What are we to make of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”? (This post makes much more sense if you’ve read the last—http://theoldpreacher.com/the-west-coast-rumble/). Are they “for real”—a genuine work of God the Holy Spirit, or of the devil, or of human origin? I’m not sitting in judgment. I want to know so we can praise God for what he’s doing and pray for revivals or steer clear because he’s not doing it.
Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century Christian preacher and theologian. He “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards), He “was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s” (http://www.theopedia.com/jonathan-edwards).
By this he means, “what are not evidences that a work is not from the Spirit of God.” In other words, if every person turns purple, that doesn’t prove this “revival” is not from God’s Spirit.
I. Very unusual and extraordinary ways of doing things. If the method of the meetings is unusual and extraordinary that doesn’t mean the Spirit isn’t at work (as long as the method is not contrary to Scripture). We can’t evaluate events by what we’ve been used to, because God may work in new and extraordinary ways “to surprise both men and angels.”
II. “Tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of the body, or the failing of bodily strength” and similar “bodily effects.” Because Scripture gives no such rule, these behaviors are not evidence this is not of God.
III. “A great concern, strong affection, and a general engagement of mind” doesn’t prove the Spirit is not at work. It’s human nature to be “turned on” about something important and meaningful. So, unless this causes “a notable, visible and open commotion and alteration amongst [the] people”, this does not indicate that the work is not of God’s Spirit.
IV. Many have great impressions made on their imaginations is not a sign the work is not from the Spirit. “Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible, without a degree of imagination . . . And the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong the imaginary idea will ordinarily be . . . It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven and there saw glorious sights.”
V. Means are used in producing it. This does not prove that the work is not of the Spirit. “Means” are “the medium by which something is accomplished.” God uses the “means” of his Word to reveal himself to us. God uses the “means” of music to raise our affections for him. God may also use the example of someone expressing great joy or, at the other extreme, terrible torment to convey his message.
VI. Many “are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct”. These behaviors do not signify the Spirit is not at work. “Is it no wonder that, in a mixed multitude of all sort–wise and unwise, young and old, of weak and strong natural abilities, under strong impressions of mind–there are many who behave themselves imprudently?” The church at Corinth, full of the Spirit and, at the same time, of ungodly conduct, is a prime New Testament example. The weakness of human nature and residual sin can prompt foolish behavior, even when God’s Spirit is present.
VII. Many errors in judgment and some deception of Satan are found in the work. Such activity doesn’t mean that the work in general is not of the Spirit. It appears the devil’s actions increased when Christ came to earth. “It is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the christian church . . . Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.”
VIII. Some fall into disgusting errors or scandalous behavior. This is no argument that the work in general is not of the Spirit. Counterfeits don’t mean nothing is true. “Such things are always expected in a time of reformation”. The heretics who attacked the church throughout her history are a classic example. The classic biblical example is Judas.
IX. It seems to be promoted by leaders who magnify the terrors of God’s holy law. This doesn’t imply the work is not from the Holy Spirit. “Why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men [aware] of [hell’s torments]? The reverse is also true. If leaders are captivated by the glories of Christ and the world to come, we’d expect them to be passionate and animated about them.
What do these negative signs indicate about the authenticity of “The West Coast Rumble” and similar “revivals”? Do they indicate they’re works of the Holy Spirit or not? We may say, “I’m 3000 miles away. What difference does it make to me here?” We read about such revivals in books or see and hear their meetings online. Discernment, then, is important for us all.
Of course. we can’t make a final evaluation until we read Edwards’ positive signs. These come next time.