals of the 1740s which culminated in the great Cambuslang revival of 1743, and they wanted the same for their new nation. Many prayed, "Come again as at Cambusland!"

Significantly, both the Scottish revivals and the Second Great Awakening were all deeply sacramental.[5] That is, they revolved around a three-day program of preaching, repentance and confession that culminated in a multi-denomination communion service on Sunday. After the 1820s that sacramental emphasis declined, and revivals centered on preaching and conversions.

The “take home” from this historical information is not that we are to be unconcerned about the possible continued Paganization of America under a Clinton administration. Certainly we must vote for and support local governors, congressmen and Senators who oppose this. But principally, we must regain our trust in prayer, particularly in united prayer, to bring about a new and great revival. One that would be as long lasting as the Second Great Awakening, and as powerful as the Azusa St. Revival of 1906 or the Welsh Revival of 1904. In the Welsh Revival God graciously sent his cloud of glory among the villages and towns in Wales which produced instant conversions. There are stories of men fleeing the glory cloud and warning their drinking buddies in the bars, “Run, or you’ll lose your ale!”[6]

We Christians, Evangelicals/Pentecostals/charismatics, had a strategy back in the 1980’s to take over the Republican party. We would then fill the Congress and courts with God-fearing Christians and reverse the forced secularization that has been afflicted on us since the 1960s, as in the end of prayer in schools.

That plot did not work. The Republican Party used its Christian base to achieve power, but instead pushed its own secular agenda of lower taxes and smaller government. These may be good ideas (or maybe not) but they are not intrinsically Christian.  In fact, in their Ayn Rand, libertarian form, these ideas have become an anti-Christian Trojan horse for Paganaization from a different direction.[7]

So by November 9th many Christians will find themselves with no political savior. (I presume Trump will be defeated and largely marginalized.) Thus they will have only God to rely on as savior of our nation. What be a splendid occasion and a wonderful opportunity for the cultivation of fervent, united prayer!

Let me suggest Christian communities go about praying for revival in a more disciplined and systematic way that what we are accustomed to. The remnant frontier communities of the 1790 did just that, setting aside special days for fasting and prayer for revival. Can we not organize “concerts of prayer” in which churches alternate hosting praise, prayer and intercession meetings for a group of united churches?

Hey, pastors out there. Make these meeting into a two or three-day event, with Holy Communion too, and we could very well have multiple Cane Ridges going on all over the country. Do we have faith to imagine some ACLU lawyer running up the steps of the Supreme Court and yelling, “Get out before the glory cloud hits, or you’ll make prayer legal in schools again!”


Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.





The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]




[1] See the October 2016 edition of Charisma Magazine, in which Steve Strang openly endorsed Donald Trump for president.
[2] See also, Christianity Today, “Max Lucado’s Hope for This Election Season,” Podcast, at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/local-church/2016/october/max-lucado.html?share=c0w2rNyimO34ujreVDuXaHcKdxLjVIvX
[3] Beth Moore, The LPM blog, The Scandel of Election 2016.” Posted October 18, 2016. http://blog.lproof.org/2016/10/the-scandal-of-election-2016.html
[4] I suggested in my book, Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revivals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), that the Holy Spirit inspired the camp meeting to have the same spiritual dynamics as the Jewish Feast of Booths. That is, people were taken out of their homes (their emblem of social standing) and shared food and learned the Word and worshiped together.
[5] On the Cane Ridge revival, see Paul Conklin’s. Cane Ridge: America’s Pentecost (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990), and on the Scottish revivals, Leigh Eric Schnidt, Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period (Princeton; Princeton University Press, 1990).  I excerpted as a blog post a chapter from my book Forgotten Power, on the Scottish communion revivals as a blog posting, “The Lord’s Supper and Revival: The Scottish Example.” Posted November 15, 2013. http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-lords-supper-and-revival-scottish.html?_sm_au_=iMH7PWP6VsP5WDn5
[6] On the Welch Revival, see Noel Gibbard, Fire on the Altar: A History and Evaluation of the 1904–05 Revival in Wales (Bridgend: Bryntirion Press, 2005).
[7] On this see my blog posting, The Anglican Pentecostal, “The Spiritual Decline and Fall of the Republican Party.” Posted April 6, 2016. http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-spiritual-decline-and-fall-of.html?_sm_au_=iMH7PWP6VsP5WDn5