The Rise of Evangelicalism by Mark A. Noll

The Rise of Evangelicalism is the first in a series of five volumes dealing with the history of evangelicalism since the Great Awakening. Each volume will be authored by a different scholar and should be a valuable tool toward the understanding of recent church history in Great Britain and North America. In this particular volume Noll centers on the time of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and the Wesleys. He by no means fixates on these men alone, exploring many trails that help to define and shape what we call evangelicalism today. Noll is a careful church historian and an excellent writer. Great profit can be found in reading his works and this is no exception. I look forward to the next four volumes in the series, the second of which (The Dominance of Evangelicalism) is now in print....

The Quest for Revival by Ron McIntosh

The thesis of this book, written by a Pentecostal evangelist with strong ties to Oral Roberts, is that we can learn much, and be empowered by, the revivals of the past. The “revivals” that McIntosh has in mind, however, are the healing revivals of the twentieth century, principally those of the 1940s and 50s. The Quest for Revival chronicles the lives of the healing evangelists and gives brief histories of strong movements within Pentecostalism. While the book is a tragedy with regards to biblical truth there are two areas in which I give the author high marks. First, he provides an interesting, if biased, study of people and events related to the revivals under consideration. Secondly, McIntosh is willing to expose the failures of his heroes, even if his explanation for their failures misses the mark. Unless someone is doing research on this subject, The Quest for Revival can...

The Fundamentalist Movement 1930-1956 by Louis Gasper

Gasper has written a very useful and accurate description of the early years of the Fundamentalist movement spanning from the Fundamentalist-Modernists Controversy to the raise of evangelist Billy Graham. This volume explains well the issues, personalities, divisions, and evolution of the first three decades of Fundamentalism. It certainly filled in a lot of gaps in my understanding of the movement....

The Awakening in Wales by Jessie Penn-Lewis

Jessie Penn-Lewis was one of the major players during the Welsh Revival of 1904. While still in the wake of that movement, Penn-Lewis writes this account to chronicle what she believes was an incredible working of the Holy Spirit. In our day many look back on the Welsh Revival with awe, believing that it was an outpouring of God second only to The Great Awakening. But a careful examination of The Awakening in Wales shows it to be not dissimilar to the Brownsville Revival of our day. Both are filled with bad theology, emotional and physical excesses, demonic activity, and false signs and wonders. The connection between the birth of the Pentecostal movement in America and the Welsh Revival is obvious but usually ignored by modern revivalists. What disappoints me the most about such literature is the blatant dishonesty. Penn-Lewis does not record the fallout from this Awakening. Nor...

So Great Salvation by Charles G. Finney

So Great Salvation is a collection of evangelistic sermons by the famous nineteenth century revivalist Charles Finney. As might be expected his passion for the lost is clearly demonstrated. Unfortunately, Finney is not a careful student of Scripture and his sloppy exegesis is apparent throughout the book. Finney was well known for his promotion of extreme Arminianism which appears often (pp. 13, 14, 25, 41, 57-58, 108, 126). Finney’s theological perspective led to the creation of a host of methods designed to persuade people of their need for Christ. Under Finney’s system the proclaimer of the gospel needs to use whatever means possible to “make his moral nature sensitive…” “This is the true secret of promoting revivals” (p. 126). Finney would take this so far as to believe that revival was the result of using proper technique, not necessarily springing from the power of God. Much of Finney’s legacy...

Puritans and Calvinism by Peter Toon

There are six characteristics of a true Puritan according to our author: a commitment to the Bible as the Word of God; a commitment to Reformed theology (not necessarily 5-point Calvinism); a desire for a reformed, national Church of England; a belief in the necessity of personal regeneration; a need of reformation at the national, local and domestic level by means of legislation, catechizing, religion in the home and fervent prayer and fasting; a strong sense that the last days had dawned or were about to dawn. By this definition Puritans are only truly to be located in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Puritans and Calvinism traces the roots, victories, defeats, developments and divisions of Puritanism. Some of the many things that I learned from this book are: The difference between Presbyterian and Congregationalist Puritans; many of the issues that motivated the Puritan movement revolved around ritualistic observances that...

Josephus, the Essential Works by Paul L. Maier

The historical accounts of ancient Jewish history written by Flavius Josephus have long been recognized as invaluable resources to those wanting to understand biblical times. Josephus is undoubtedly the most reliable (but not infallible) extrabiblical author of Jewish antiquity. He lived during the first century, having been born shortly after the time of Jesus. He wrote numerous volumes which were eventually organized into two great books; the first, entitled The Jewish War, chronicles the war with Rome that resulted in the fall of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jewish people in A.D. 70. The second is called Jewish Antiquities and covers many events from creation to the outbreak of war with Rome. While extremely valuable for the understanding of biblical times, few Bible students have actually read these volumes due to the great length, redundancy, overlap with Scripture, tendencies to exaggerate, and sheer weight of peripheral details and...

Fire on the Altar by Noel Gibbard

Fire on the Altar is a brief historical account of the 1904-05 Welsh Revival. The Welsh Revival is of particular interest because it is considered by many to be the last great evangelical revival in the Western world. Many today desire and pray for this very kind of revival. So what was it like? Was it a true revival from the Spirit of God or a sham? Unfortunately Gibbard’s account did not answer these questions. It reads more like a newspaper documentation detailing the where, what and when but seldom dips below the surface. What were the leaders of the Revival, especially Evan Roberts, really like? We discover that he was a recent convert (p. 30), was quite eccentric (pp. 44, 46, 76-80, 85-87, 153) and suffered a nervous breakdown toward the end of the Revival (p. 190), but little more. What was the theology behind the Revival? Once...

Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 by Iain H. Murray

One of the finest Christian historians/theologians writing today is without a doubt Iain Murray. He researches thoroughly, is solidly biblical and is not afraid to write the truth. Evangelicalism Divided, A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 is an excellent example of his work. Of particular interest to many will be the record of Billy Graham’s slide from a biblically fundamental position to that of ecumenicalism and inclusiveism (pp. 28ff, 58-78). This is of special help because Murray is not writing from a “fighting fundy” position, but as a Reformed conservative from Great Britain. His warning to present day compromisers is sharp and painful. “No one thought that the sending of the names of those who made ‘decisions’ back to Roman Catholic Churches would lead to Billy Graham being prepared to share a platform with the Pope, but it did” (p. 304). Of course, Billy...

Defence of the Truth by Michael Haykin

This is a marvelous little book (only 129 pages) which introduces the reader to some of the early Christian defenders of the faith and at the same time, details the formal recognition of many essential doctrines we hold dear today. Some of the key characters found in Haykin’s book include those we term the “Church Fathers:” Irenaeus, Origen, Basil, Athanasius, Augustine and Patrick. The value of the book is multi-facet. We are provided with: • Information concerning some of the heresies and challenges which faced the early church. • Sketches of the lives of several Church Fathers, as well as their antagonists. • Details of how some important doctrines (the Trinity in particular) were debated and ultimately accepted. • A general history of the first centuries of Christianity. I particularly found the story of the ebb and flow of premillennialism very interesting, The Defence of the Truth is an...