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04/05/2010 / John Hanna

Protestantism and the Influence of Revivalism

This is from an article in the ESV Study Bible called An Overview of Biblical Doctrine, Salvation, The Blessings of Salvation by Erik Thoennes:

This section of the article focuses on Protestantism and the influence of revivalism, and sanctification.

Much of Protestantism in the last two centuries has been influenced by revivalism, which puts a great emphasis on “making a decision for Christ” in a public and definitive way. These “moments of decision” often come to be treated as the crucial evidence that one is truly saved. Other Protestant traditions, less influenced by revivalism, are often content to leave the conversion experience less clearly identified, and put the focus rather on Christian experience, identification with the church, or reliance upon the sacraments. Both of these traditions have benefits and strengths, as well as potential problems. The “decision” approach rightly emphasizes the need for personal commitment to Christ Jesus and the idea that regeneration takes place at a specific time. The potential downside is that this view can lead to a simplistic, human-centered understanding of being saved where one depends too heavily on the initial, specific act of trusting Christ as the primary evidence of conversion. As a result, one can doubt that the “decision” was real, leading to numerous journeys down the aisle (just in case), or else to total dependence on the onetime walk down the aisle, even in the absence of the necessary fruit of salvation. Other traditions appreciate the sovereignty of God and role of the church in the salvation process but can leave conversion so vague that the need for personal trust in Christ and the resulting evidence of a changed life can be neglected.

God uses vastly different circumstances and experiences to bring people to himself. As C. H. Spurgeon said, “God’s Spirit calls men to Jesus in diverse ways. Some are drawn so gently that they scarce know when the drawing began, and others are so suddenly affected that their conversion stands out with noonday clearness.” The best evidence of true salvation is not having raised a hand or prayed a prayer,or having been baptized or christened. Instead, the true test of an authentic work of God in one’s life is sanctification as God continues the moral transformation he began in regeneration. This transformation will continue until the redeemed person is resurrected and made completely holy in heaven (glorification; cf. Rom. 8:28–30Phil. 1:61 John 3:2).

~ Erik Thoennes

Related Internet Links

  • ESV Online Study Bible An Overview of Biblical Doctrine (13 Articles) / Salvation / The Blessings of Salvation (Erik Thoennes)

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