More than once I have been asked for my thoughts on the Asbury revival. In one sentence, I have no doubt already generated controversy by using the term “revival.” I use the term because, based on my own research, I do believe God is working there. We might also note that some of the naysayers have observed that the word “revival” is not used in scripture. Without wanting to get into the mire of that semantic debate, I believe that, while the term is not used in scripture, there are revivals in the Bible. The one in the days of Josiah comes readily to mind. Also, I have never heard a quibble among Christians about the term until the last few weeks, and many Christians I know have been praying for revival for years with no expressed concern about whether the term is used in scripture.
Many accusations have been made about the revival, and why it is not coming from God. Many of these accusations have been answered in detail, so I will touch on this briefly without belaboring the points. Then I will give some thoughts that I think are important for us to carefully consider. This blog is for Christians who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that it is inerrant, that salvation is to be found in Jesus Christ alone, and that homosexuality is indeed a sin according to scripture. If any reader disagrees with any of these points, this blog will probably be a waste of your time. I would be happy to dialogue with you via my contact information, as listed on this website.
My thoughts are as follows:
Don’t Believe Everything You Read
We must personally check our facts. This would include good things we hear as well as bad things. Critics of the Asbury revival have made some accusations that distorted the facts. Whether or not the distortion is intentional, a distortion of facts is false information. One such distortion is that one of the major leaders of the revival is a “practicing homosexual.” I am choosing not to name names as to who said this, but the claim is not hard to find. This particular objection was answered thoroughly by Craig Keener in one of his youtube videos. Keener observes that the university policy is that they would discipline any student engaging in any sort of extra-marital sexual activity, including heterosexual relationships. He references the university’s public declaration about human sexuality. A few quotations from this document might be helpful here to give greater context:
“We believe that it is only within the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman that the full expression of sexuality is to be experienced and celebrated.”
“A faithful interpretation of Scripture affirms the principle that sexual purity honors God and that all forms of sexual intimacy that occur outside the covenant of heterosexual marriage are sinful distortions of the holiness and beauty for which God intended.”
“Accordingly, Asbury University will not recognize or support campus groups whose aim by statement, practice, or intimation is to promote a vision of human sexuality that is contrary to this understanding of biblical teaching.”
While I cannot speak with finality to what may or may not go on the Asbury campus, the available facts about the university discredit the notion that a practicing homosexual would be knowingly allowed to lead worship. In addition to the University’s own statement, there are criticisms leveled at Asbury University from those sympathetic to the LGBTQ cause. In 2020, William Trollinger wrote an article criticizing Asbury University for firing professors who were LGBTQ affirming. Asbury finds itself on the “Worst List” for the website campuspride.org, a non-profit organization advocating for the interests of LGBTQ college students. The fact that these concerns come from those supportive of the LGBTQ lifestyle would certainly not support the idea that a practicing homosexual was leading anything on campus. At least not with the knowledge of the university’s administration.
Keener’s video further observes that the individual about whom this criticism was leveled has self-identified as SSA. SSA stands for Same-Sex Attracted. This is where understandable confusion enters the picture. SSA does not mean “practicing homosexual.” Quite the contrary, it is used, in the landscape of Christian theology and ministry, to describe those who struggle with homosexual temptation, but acknowledge that homosexuality is a sin and thus choose to live a life of celibacy rather than violate God’s clear commandments in scripture. I personally believe that the language of “SSA” is unhelpful because it can reinforce the idea, so popular in culture, that human identity is defined by one’s sexual attraction. The believer’s identity is in Christ, not in any temptation, much less sin (cf., 1 Cor 6:11). But, even if the designation SSA is unfortunate, it does not mean “practicing homosexual.” This can create obvious confusion to those unfamiliar with the terminology, but for those who are familiar, a failure to make this distinction is slander.
Keener’s video also addresses the accusation that Todd Bentley was part of the leadership of the revival. Keener says that he does not know what Bentley’s intention was in coming but observes that he was asked to leave.
Information distortion has been a danger since the Garden of Eden. In a cyber world, it can create many challenges. Whether intentional or not, Christian “watchdog websites” have a propensity to exaggeration. As Christians, we must always be vigilant about false teaching, but we must also check our facts with primary sources before basing our opinions on secondhand information. We must also remember that there is nothing wrong with saying “I’m not sure about this, I haven’t researched it myself.”
God’s Work is Broader Than Your Circle
For those of us who love theology, it can be hard to believe that God can work in theological circles other than our own. I remember in my undergraduate days often questioning whether any Bible teacher who denied six-day creationism or pre-millennialism was of any real use to the church. Part of growing in Christ is realizing that God has done and continues to do incredible work through those who are wrong about a lot of things. Humility should make us very thankful for this because it means that God can work through us despite the things we are wrong about. As a dispensational-Calvinist-Baptist-non-charismatic, I might be tempted to think that real revival can only happen in this theological context, but God has shown many times in history that He has a different opinion. I believe that God did mighty works through the likes of St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi and John Wesley, though I believe their theology was wrong, and even dangerous, on many points. Certainly, there are essential doctrines which would falsify a movement. A denial of the Trinity or Salvation in Christ alone come readily to mind. But to dismiss a movement aligned with historic Christianity because it does not align with one’s own tradition betrays an ignorance of church history, and much worse, runs the risk of opposing a work God is doing based on personal prejudice.
Wherever God is Working, Satan Will Attack
We must beware of rejoicing in iniquity (cf., 1 Cor 13:6). What do I mean? Some will comb the Asbury Revival searching for something wrong with it, then rejoice when they find it because they believe it discredits the entire thing and validates their own skepticism or opposition. We must beware of these attitudes and prayerfully resist them. If, in this context, we believe “one bad apple spoils a bunch,” then virtually no Christian organization, institution or movement is truly from God. Double standards come so easily. If I don’t agree with Wesleyan theology, I might want to dismiss a movement that is coming from a Wesleyan circle. If I could fine one unrepentant sinner in the bunch, I might take that as a basis for saying the entire thing is not from God. But what of other movements? Should I dismiss all the good that came from the Reformed Resurgence of the early twenty-first century because of the sin or apostacy of some of its key leaders? If so, what of the many faithful pastors I know who were saved or discipled in the context of that movement?
Satan hates Christianity. He hates it when people get saved. He hates it when believers get on fire. If we confess Christ as Lord and live for His glory above all else, I don’t think the devil plays favorites. He hates us all equally. For myself, If I see evidence of God’s work in a certain place, I will commit to praying for God’s protection of those involved. And I will pray for His protection from false teaching and from sin. I believe this is approach is in keeping with the heart of Christ.
What I Think We Should All Do
Based on my thoughts above, I believe that every Christian
should pray fervently for the Asbury Revival. Pray that God will strengthen and
sustain everything that is truly His work and protect all involved from false
teaching and sin. I further believe that we should pray that true revival will
come to all our cities and churches. So many around us are headed directly for
hell, and the message of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone is the only
thing that can save them. Let us pray! Let us pray! Let us pray!
 E.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VQd3kwbJl8 This video comes from Craig Keener, Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, which is a separate institution from Asbury University. Despite my theological differences with him, I have always found Keener to be a reliable scholar and I have benefitted greatly from his work in my own academic and pastoral ministry.
 Ibid. Keener’s discussion of this particular accusation begins a little over 18 minutes into the video.
 “Same Sex Attraction (SSA) Also known as same gender attraction. Within the larger national debate over gay rights, individuals who experience sexual attraction for the same gender are typically referred to as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Most individuals who identify with these terms consider their sexual orientation to be an authentic part of who they really are. A subset of people experiencing sexual attraction for the same gender do not see these feelings as representing who they truly are or who they are meant to be- often for religious reasons” (https://www.allsides.com/translator/same-sex-attraction-ssa).