America needs reviving, but it won’t happen through politics or rallies held in the name of unity, service, justice or cultural involvement by Christians. Revival means “life from the dead” (Romans 11:15). It is God’s work alone: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deut. 32:39).
Talk show host Glenn Beck continues to try and take personal credit for bringing a “Third Great Awakening” to America. Last weekend, Beck sponsored a series of events in Dallas emphasizing service and culminating in a rally called “Restoring Love” at Cowboys Stadium. Previously, a “Restoring Courage” event was held in Israel in 2011 and “Restoring Honor” took place in Washington, D.C. in 2010. The latter was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Friday’s rally had about 40,000 in attendance, according to Beck.
Beck’s website headline states it plainly:
“Witness the Third Great Awakening!” – Glenn Beck Brings the Movement of Peace and Freedom into a New Age.”
Before we examine Beck’s claim about the 3rd Great awakening, we should briefly talk about what historians call the First and Second Great Awakenings in America.
The first revival (1730s-1740s) is mostly associated with two well-known Calvinists: Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. Unlike Beck, these two men were orthodox Christian ministers whose sermons—by God’s grace—converted unbelievers to faith in Christ alone, and were not intended to have them join preachers and others in “getting back the country,” or to participate in some other cultural reform movement. Although the long-term benefit of an emphasis on revival movements may still be debated within the church, and a few excesses may be found here and there during the era, the hallmark of this revival was definitely faithful, biblical and evangelical preaching of the gospel of grace.
The results of the Second Great Awakening (1790-Early 1800s) seem to be more mixed. Certainly fine preaching by men such as Asahel Nettleton was used by God for great eternal benefit. However, much of the fruit associated with others in the movement appeared to go sour, as an emphasis on man-made salvation resulted in the increase of false religions such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and The Unity School of Christianity. This era also saw widespread acceptance of the “new measures” of Charles Finney, which essentially rejected the work of the Holy Spirit and sovereignty of God in salvation in favor of crowd manipulation and emotion-based appeals. Man-centered conversions became the norm, rather than the preaching of the cross and a gospel of grace.
This brings us to Glenn Beck. Like all humanist religions, Beck’s syncretism depends on man. During his keynote speech, Beck said:
“This whole event is about you. We did this for you…. The elderly, the lonely, those who are afraid. We said to them: Be not afraid! For we are with you and we will be your shelter—shelter from the storm.”
Where is God in all this? For sure, it is not the one carrying the microphone.
Beck never mentioned Jesus Christ during this call to revival, but the Scriptures teach that we must “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31).
No great awakening can come from such events; they rather lull the one who imbibes to more spiritual drowsiness. Real revival is not about politics, nor is about picking ourselves up by the bootstraps. It is about turning from our sins to the only Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.
David is currently an adjunct instructor of Composition and Speech at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. His wife and he have also owned a business selling antique and collectible postcards on eBay since 1999. David was an activist with Operation Rescue in the early 1990s. He is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church in Johnston, Iowa.
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