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Old 02-04-2006, 07:02 PM   #1
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Evangelism and revivalism

I would like to start a discussion about Christian evangelism and revivalism.

I think most here would be aware of the Shalom group's influence on U2 and their music and Bono has talked about the revivalism that he came into contact with or experienced in Ireland in the late 1970's.

I have recently being reading a book called 'Not of this World - Evangelical Protestants in Northern Ireland' by Glenn Jordan which talks about the different approaches within Christian evangelism.

What are the causes which give rise to revivalist movements at particular points in time? Is it the influence of God through the spirit or can it be accounted for by strictly rationalist and societal explanations?

And how would people here define evangelists and/or evangelism?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revivalism
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Old 02-04-2006, 11:32 PM   #2
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I would not consider myself an evangelical or revivalist based on today's loaded definitions of those terms, but one of my favorite theologians, Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758, was an evangelical and revivalist (Great Awakening). As a staunch Calvinist, I've always struggled with the idea of Providence, election, and predestination (though most of my troubles were only because I didn't have the correct understanding of these terms that many people misinterpret). Edwards' A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746) completely changed the way I thought about freedom of the will/predestination. Out of all of the pieces of theology and philosophy I've read through years of Catechism training and taking theology courses, that single piece of writing is probably the most important to me theologically.

Growing up in a conservative religious community, I have a rather bias view of what is "evangelical". Here are some interesting definitions:

http://www.answers.com/evangelical&r=67

The one I think of is
Quote:
Of, relating to, or being a Christian church believing in the sole authority and inerrancy of the Bible, in salvation only through regeneration, and in a spiritually transformed personal life
By that definition, I'm not an evangelical. But by this broader definition, I would be:
Quote:
Of, relating to, or being a Protestant church that founds its teaching on the gospel.
One thing to note is that an "evangelical" and an "evangelist" are two different things. You can be both, but they're not the same word. To me an evangelist is someone who's spreading the gospel (usually in a context of missions), but I think of an evangelical as someone who is more focused on spirituality, personal conversion, and a more fundamentalist/inerrant view of Scripture. The thing I don't like about this concept of evangelicalism is that in many cases, the stress on personal converstion makes it seem that the worse of a person you were to being with makes your conversion more genuine. I don't like that. I hope that makes sense. What I mean is, like I said above, when I read that piece by Edwards, my entire life and my worldview completely changed, but even the people who know me best wouldn't have noticed on the outside, but just because there was no noticable change in my behavior doesn't mean that wasn't a genuine and significan conversion for me. Some evangelical denominations are so extreme that it's like you have to totally change your entire life in order to "prove" your conversion.

I don't think a single moment of conversion is that significant. I tend to focus more on following Christ's example of love and social justice and theologically focus on the supreme authority of God, rather than examine conversions and testimonials at length.
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Old 02-06-2006, 01:14 PM   #3
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Originally posted by financeguy
What are the causes which give rise to revivalist movements at particular points in time? Is it the influence of God through the spirit or can it be accounted for by strictly rationalist and societal explanations?
I don't know that these categories are mutually exclusive really--IMO, you can understand and analyze a particular revival movement within its socio-historic context (political ferment, social reform, reaction to the Enlightenment, struggles of the disadvantaged for justice, etc.) and still consider it as an example of God working through people.

When I was a kid back in Mississippi my family was invited on a few occasions to services at some of the local black churches to share in the weddings or funerals of black family friends. (No white people ever invited us.) I guess you could describe the style of their worship as revivalist. Certainly it was headily emotional, and many details reminded me of the fond reminiscences of "camp meetings" so memorably described by Maya Angelou and other Southern black writers. We were especially moved by the obvious deep emotional resonance they found in Old Testament narratives of the Jews as captives, exiles and wanderers. (And not just because of slavery and segregation--several of the older members had memories of fathers, uncles and so forth being lynched by the Klan, who were very much still a felt presence.) One of the churches--I can't remember the denomination--had "JUSTICE, JUSTICE SHALT THOU PURSUE" (Deut 16:20) emblazoned on the wall. The civil rights movement, of course, drew its lifeblood from such black churches.
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Old 02-06-2006, 09:37 PM   #4
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Wow. thoughtful intelligent discourse on evangelicalism and FYM goes snoooooooooooooooooooze.
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Old 02-06-2006, 11:35 PM   #5
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Originally posted by nathan1977
Wow. thoughtful intelligent discourse on evangelicalism and FYM goes snoooooooooooooooooooze.


It really is an interesting topic, especially the definition of what an evangelical is. I'm interested to know what makes an "evangelical" from the UK. I've studied theology and religious history at length, but all my courses tended to follow the development of the church as it came to the States and progressed here, so I know little about the contemporary Protestant denominations of western Europe.

Also, how do others perceive the difference between evangelism and evangelicalism?
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Old 02-06-2006, 11:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by nathan1977
Wow. thoughtful intelligent discourse on evangelicalism and FYM goes snoooooooooooooooooooze.


erm, what kind of reaction were you looking for?

i've read the thread, and i have nothing substansive to add. i've learned a few things.

what are you looking for? are you surprised that there's not more hate flowing? are you surprised that people are able to make distinctions between evangelicalism and the political manifestations of certain kinds of evangelicalism that make life miserable for many people? perhaps GIS is a better forum for this topic?

besides, it's been a slow day here anyway.
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Old 02-07-2006, 12:34 AM   #7
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Originally posted by Irvine511

are you surprised that people are able to make distinctions between evangelicalism and the political manifestations of certain kinds of evangelicalism that make life miserable for many people? perhaps GIS is a better forum for this topic?

Rules changed, GIS threads HAVE to be about U2/Bono.

I appreciate that first comment though, more than you'll ever know (cus a lot of people don't really know, sadly).
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Old 02-07-2006, 07:41 AM   #8
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Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic
Also, how do others perceive the difference between evangelism and evangelicalism?
Obviously I'm no expert on this topic but I have always understood "evangelist" to mean a preacher, and most particularly, the kind of preacher who in the old days led the sort of "camp meetings" I referred to above, and who nowadays might be epitomized by someone like Billy Graham. Then "evangelism" would be the movements inspired by these evangelists, and devoted to furthering their work of pulling in new converts (or bringing old ones back into the fold).

"Evangelicalism," on the other hand, I usually take to mean pretty much the first definition LivLuv quoted in her first post above. With particular emphasis on the "salvation only through regeneration" part. And maybe a footnote that both historically and nowadays, it's often been associated with a belief in and commitment to the application of religious values to social and political life (for better and for worse: abolitionism, prohibitionism, women's suffrage, pro-life, anti-gay-marriage, etc.).

And "revivalism," in case I didn't make it sufficiently clear above, I generally associate with a very emotional, demonstrative, sometimes maybe a tad eccentric style of worship, either as the normal practice of a particular community, or as an occasional dalliance of sorts to recharge the spiritual batteries. (I have a feeling this particular definition may unduly reflect my Southern roots, though.)

All that said, being Jewish, being raised in the Deep South, and having attended an old-fashioned Catholic high school (also in the Deep South) for two years, I have always found these concepts very slippery and hard to pin down the distinctiveness of. For example, at my Catholic high school there was a group of students who were into "evangelical Catholicism" (as I recall, they preferred the term "charismatics") who did laying on of hands and speaking in tongues and that kind of stuff. At the same time, they were almost pre-Vatican-II in their beliefs about how the Church should be. At the time I naively assumed this was a uniquely local thing, but then 15 years later, moving to the Midwest, I heard about an almost identical group here called the People of Praise.

And...eh...getting into murkier waters here, but like it or not, I got the decided impression growing up that black and white evangelicals had a decidely different tenor to their practice when it came to how their faith (maybe I should say their socio-religious identity? ) played itself out socially. White Baptists (they were pretty much all Baptists), though a minority in our town, very much saw themselves as the cultural standard-bearers and guardians of society (90% black, yet no black mayor until *1996*--long ugly story there, but I digress). They were the Label-Makers, the Fine-And-Upstanding-Citizens, and to put the kindest spin on it, the idealists where civic agendas (which were *always* couched in Biblical terms) were concerned. I can't speak to what "spiritually transformed personal life" meant to these folks, as the kind ones didn't talk much about it, and the less kind ones presumably weren't reflecting the best of whatever it was they experienced in church with their comments. Black Baptists, on the other hand (a few Methodists there too, I believe) seemed to be much more given to talking about mercy and repentance and justice. These are all baldfaced generalizations, of course, and it goes without saying that they're not a good basis for generalizing about the US overall--but my point is that for me, trying as anyone would to connect these abstract concepts (evangelists, evangelicalism) to what I've seen in my own life, and having lacked the benefit of living anywhere else more than a few years, I find all this stuff very confusing in terms of how what's implied by the formal definitions relates to the socially contextualized mess (I mean that affectionately) which you see in real life.

And "revivalism"--what does everyone else understand by that? I never really thought to associate that term with any kind of doctrinal or even proselytizing thing, the way I do with these other terms; I just thought of it as a style of worship that some groups dally in, either regularly or occasionally. I found it funny that the definition financeguy referenced, which otherwise mentions Christ or Christianity in pretty much every sentence, tossed this in as an aside:
Quote:
Indeed, there is a marked similarity to the experience of Israel during the period of the Judges in the Old Testament. The same cycle of sin and apathy, decline and defeat, desperate prayer for God's help and, finally, His powerful intervention, characterises every revival.
Because, all my literary-fueled romantic fantasies about those "camp meetings" aside, I really did find the charismatic and joyous way in which mercy and repentance were invoked in those churches we visited to be reminiscent of precisely that. And it didn't feel foreign to me at all. Singing some spiritual about Jericho, clapping and rocking back and forth--the accent was different, but the language seemed the same. Our rabbi pounded the pulpit and sweated too. And we also swayed and mumured when we prayed.
Quote:
Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic
I'm interested to know what makes an "evangelical" from the UK. I've studied theology and religious history at length, but all my courses tended to follow the development of the church as it came to the States and progressed here, so I know little about the contemporary Protestant denominations of western Europe.
I would also be interested to hear more about this. "Evangelical Protestants in Northern Ireland"--would that include someone like Ian Paisley? From what precious little I know about the man, my mind boggles trying to connect him to Billy Graham or Oral Roberts. And then there's the Welsh Methodist revival that Wikipedia mentions--wasn't that something much more austere, almost Puritan in some ways?

This stuff is interesting to me as much because of the worm's-eye view of *very* different social and historic moments it gives you, as for any purely theological reason. I don't suppose you can get into defining evangelicalism or revivalism at all, really, without hammering out a particular social context for it first.
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Old 02-07-2006, 09:35 AM   #9
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Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic


Rules changed, GIS threads HAVE to be about U2/Bono.

I appreciate that first comment though, more than you'll ever know (cus a lot of people don't really know, sadly).


you've been the only person who's ever explained the difference -- i can see how frustrating it can be for society at large to conflate the two, and you do a great job of expressing yourself.

(had no idea about the new GIS rule)
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Old 02-07-2006, 08:30 PM   #10
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Old 02-08-2006, 07:51 PM   #11
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Yolland,

Paisley is indeed mentioned in that Wikipedia link, but the majority of those evangelical Christians interviewed in the book I referred to would not have any time for the man. I don't even want to give him any more publicity to be honest so I'll leave it at that.

Interesting point you raise about evangelical Catholics - opinions within the broader evangelical movement seem to differ as to whether (any) Catholics could consider themselves evangelical, the more ecumenist oriented evangelical Protestants would say yes, others would say no.
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Old 02-08-2006, 08:56 PM   #12
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Well, what are some of the noteworthy features of Northern Irish evangelicalism as presented in that book you read, and what is your own take on the social and historic character of revivalism in Ireland? You managed to coax a couple of us, at least, into untying our tongues on the matter (not that I generally need much prodding for that ) but so far you haven't shared much of your own reckoning.

I think it is a fascinating topic, I'm a little surprised more posters haven't taken you up on it. Perhaps you didn't frame it provocatively enough. Of course, I can anticipate an ironic comeback to that . But I think no matter how much they resent it sometimes, most people in truth find it easier to respond to a threatened negative insinuation than they do to pull together a structured response to a non-loaded invitation to discussion.
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Old 02-08-2006, 08:59 PM   #13
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Originally posted by yolland
Well, what are some of the noteworthy features of Northern Irish evangelicalism as presented in that book you read, and what is your own take on the social and historic character of revivalism in Ireland? You managed to coax a couple of us, at least, into untying our tongues on the matter (not that I generally need much prodding for that ) but so far you haven't shared much of your own reckoning.

Well, primarily the reason I started the thread was to seek views from others particularly because I know little about the subject. I don't want to get into summarising or paraphrasing elements of the book at this point. I will try to form some coherent thoughts of my own and post them in a day or two.
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Old 02-09-2006, 12:22 AM   #14
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Sorry, I don't know the book you guys are talking about. Could someone tell me if the word "evangelical" as it applies to the denominations in Ireland and the UK has the same meaning as it does in the States? (fundamentalist/inerrant view of Scripture, focus on spiritual aspects, salvation only through regeneration, emphasis on testiomials and conversion experiences)

I think it's interesting to sort through loaded words like "evangelical" and "conservative". From my perspective and how I was raised and still taught in college, a "conservative" view of Scripture is actually one that would probably be consider more radical and liberal to non-Christians. For example, a theologically conservative interpretation of Communion/Eucharist/Lord's Supper says that children of ANY AGE should be invited to participate in the Sacrament. The idea that people must first finish a series of Catechism classes, meet with the reverend, and then speak before the Elders in order to qualify is NOT conservative, it's traditional. In the original Hebrew texts, this sacrament was intended for instruction, not graduation, and thus children would participate. Another example: based on Scripture, a conservative interpretation of the creation story in the Hebrew text would say that God did not create Eve from Adam, rather the couple was created at the same time and while in a trance, God then revealed the nature of human relationships to them. The traditional view teaches that God created Adam and then created Eve from Adam while he slept. Conservative theological interpretations of Scripture aren't really popular. It's the traditional views that get all the attention and labelled as "conservative".

Anyhow, sorry to get off on a tanget. Hopefully someone can answer my first question...
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Old 02-09-2006, 05:20 PM   #15
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Originally posted by LivLuvAndBootlegMusic
Sorry, I don't know the book you guys are talking about. Could someone tell me if the word "evangelical" as it applies to the denominations in Ireland and the UK has the same meaning as it does in the States? (fundamentalist/inerrant view of Scripture, focus on spiritual aspects, salvation only through regeneration, emphasis on testiomials and conversion experiences)
Yes my understanding is it would have the same meaning here.
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