The Asbury awakening exposes the tensions in modern evangelicalism—and within our own hearts.
The reactions to the spiritual awakening that began at Asbury are almost as fascinating as the event itself. By and large, the response has been one of awe and hope—as countless pastors and lay Christians, including myself, have flocked to Wilmore to get a sense of what’s in the air.
But there have also been numerous critical reactions from many corners of Christian culture that range across the ideological spectrum.
“Revival is more than singing and crying,” I’ve seen some say. “I’ll believe it’s revival when they denounce their toxic and abusive theology,” others have said. Frankly, you can name almost any topic and find someone tweeting or blogging about how the Asbury revival is or isn’t adequately addressing it.
Some say the gathering was too evangelical, not evangelical enough, too socially conscious, not socially conscious enough, too LGBT-affirming, not LGBT-affirming enough, and so forth.
Others have judged these events entirely through the lens of our political polarization—lumping Asbury students in with their complaints against white evangelicals at large and accusing them of being guilty by association. And although several charismatic figures aligned with Trump have endorsed the event, the student leaders, some of whom aren’t even white, have expressed no ties to them.
Such reactions have revealed the fault lines in evangelicalism today that, superficially, represent the anxieties and culture wars of the moment. At their roots, however, many of these criticisms point back to a more fundamental theological anxiety. In asking what should or shouldn’t be celebrated as a revival, we quickly find ourselves asking what is and isn’t the …