What Is Revivalism?

REVIVALISM is a strand within the evangelical tradition. Evangelicalism has been marked over time by four characteristics:

1. Conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed by faith in Christ;

2. Biblicism, a high estimation of the teaching of Scripture;

3. Crucicentrism, a concentration in theology on the doctrine of the Atonement;

4. Activism, a variety of efforts for the welfare of others’ souls.

Revivalism is a form of activism, involvement in a movement producing conversions not in ones and twos but en masse.

In the nineteenth century revivalism was more widespread in America than in Britain. The pulse of mass revival felt in America in 1857–58 nevertheless extended, via Ulster, to Britain in 1859–60. There was created a network of zealous Christians eager for a fast spiritual tempo. With these British believers the young D.L. Moody made contact, traveling across the Atlantic to visit them in 1867 and again in 1872. Returning in the following year, his campaigns made a major impact on several cities.

By David W. Bebbington

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #25 in 1990]

Dr. David W. Bebbington is lecturer in history at University of Stirling in Stirling, Scotland.
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