Thursday, June 13, 2013

Burned Over?

There is an area in upstate New York called the "burned over district." During the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800's Charles Finney and his disciples preached many revival services there. Many "decisions" were made to follow Jesus.

Finney did not think the Holy Spirit was necessary for revival. The proper use of certain methods, he thought, would achieve the same results.

Altar calls (do you know why altars have no place in a Christian worship service?), the "anxious bench" for those on the verge of a decision, extended invitation hymns after the sermon.

As Finney predicted, there were results. The thing is without the Holy Spirit to call them and keep them, the results ended up being a mess. Churches were split. Ministers chased from pulpits. A "cold love" predominated among those who continued to attend services. Finney himself stated that many of those who had "made decisions" undoubtedly had not been saved. Really?

To this day the burned-over district has not seen a major movement of the Holy Spirit in bringing many to salvation.

Did you know that the Second Great Awakening  began not far from here in Gasper River, KY? What began as a "communion season" called by Pastor James McGready became a massive camp meeting, the first of many.

You really should read some of the accounts of these meetings and some of the carryings-on of the attendees. Wow. Have a look:

The point of all this rambling is to say that someone recently suggested to me that NW TN is itself a "burned over" district, as a result of this decades-long "revival."

I recently lent Michael Horton's "Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace," to a friend. When I later asked what he thought of it, he admitted he had not read it but only glanced over the chapter headings. He said, "That book is about 'election,' isn't it?"

I was too taken aback to point out that the whole Bible is about election: God's sovereign choosing of a people for Himself.

I know I shouldn't be surprised the Gospel is offensive. It just blows me away, the folks who are offended by it.

The people who will stand there flatfooted and call God unfair because He has chosen a people for himself (John 15:16). 

 I have memorized Job 38:4 to help curb my tendencies to second-guess the Judge of all the earth.

But this area? Me, I prefer to think it's not REALLY burned over. I believe the fire just needs stirring up a bit,

I can do that (by the sovereign grace of God).

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