Interview with Michael A. G. Haykin, co-author with Robert Davis Smart and Ian Hugh Clary of PENTECOSTAL OUTPOURINGS: REVIVAL AND THE REFORMED TRADITION

Published on September 20, 2016 by Joshua Centanni

Reformation Heritage Books, 2016 | 203 pages

It’s not that we’re unappreciative of the “ordinary” workings of God among his people – we are! But those periods of extraordinary movings of God are exciting and a fascinating area of study that always leaves us marveling at the power of the grace of God at work in the human soul. “Revivals” we call them, or “Pentecostal outpourings.”

That’s the title of a new book edited by Michael Haykin along with Robert Davis Smart and Ian Hugh Clary – Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition. I’m Fred Zaspel, editor here at Books At a Glance, and today our friend Michael Haykin is here to talk with us about their new book.

Greetings, Michael – congratulations on your new book and thanks for talking to us today about it.

Haykin:
Thank you, it’s good to be with you.


Zaspel:
Just what is Revival? And is it concerned primarily the Lost or the church or both?

Haykin:
It’s both…. Revival is the work of the Holy Spirit, obviously, in some ways eating up his normal work. It involves, usually, significant numbers of people. It usually begins first in the church. The church is revived, awakened, to her calling in the world, and then has an impact on the larger society outside the church. Revivals can be local; they can impact a community in which there are significant numbers converted in brief periods of time in a local community. It can be broader than that, may be an area of a country. And then in some cases there is nationwide revival like the Great Awakening, or what we call the Prayer Meeting Revival of the 1850s in the United States and also in Great Britain.


Zaspel:
How common a thing is Revival in the history of the church?

Haykin:
Well, Martin Lloyd-Jones, who was a very influential figure in promoting both the study and longing and expectation for revival in the 20th century, also a very well-known preacher, would maintain that revivals were the key elements that God the Holy Spirit used to advance the church. That the revivals were significant because they were the kind of point at which the church was advanced in her mission. How common are revivals? Depending upon one’s definition of revival – let’s adhere to the one I’ve just given – it would mean that, for instance, in the United States we probably haven’t seen anything on the scale of revival since the 19th century. But again, lesser awakenings in terms of numbers, depending on how tight you want to call a revival, certainly I think there have been local revivals during the 20th century in the United States. So it’s hard to say how common are revivals. They certainly are something that the Holy Spirit does use because the church does either forget her mission, needs renewing, needs reviving over a period of generations or because of the variety of other factors, some spiritual, some germane to living in a fallen world, the church needs renewed every three – four generations.

 

Zaspel:
Are there common attending features or perhaps common contributing factors that have led to revivals?

Haykin:
I think so. … First of all, I think it’s important to note that revivals are never identical. That’s given the fact that you have different individuals involved, different social political circumstances that surround the communities that are being revived or renewed, that inevitably there’s going to be differences in revivals. I think this also goes along with a Christian understanding of history; history is linear, it’s not cyclical – exactly cyclical anyway – but having said that I think that there are various principles that work in times of revival that one can track and trace. So there are similarities even if the exact nature of one revival is not going to be repeated.

And so there are similarities: I think one can safely say that revivals are normally preceded by prayer, by the church crying out, realizing that her help ultimately comes from God and that she has been at fault, seeking to renew herself by other means. And so prayer is normally a factor that precedes revival. During times of revival, the preaching of the Word and truth is a main factor. This shouldn’t surprise us; the Holy Spirit, as described particularly in the Gospel of John, is a spirit of truth. And so if he comes in reviving power, he will come, make his truth known afresh and so the Word of God is a central feature. I think this is very significant given what some claim to be revival in the 20th century where there is significant religious excitement, but preaching is at a very low premium.

So there’s definitely preaching. There is a sense of sin, there is an awareness of the gravity of sin. Again this shouldn’t surprise us. The Holy Spirit coming, eliminating our situations as Christians; this realization of backsliding, of toleration of patterns of sin in our lives and the Holy Spirit shows these, illuminates these. So there is sin with the consequent repentance. There is the exaltation of Christ. Genuine revivals can be described as Christ centered times. Again, this shouldn’t surprise us. In John 16 Jesus says that when the Holy Spirit comes he will glorify me, that is, Christ. And so times of revival are Christ centered times. And one will probably find other features as well. While we would want to say that each revival has unique features and yet there are patterns.


Zaspel:
Can you give us just a brief overview of your book?

Haykin:
Yes! … The book seeks to illuminate revival in the reformed tradition. I think we take Lloyd-Jones, again, at his word when he said that revival has been a major constituent of the reformed tradition. Although in the 20th century we seem to have lost sight of that. So the book looks at various reformed communities in the Anglo-American world particularly; the Dutch Reformed world for instance as it develops in the United States; Southern Baptists; English Baptists; Scottish Presbyterians; the Welch Calvinistic Methodists; and really I think is trying to show that revival has been a very, very significant part of the reformed tradition.

That this has been obscured in the 20th century by forgetfulness and also by some have argued that revival is an aberration. We have certain historians today in the reformed tradition who would argue that revival is an aberration; it’s not a healthy feature of the reformed tradition. And I think what we’re trying to do in the book is show: yes, while there are problems associated with times of revival, it has been used by God the Holy Spirit to advance the church in the various Reformed traditions that we mentioned.


Zaspel:
Can you give us a brief look at revivals outside the Reformed tradition?

Haykin:
Yes, revival is not something that is simply unique to the Reformed tradition. The Methodists, for example, Wesleyan Methodists, have known revival. They were born in the crux or the matrix of the 18th century Great Awakening. They experienced revival through the 19th century before beginning a precipitous decline in the 20th century. And they would be, certainly, not at least outwardly, part of what we would call the Reformed tradition. Their theological perspective would be Arminian, and yet they have known revival. I would venture to say that certain Pentecostal groups in the 20th century have experienced revival, too. And so revival is not unique to the Reformed tradition. But I think, given the Reformed tradition’s (and I think appropriate) claim and affirmation that she is the heir of a much more faithful understanding of biblical truth, particularly regarding soteriology, I think revival among Reformed communities is something particularly important to study.


Zaspel:
Talk to us about the Great Awakening in the United States – just briefly in broad strokes. What was it like? How big an event was it? And what kind of lasting and shaping effects did it have in America?

Haykin:
The Great Awakening is an enormously important event in the history of the church. It comes after a significant, I think, prayer, by that body of people we call the Puritans, (the Puritans dying out as a recognizable, historical entity in England or the British Isles around 1700), lasting probably, maybe another three or four decades into the 1730s or 1740s in America, in New England. The Puritans have longed for a national awakening. Which, although there were local instances of revival during the Puritan era, you really can’t point to a national awakening on the level that they were hungering for. By the 1670s you find significant calls for revival. John Owen, in a work, mentions that he has labored for this and urges his readers to labor hard after this. John Howell (both of these men prominent Puritan leaders) talks about there being a significant decline in the impact of the Puritan pulpit in the mid-1670s during a series of sermons that he preached on Ezekiel, on the outpouring of the Spirit, and urging for there being prayer and labor for revival. I was just reading a circular letter published in 1707 by an association of Baptist churches in England, (the Barkshire Association.) And again, they are urging their churches to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit. And so prayer was common in the decades immediately preceding the decline. And we can’t go into the details, obviously, of the reasons for the decline, but there was definitely a decline in terms of numbers of conversions, the impact of the gospel in the first few decades of the 18th century.

And then really it’s suddenly and surprisingly, in one sense, there comes answer to these prayers. Beginning around 1735; although there are certainly indications of revival before this. Tommy Kidd in his recent book (Tommy, who teaches at Baylor University) focusing on the Great Awakening in America indicates very clearly that there were local manifestations of revival reaching back into the 1720s. But really, probably the turning point is 1735 when there is significant awakening across the Anglo-American world. You find that 1734 – 35 is the year in which there is an awakening in the Connecticut Valley, centered on Northhampton, Massachusetts, and spreading up and down the Connecticut River Valley; about 30 other churches or communities being impacted and then spreading further afield. It’s in the spring of 1735 that George Whitfield, who is the Grand Itinerant, as he was called, of the Great Awakening is converted. And in Wales it begins in spring of 1735 with the conversion of Daniel Roland and Hal Harris, probably the two leading preachers of the Great Awakening in Wales along with William Williams.

So you find then beginning in 1735 this, for lack of a better word, using the words that would be used at the time, outpouring of the Spirit taking place in different streams. They are not related; they are not aware of each another. They do become aware of each other, but I think that also is indicative of the fact that this is a work of God. It’s not one individual influencing a host of others, although that, by its very nature, does not mean that it is not of God. But I think that the very fact that is distinct conversions, awakenings in separate locales that initially have no awareness that this very same thing is happening in a different geographical area of the Anglo-American world. And from there it begins to build steam until you get this massive river of awakening, in which there is significant personal interconnections.

Probably the most significant figure is George Whitfield, in this regard, who unites the revival in many ways because he is ardently committed to travel throughout the British Isles and also across the Atlantic. He crosses the Atlantic 13 times in a day in which travel was fairly restricted. Many people never traveled more than 20 miles from where they were born because of the state roads, etc. etc. Whitfield manages to preach in probably every major settlement on the Atlantic seaboard in America. By his death in 1770 in a report in Boston Massachusetts he is as well-known as King George III. An interesting quip: everybody knew two George’s by the end of Whitfield’s life. The one George they loved – Whitfield; the other they had problems with – George III. And those problems would initiate the American Revolution within a few years of Whitfield’s death.

Not only personal, but also correspondence. As the awakening begins to grip Scotland in the 1740s a number of the Scottish leaders, particularly man named John Erskine, but others like William Mahulik, James Robe began to enter into correspondence with Jonathan Edwards in America. They never meet him, but Erskine carries on a correspondence with Edwards all of his life and is a very significant bearer of Edwardsian theology. He reprints Edwards’s works in Glasgow and in Edinburgh, which become vehicles for stimulating thinking and also awakening.

So there is then the beginning with local streams (to continue with that analogy), they feed into this massive river, much like the Mississippi: by the time you get down into the plains, the Mississippi is this very wide river being fed by various local streams. The impact is enormous. It reshapes large segments of Anglo-American society. Wales, for instance, becomes a major bearer of revival and Christian teaching, Christian thinking. By the 1850s, probably 75 to 90% of Welshman and Welshwomen are sitting under the sound of the gospel every week. It doesn’t mean they are all converted, but it does mean that there is this massive change in Welch society over a period of about a hundred years, beginning in the Great Awakening.

In America… When the question, and it’s a pertinent one, is raised and becomes a question of significant reflection regarding American origins, and the question being: was America founded as a Christian nation? If that question I think is answered along the lines of: do the political institutions that set apart the contractual understanding of what America is… Are they Christian documents explicitly? Then I think you’d have a hard time arguing your case that these are explicitly Christian. There certainly is Christian influence on a number of levels. The importance of the individual, etc., etc. Because many of the authors of those documents wouldn’t have been self-confessed Christians. Men like Thomas Jefferson, who was a deist. But if you are asking the question in terms of the theological commitments of people who populated and peopled and developed the communities that become part of America, then I think the answer is a humble yes. I think the danger here, obviously, is triumphalism, but I think, given the nature of the Great Awakening, for instance, in New England in a three-year period from 1740 to 1742, out of a population of 250,000, you have probably somewhere around 50,000 conversions. That is probably somewhat of a conservative figure and the number might even be more; we just don’t have the exactitude concerning the stats. So that’s enormous – that’s just a three-year period. That’s not including the further revivals that come, particularly, the second Great Awakening beginning in the 1790s running through about 40 years to the 1830s which is even more powerful and deeper.

I think part of the problem of remembering all this is that historians, particularly from the 1960s onwards in public universities developed a paradigm of doing history, in which religious history was not seen is that important. It was seen as a veil for much more important issues be they political, or as was the fashion in the 60s and 70s, economic and social. These were much more important factors in shaping history. And so much of the history that has been done up until very recently in public universities takes no account of the massive religiosity and Christianity of American…


Zaspel:
It was a culture shaping event, wasn’t it?

Haykin:
Yes, that’s what I’m arguing. If you take the enormous numbers converted and the impact of the gospel upon America in terms of its culture, it’s very difficult not to say that America as a people and as a political experiment in its early years was deeply shaped by Christianity.


Zaspel:
Should we seek for Revival today? If so how?

Haykin:
I think so! … I think one of the takeaways of the book is that this is something that God the Holy Spirit has been pleased to use in the past and given the best understanding of the Reformed tradition in which there is both a divine sovereignty and human responsibility that we can’t simply sit back and say, well, this is God’s work, we can’t do anything. It is God’s work. I think all of the authors in the book would agree that the understanding of Charles Finney, for example, that emerges in the 1830s, that if we sow then God will in all ways give a harvest; that there are somewhat inflexible rules related to revival and if we follow through with our end of the bargain, so to speak, God will bring revival. I don’t think that’s a pattern that any of the historians who write in the book would want to argue. However, I am confident that all of us who have contributed to the book would want to indicate that there is incumbent upon Christian communities, responsibilities. And just as in regard to an individual who hears the gospel, they are held responsible by God to respond to the gospel even though the impetus for the response is divine grace.

There is this paradox, not contradiction but paradox of divine sovereignty of human responsibility in individual salvation; and so I think it is with revival. I think the church needs to take stock of her situation and I think she needs to pray. And I think she needs to go back and ask questions about, “Are we all that we claim we are? Are there areas where we are missing issues that are clearly spelled out in the Word of God?” It’s very interesting when revival comes, for instance, that there is an awakening to the horrors of slavery. Which is the great ethical issue of the 18th century. And there is an awareness of this as sin. And equally so are areas in which we as Christians are complacent and compliant; and those sorts of things can only happen as you bring the spotlight of God’s Word upon one’s life and cry out for God the Holy Spirit.


Zaspel:
We’re talking to Dr. Michael Haykin about his new book, Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition, a wonderful new resource on the history of revivals. We encourage you to “take and read” – and enjoy.

Michael, thanks so much for talking to us today.

Haykin:
Thank you very much.

Buy the books

Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition

Reformation Heritage Books, 2016 | 203 pages