Joe Thorn reminded me of this comparison I gave my students some years ago based on Jonathan Edwards Marks of a Work of the True Spirit. It was at a time when there was some controversy about a revival that had touched several college campuses. Students at my school were anxious because it appeared as if the Holy Spirit had passed over us. When “revival” did come, some questioned whether it was genuine.
I have always maintained that it is not hard to bring “revival” to Bible college students. All you need is a hot day, a chapel service and an open mike. Wait long enough and eventually somebody will take the mike and confess to looking at pornography in the dorm. A round of other confessions will ensue, follwed by copious weeping. If I sound skeptical, it is because I am.
Skepticism, of course, is the default posture of the religious establishment in every revival. It was the problem Edwards’ faced in explaining the “surprising events” that took place in his church. This explains the mostly negative perspective of his analysis. His work is an apologetic of revival phenomena designed to refute those who claimed that what had happened could not have been a work of God’s Spirit.
This is why I found Edwards to be such a help during the controversy. As a theologian and a natural philosopher, Edwards was a keen observer of both the natural and spiritual dimensions of human experience. He saw first-hand the phenomena he writes about in this treatise. He reminds us that it is ultimate fruit, not the phenomena itself, that should be used to test the genuiness of such activity.
For those who would like to read Edwards’ treatise, here is a link to the full text version on Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=f0cBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA525&dq=marks+of+a+work+of+the+true+spirit&lr=&as_drrb_is=q&as_minm_is=0&as_miny_is=&as_maxm_is=0&as_maxy_is=&as_brr=1&cd=1#v=onepage&q=marks%20of%20a%20work%20of%20the%20true%20spirit&f=false
For those who are interested in learning more about Edwards, check out the Essential Edwards Collection edited and commented on by Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney (Moody Publishers). Strachan is managing director of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding. Sweeney is professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. This project should not be mistaken for a kind of “Edwards for Dummies.” The commentary is beautifully written and does justice to the depth of Edwards’ thinking. These books offer a great starting point for those who want to learn more about America’s greatest theologian but will also be read with pleasure and profit by those who are already familiar with Edwards. To learn more about it check this link: http://www.mpnewsroom.com/?p=941
Special thanks to Joe Thorn for upgrading my original post with the cool retro look. I’m a sucker for parchment.