A revival now would be a moral tragedy

A revival now would be a moral tragedy

Try to guess who wrote this and when.  I’ll reveal the answer in the comments

A religion, even popular Christianity, could enjoy a boom altogether divorced from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and so leave the church of the next generation worse off that it would have been if the boom had never occurred.  I believe that the imperative need of the day not simply revival, but a radical reformation that will go to the root of our moral and spiritual maladies and deal with causes rather than with consequences, with the disease rather than the symptoms.

It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all.  A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.

Here are my reasons.  A generation ago, as a reaction from Higher Criticism and its offspring, Modernism, there arose in Protestantism a powerful movement in defence of the historic Christian faith.  This, for obvious reasons, came to be known as Fundamentalism.  It was a more or less spontaneous movement without much organization, but its purpose wherever it appeared was the same: the stay “the rising tide of negation” in Christian theology and to restate and defend the basic doctrines of New Testament Christianity.  This much is history.

What is generally overlooked is that Fundamentalism, as it spread throughout the various denominations and non-denominational groups, fell victim to its own virtues.  The Word died in the hands of its friends.  Verbal inspiration, for instance (a doctrine which I have always held and do now hold), soon became afflicted with rigor mortis.  The voice of the prophet was silenced and the scribe captured the minds of the faithful.  In large areas of the religious imagination withered.  An unofficial hierarchy decided what Christians were to believe.  Not the Scriptures, but what the scribe thought the scriptures meant became the Christian creed.  Christian colleges, seminaries, Bible institutes, Bible conferences, popular Bible expositors all joined to promote the cult of textualism.  The system of extreme dispensationalism which was devised, relieved the Christian of repentance, obedience and cross-carrying in any other than the most formal sense.  Whole sections of the New Testament were taken from the church and disposed of after a rigid system of “dividing the Word of truth”. 

All this resulted in a religious mentality inimical to the true faith of Christ.  A kind of cold mist settled over Fundamentalism.  Below, the terrain was familiar.  This was New Testament Christianity, to be sure.  The basic doctrines of the bible were there, but the climate was just not favourable to the sweet fruits of the Spirit.

  1. #1 by Leighton Tebay on September 29, 2004 - 1:13 pm

    The quote is taken from “Keys to the Deeper Life” by A.W. Tozer written in 1957.

  2. #2 by Toni on September 29, 2004 - 2:50 pm

    The more things change etc etc.

    The world of the church that I entered in the later 70s was certainly generally cold and lifeless, with just a minority persuing God and a majority wondering why anyone could want to. The church landscape has changed somewhat, with it now being socially acceptable to ‘want to know more of God’.

    Interesting though. I was going to suggest some time in the early 80s, having considered that fundamentalism was something that I became involved in when it apparently still had a prophetic edge.

    Out of interest, where in the world was Tozer based?

  3. #3 by becky on September 29, 2004 - 4:28 pm

    Have you read/heard of Harry Emerson Fosdick? I’m reading about him now. He was a Modernist who pitted himself against the Fundamentalists way back when (and was probably a contemporary of Tozier’s!).

  4. #4 by Toni on September 30, 2004 - 6:03 am

    I’ve just re-read the title. I think Tozer did not understand the meaning of ‘revival’. He apparently perceived it as the influx of huge numbers of people, all conformed to the pattern handed to them by whatever church they entered. If I understand revival properly, it starts with the body of Christ, and then spreads into the world. I think we should be looking for revival in the church – the signs are an increase in passion for Jesus and an increased heart for the lost.

  5. #5 by Paul Johnston on September 30, 2004 - 9:13 am

    Is this a trick suppositon!! Tozier’s responses to his own speculations sound very Catholic. For me he reinforces the inherent dangers in over emphasizing the “word” in the expression of our faith. Language is the medium through which the “fallen creature” man, communicates. Spirit is the medium of the the perfect triune God.

    Born of the Spirit, made clean by self surrender through traditions, clothed in word. Amen.

  6. #6 by Toni on September 30, 2004 - 1:04 pm

    “made clean by self surrender through traditions”

    How can I resist a quote like that?

    Made clean through the blood of Jesus.

  7. #7 by Paul Johnston on September 30, 2004 - 1:18 pm

    Okay, you got me. How about kept clean.

  8. #8 by Toni on September 30, 2004 - 3:09 pm

    Not at all in my opinion, but you are perfectly entitled to feel differently about it.

  9. #9 by Leighton Tebay on September 30, 2004 - 5:51 pm


    Tozer was an American. He lived around Chicago I believe.

    His definition of revival fits the one I find in the dictionary. Later on he makes a distinction between any revival and true Christian revival.

  10. #10 by Toni on October 1, 2004 - 2:02 am

    Thanks LT.

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