For the past couple of weeks, we've all been seeing a lot of discussions on social media regarding what started on February 8 at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. Some have called it a revival, others have called it a spiritual renewal, and others have simply named it a surprising move of God. Debates over what to call it have often had to do with whether or not it fulfills certain definitional lists of characteristics, and usually the debaters' lists don't include all of the same elements.
But here, I want to go past the arguments over which term is most accurate, and get to a more fundamental question: Is what is happening from God?
One side takes a position that I would compare to what is known as the "Regulative Principle of Worship," which says that only things specifically commanded in Scripture are to be allowed in the worship services of Christian churches. Those who take this approach put together a (sometimes extensive) list of characteristics of "true revival" or something "being of God." Before they will accept that something is a move of God, they want to see each and every one of those items checked off the list.
The alternative view to the "Regulative Principle of Worship" says that unless something is explicitly prohibited in Scripture, it can be used in the worship of God. When it comes to revivals and outpourings, people who take this approach are willing to accept that what is happening is from God unless something takes place that would point to it being fake or otherwise not of God.
These two positions might also be comparable to a hermeneutic of suspicion and a hermeneutic of trust, respectively, when dealing with the text of the Bible.
In general, I try to take the latter of the two approaches. God is not obligated to meet my expectations when He chooses to move on people. When Jesus walked the hills of Judea in the first century, He did lots of things the religious leaders of His day weren't expecting, and did not do many of the things they had on their Messianic checklist (at least He didn't do them at His first coming). But Christ never violated God's word revealed through Moses and the other prophets of the First Testament (though He did go against others' interpretations of the Torah at times).
So is what has been going on at Asbury of God? I haven't seen anything yet that violates Scripture. Admittedly, I have not visited Wilmore to witness the events first-hand. But many people I trust have been at ground zero, and based on their eyewitness testimony (I have put links to several articles and videos below), I have no reason to doubt this is genuine.
As my friend Dr. Randy Jumper said, “One way to know God is moving is when people are throwing rocks in His name.”
And to quote C. S. Lewis, "Aslan is on the move!"
From New Testament scholar Dr. Craig S. Keener:
Opinion: What is Revival—and is it Happening at Asbury?
The outpouring at Asbury University: Responding to a critic (1 of several articles on his blog, you can follow that link to find the others)
Asbury Outpouring: I never saw THIS before
Answering critics of the Asbury Revival
From Dr. Thomas McCall:
Asbury Professor: We’re Witnessing a ‘Surprising Work of God’
From Dr. Ben Witherington III
From Dr. Fred Sanders and Dr. Joe Henderson
Dr. Thomas Lyons
Pastor Jordan Evans
Spirited #REVIVAL: Thoughts on the Asbury Revival w/ Pastor Jordan Evans
Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary
It is a miracle when God meets someone dramatically at an altar; it's also a miracle when someone dedicates themselves to commit the time to study church history and theology.
Interviewed by Walter Kim, opresident of the National Association of Evangelicals
Conversation between Alisa Childers, Dr. Timothy Tennent, and Dr. Gavin Ortlund on Unbelievable with Justin Brierly
"And they need to be discipled. That's why I said I call it an awakening. A revival is something that only happens over time. Wesley connected it to deep discipleship and the work of God. That's why our revivalist founder, a hundred years ago, started a seminary. Because it can't be simply altar experiences. Ultimately, it has to be life-changing transformation in our lives -- how we live, how we think -- conforming to the word of God in all that we are and all that we do." -- Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary
ANALYSIS: Four things Asbury students want you to know
Premiere Christianity Magazine
Reformed blogger Tim Challies
It seems to me that news of an outbreak of revival is best met with a guarded optimism. We don’t need to be naive but also don’t need to be incredulous. And if that revival begins in a tradition very different from our own (though of course one that acknowledges the gospel) we should perhaps be especially glad and hopeful, for it is good to be reminded that God is at work in many different places and through many different people. Speaking personally, I would like my first instinct to be “Praise God” rather than “Fat chance!”
Some reflections on Asbury from Dr. Yoon Shin, a Pentecostal professor of philosophy
"Revival is a corporate, intensely experiential event [my addition: effected by the work of God through the Holy Spirit in renewing the works of love for God and others, often in response to a crisis moment] that creates and renews religious feeling and expression in pronounced ways."
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