Evangelical Revivals And The Presbyterian Tradition -- By: Richard F. Lovelace

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 42:1 (Fall 1979)
Article: Evangelical Revivals And The Presbyterian Tradition
Author: Richard F. Lovelace


Evangelical Revivals And The Presbyterian Tradition

Richard F. Lovelace

The editor of the Westminster Journal has asked me to contribute an article to this issue dealing with revivalism or spiritual awakenings in the history of Presbyterianism. Much of my research in the past two decades has centered around this topic, and it happens that I have already prepared the rough torso of such an essay which could easily be reshaped and expanded into a formally correct historical monograph on this subject.

But readers of this journal may be more interested in this essay in its raw form, which is that of a tract for use in a theological controversy currently agitating the United Presbyterian Church. I have elected, therefore, to embed this material in its original form, which is that of a set of historical case studies with concluding observations, into an essay with an introduction and final commentary. Increasingly, my own vital interests are moving from abstract historical scholarship towards a task-oriented usage of historical theology, employed in the reformation and renewal of the church. This ought to be a legitimate vocation. One can hardly imagine the Reformers considering which subjects to address in expanding the church’s scope of knowledge or their own reputations. They were like mechanics utterly absorbed in the reconstruction of a damaged engine, working at a white heat to forge the theological tools to repair it. And so I ask the readers’ patience with the technical irregularities of this essay, and hope that its topical interest will compensate for the compression of argument and sparsity of detail in its overview of Evangelical revivals in American Presbyterian history.

Since the late 1960’s, nearly all mainline denominations in America have been confronted by organized caucuses of Evangelical Christians protesting errors and imbalances in the church and working for theological reformation and spiritual renewal.1 Since 1976 the general media coverage of Evangelical resurgence in this country has made growing conservative strength unavoidably apparent to church administrators and to the left and center in large denominations.2

It might be predicted that some leaders might be concerned to limit or control the growth of these Evangelical sectors, and by 1978 this kind of movement was visible in the United Presbyterian Church. At the Council of Seminaries meeting. in the Fall of that year, a “Declaration of Denominational Theological Education” was presented which recommended that “the norm for the preparation of candidates for the ministry of the United Presbyteri...

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