I have said this here before. It needs saying again. Someday I may repeat it yet a third time. It is that important.
As I look at the current scene, I see a church in desperate need of three great movements of God:
A recovery of the life of the mind. An increasingly illiterate generation is harder to reach with a faith founded on the message of a Book; an increasingly illiterate church is incapable of experiencing full-orbed Christianity based on the whole counsel of God revealed in the Text of that Book. Electronic inundation keeps us perpetually distracted. From a cultural (rather than a technical) standpoint, we may well be entering a new Dark Ages. The original rebirth of learning and culture that we call the Renaissance started with a recovery of interest in reading classical literature in the original languages using grammatico-historical exegesis to recover its original message to its original audience. God used that movement with its motto of ad fontes, “back to the sources,” to make the Reformation, the recovery of the pristine Gospel of the New Testament, possible. Martin Luther recognized this: “Whenever God wants to break forth truth anew out of His holy Word, he prepares the way by the rise of languages and letters, as if they were John the Baptists.” The renewal of languages and letters: That was the Renaissance! If history repeats itself, a new Renaissance just might lead to a new . .
A recovery of sound doctrine. When the new learning of the Renaissance, the ad fontes tradition, was applied to Scripture, the original documents were enabled to speak again with their own voice. This led to a recovery of sound doctrine in five areas: Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, interpreted in context in the original language by grammatico-historical exegesis, is the only infallible and inerrant authority and final court of appeal; Sola Gratia, salvation is by grace, God’s unmerited favor, alone, apart from works; Sola Fide, salvation is received by the empty hands of faith alone; Solus Christus, Christ alone is the only Mediator between God and men; Soli Deo Gloria, God’s glory alone is the end of salvation and the purpose of all of life. All these truths are in danger of being lost again. We therefore need a new Renaissance leading to a new Reformation. Otherwise, we will continue to gorge ourselves on spiritual junk food while the great truths of the faith slip through our fingers. But if God would grant us Renaissance and Reformation again, they just might lead to . . .
A recovery of vital spirituality. The great error of our generation is to believe that this recovery is possible apart from the first two. Biblically and historically, it is not. We have seen that Martin Luther recognized the debt the Reformation owed to the Renaissance, and his words are worth repeating: “Whenever God wants to break forth truth anew out of His Word, he prepares the way by the rise of languages and letters, as if they were John the Baptists.” And the leaders of the First Great Awakening, the great Revival of the Eighteenth Century in England and America, saw themselves as continuing the work of the Reformation. If Christianity is true, then only the faithful preaching of the pure Gospel of the New Testament (Reformation) can give us the genuine spirituality and real Christian lives that Revival is all about. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! Without Renaissance and Reformation, all our zeal for Revival is vanity and striving after wind.
- Do not stop praying and working for Revival. But do start praying and working for the Renaissance and Reformation without which no true revival with lasting impact is possible.
Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College. For more of his writings, go to the Lantern Hollow estore and purchase his books, Inklings of Reality (a Christian approach to reading), Stars Through the Clouds (his poetry), and Reflections from Plato’s Cave (Evangelical essays in pursuit of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty).