A Sketch of Christian Spirituality: From the Patristic Period to the Evangelical Era (Part 5 of 5)

Evangelical Spirituality

Ian Randall—currently Director of the Institute of Baptist and Anabaptist studies of International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague, Czech Republic—has written a book titled What a Friend We Have in Jesus: The Evangelical Tradition, a fine and succinct study on evangelical spirituality. Randall’s book is part of the Traditions of Christian Spirituality Series, which seeks to publish first-rate volumes that provide quality introductions to some of the main traditions of Christian spirituality. In this discourse, focusing mainly on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Randall explores the origins of evangelical spirituality and its key themes.

Randall has rightly noted: “Although evangelicalism emerged in [the Evangelical Revival of] the eighteenth century [in Great Britain], it had strong links with the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and the English Puritan movement of the seventeenth century.”[1] The evangelicals adopted the basic tenets of the Reformation; and like Calvin and the Puritans, they underscored the importance of holy living as the outworking of their faith. This is why evangelical spirituality is more akin to Protestant spirituality rather than to Catholic spirituality.

David Bebbington, in his classic work—Evangelicalism in Modern Britain—asserts that evangelicalism is “a new phenomenon of the eighteenth century” that emphasizes four distinctive features: “conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism.”[2] Bebbington’s assertion suggests that evangelical spirituality is characterized by personal conversion, outworking of the gospel, devotion to Scripture, and the cross of Christ. Later Bebbington’s concept of evangelicalism came to be known as the Bebbington quadrilateral, a standard term among historians. In What A Friend We Have in Jesus, Randall discusses more elements of evangelical spirituality: conversion, Bible, sacraments, prayer and praise, the Cross, the Holy Spirit and holiness, the fellowship of the believers, missions, and the last times. And for Randall, the “central theme of this strand of spirituality is a personal relationship with Christ.”

Against the backdrop of England between the First and Second World Wars, Randall pinpoints four major strands of evangelical spirituality: “Keswick holiness, the Wesleyan tradition, Reformed approaches and Pentecostal/charismatic spirituality.”[3] Keswick[4] holiness, also known as the Higher Life movement, teaches that Christians can experience “entire sanctification,” or “Christian perfection.” This teaching was of course also present in the Wesleyan tradition; however, the Keswick tradition was less radical compared to the Wesleyan. Reformed evangelical spirituality, while stressing the need for personal holiness, rejects the doctrine of perfectionism. The Pentecostal/charismatic spirituality is to some extent a resurrected Quakerism. It gives too much emphasis on the work of the Spirit with less scriptural content; it is based more on emotions than on faith.

Although Randall gives special attention to British evangelicalism in which John Wesley and George Whitefield stand out as the main characters, he includes American evangelicalism. The primary American figure here is Jonathan Edwards who, according to Randall, is the principal shaper of American evangelical spirituality.

 

Concluding Observation

The renaissance of interest in the subject of Christian spirituality is noteworthy. Just in the past decade, scores of books on Christian spirituality have been published. In fact, in 2009, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, became the first Protestant seminary to offer a PhD in Biblical Spirituality. This fact shows that a revived concern for spirituality exists even in the world of academics.


[1] Ian Randall, What A Friend We Have In Jesus: The Evangelical Tradition (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2005), 16.

[2] David W. Bebbington, Evangelicals in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (1989; reprint, London: Routledge, 1993), 2, 4.

[3] Randall, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, 20.

[4] Keswick is a name of a market town in Cumbria, England where the movement became well-known.

Evangelical Evangelical Spirituality George Whitefield John Wesley Jonathan Edwards Spirituality

Puritan Spirituality and Evangelical Spirituality: Are They Different?

Throughout the history of the Christian church various types of spirituality have flourished, such as patristic, medieval, Reformed, Puritan, and Evangelical spiritualities.[1] This review article will focus on both the Puritan and the Evangelical spiritualities by examining the following two books: The Devoted Life edited by Kelly Kapic and Randall Gleason and Evangelical Spirituality by James Gordon. The former represents Puritan piety, whereas the latter, Evangelical spirituality.[2] Before comparing these two spiritualities, it is important, first, to define the term spirituality.

 

Click here to read my entire essay.


[1] Joel Beeke, in his book Puritan Reformed Spirituality (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2004), approaches Reformed and Puritan spiritualities as single entity. Others, however, treat these two kinds of spirituality separately. For example, see Frank C. Senn’s “Reformed Spirituality” and E. Glenn Hinson’s “Puritan Spirituality,” in Protestant Spiritual Traditions, ed. Frank C. Senn (New York: Paulist Press, 1986). John R. Tyson, editor of Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), divides his study of Christian Spirituality historically under five categories: (1) the ancient church; (2) the medieval era; (3) the reformation era; (4) modern spirituality; and (5) contemporary spirituality. It is under this fourth category that he places Puritan (in the person of Jonathan Edwards) and Evangelical (in the persons of the Wesley brothers) spiritualities together. This hints that these two types of spirituality have commonality.

[2] As to the terms “piety” and “spirituality,” Jerald C. Brauer notes that “Piety is the term that best expresses Puritan religiousness. Spirituality was a term seldom employed by Puritans, and when used it never referred to their essential religiousness.” Jerald C. Brauer, “Types of Piety,” Church History 56 (1987): 39. In this present study, however, I will refer to these two terms interchangeably.

Evangelical Evangelical Spirituality Piety Puritan piety Revival Spirituality

The Piety of Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Reflected in his Life and Ministry

The personal history of Robert Murray M’Cheyne has been recorded for the Church in the famous biography by Andrew Bonar.  These memoirs detail the life of Rev. M’Cheyne and show what made him a great preacher of God, and how he was used by God for the furthering of His Kingdom in Scotland.  The most significant aspect of M’Cheyne’s life that stands out is his personal piety.  He reflected this in every aspect of his life.  Preachers of today can learn much from M’Cheyne’s personal life in a day when personal holiness for preachers and pastors is at a premium as they struggle with conformity to the world.  M’Cheyne’s godly example provides a healthy antidote to the competition of a world that seeks to encroach on a minister’s life, study and pulpit.  He stands as one of the most powerful figures in history. He was a man who walked day-by-day with his God, sought the eternal welfare of his people with tears and combined these two in a passionate ministry pleading for people to repent and be reconciled to God because their souls were at stake.  This paper then seeks to examine how M’Cheyne’s personal piety was reflected in his preaching and how that might offer encouragement to men who struggle in the milieu of 21st century ministry.

 

The paper is by Maarten Kuivenhoven, a pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is currently a Th.M. student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary where he received his M.Div. degree.  He is married to Jennifer and has two children.

Click here to read the entire article.

Evangelical Piety Robert Murray M’Cheyne