Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 73:1 (Spring 2011)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Mark Shaw, Global Awakening: How 20th-Century Revivals Triggered a Christian Revolution. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2010. Pp. 214. $20.00, paper.

Collin Hanson and John Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. Pp. 187. $16.99, cloth.

As many readers of this journal will be aware, North American conservative Reformed writers (and readers) have grown accustomed in recent decades to taking a dim view of the Christian “revival” tradition. A somewhat different perspective prevails, however, outside North America. Here, claims in popular Christian media that such happenings are afoot around the globe and in regions of America are often met with quizzical expressions and raised eyebrows.

The authors of the two books under review have in common that, while being in broad agreement with the conservative Reformed subculture, they differ from it by taking up a favorable view of the Christian revival tradition, the origins of which they trace to the Great Awakening era of the 1730s. Together, the authors demonstrate that the pattern of the awakening of gospel-resistant societies and the reviving of flagging believers is something that has extended itself across the nearly three centuries which have passed since the 1730s. Both works have an “apologetic” interest: they want to incline us to the belief that such movements may well be the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to advance the gospel in our times.

Yet, having noted these similarities, it is also appropriate to draw attention to their distinctive emphases. Shaw, a Westminster Th.D. graduate and Kenya-based historian of world Christianity, approaches his subject from an interesting non-western vantage point. He urges us to see that the colonial Great Awakening phenomenon represents an archetypal pattern which has been providentially reproduced since, in climes as distant as Korea (1907), West Africa (1930), Uganda (1935 and the following several years), contemporary Brazil and China. The 1950s surge of American urban crusade evangelism spearheaded by Billy Graham is also reckoned to belong among the notable post–Great Awakening recurrences of religious awakening. From his vantage point in post-colonial Africa, Shaw claims to discern that Christian revival has very often been both the birth-process of and catalyst for the indigenization of the Christian message to a particular society which, having received the gospel from cross-cultural messengers, now must learn to state it in localized terms. Shaw believes that such revival is now current, and that it is a powerful instrument of the Holy Spirit, enabling churches to articulate the gospel with new conviction in societies characterized by soc...

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