Can revivalistic emotion and liturgical reverence co-exist? What about spontaneous worship and doctrinal carefulness? Yes, these can be part of the same religious experience–indeed, these seemingly contradictory elements coexisted at the very taproot of evangelical history. I explored this in a post on Christianity Today’s history blog:
Evangelicalism’s Hidden Liturgical and Confessional Past
by Chris Armstrong
The emotional energy of Cane Ridge and other early frontier revivals arose from a strong emphasis on the Eucharist.
Many evangelicals – especially younger ones – are today re-engaging tradition. Other evangelicals worry about this re-engagement. They feel that to move toward a more liturgical form of worship or a more fixed, detailed style of theological “confession” is to give up the freer, more emotional worship style or more grass-roots, straightforward doctrinal and theological style won for us by such evangelical forefathers as the 18th century’s John Wesley or the 19th century’s Charles Finney.
I want to suggest that one way forward to healthier engagement with tradition for modern-day evangelicals is through a look at our own recent past. For American revivalism itself grew on unexpected foundations of liturgy and doctrinal confession. Continue reading
Posted in Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Calvinism, Cane Ridge revival, confessionalism, early republican era, Eucharist, evangelicalism, liturgy, Methodism, Presbyterianism, revivalism, Richard Lovelace, Tradition
Francis Asbury WAS, in many senses, early American Methodism. Here’s my recent interview, for Christianity Today, with historian John Wigger, who has written a fascinating biography of this man, who was better known in his time than any other public figure in America.
John Wigger explains how Francis Asbury left his fingerprints all over American Christianity.
Interview by Chris Armstrong
Flash back to 1776 and consider the celebrities of the time: George Washington, and maybe Thomas Jefferson. Believe it or not, the horseback-riding preacher and leader of early Methodism, Francis Asbury, would have been more recognizable face to face than these leaders or anyone else of his generation. Chris Armstrong, associate professor of church history at Bethel Seminary, interviewed historian John Wigger about the imprint Asbury left on America, which Wigger details in American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists (Oxford University Press).
What did Francis Asbury do that American Christians today should appreciate? Continue reading
The 300th anniversary of John Wesley’s birth took place a few years ago, in 2003. For the occasion, I reflected on this famous British religious leader’s enduring legacy “across the pond,” here in the U.S. Interestingly, Wesley’s one ministerial experience this side of the Atlantic went hardly better than Edwards’s. However, and despite the fact that he spent very little time here, Wesley is arguably one of the two or three most influential leaders in American history. (Much of that influence came through the conduit of his indefatigable American bishop, Francis Asbury–my next post will talk about Asbury.) As usual, I can’t vouch that all the links are still active, but a quick Google search will turn up most anything you’d like to know about the extraordinary Mr. Wesley:
How John Wesley Changed America
Why should Wesley’s 300th birthday be a red-letter day on this side of the ocean?
The world is now marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Wesley with celebrations, conferences, publications, and many other commemorations. (For trivia buffs and sticklers: The actual day of Wesley’s birth was June 17 or June 28, 1703, depending on whether you follow the “old style” calendar in use before 1752 or the “new style” calendar used after that year.) But Americans may wonder, What difference did Wesley make to our country? After all, while he served as a parish minister in Savannah, he didn’t last two years in the post before incurring the colonists’ wrath and before returning to England. Continue reading
Posted in Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Arminianism, camp meetings, Chautauqua, evangelicalism, Francis Asbury, holiness, John Wesley, Methodism, Pentecostalism, revivalism, Sunday school movement, Victorian era
It didn’t really come into focus for me until I was working on the Christian History issue on him: the Puritan theologian and revivalist Jonathan Edwards really was one of the two fathers of modern evangelicalism (interestingly, the other was the Arminian John Wesley). With some help from the work of historian Mark Noll, I explored Edwards’s influence in the editor’s note of that issue.
[For a few reflections on what Edwards could still mean to the church today, see this post. On Edwards as the original “ancient-future” evangelical, see here. On his ouster from his own church, this one.]
Jonathan Edwards: From the Editor – Papa Edwards
Conversion. Revival. Biblical authority. A warm-hearted faith touching all areas of personal and social life. Billy Graham believes in these things. So did Billy Sunday, D. L. Moody, and Charles Finney. And so do countless others today who would place themselves in the Protestant family tree most often termed “evangelical.”
If you had to put someone at the very root of this tree, who would it be? Continue reading
As mentioned in the last post, Jonathan Edwards got thrown out of his own church. Nonetheless, he remains an important pastor-figure for today. Why? 2003 was the 300th anniversary of Edwards’s birth (he was born the same year as his co-conspirator in the birth of evangelicalism, John Wesley), and I reflected on the impact of Edwards on my own life, and his importance to the church. (What is Edwards’s claim on the title “father of evangelicalism”? See here. Why did he get kicked out of his own church? Here. How was he the original “ancient-future” evangelical? Here.)
300-Year-Old Man Returns to Lead His Church
Evangelicals need this grandfather figure more than ever.
By Chris Armstrong | posted 12/05/2003
A recent article by Jay Tolson in U.S. News has reminded me of one of the strangest and most rewarding friendships I have ever enjoyed—one that continues today.
He was a Puritan theologian who had been dead for several centuries and was still known more for his subtle and extensive work in academic philosophy than for his connection with America’s first “revival”—the so-called Great Awakening.
I was a young, newly minted, twentieth century Christian in a Pentecostal church, who had spent much of the previous year basking in a sequence of Spirit-led encounters with the living God. Continue reading