Revivalism is actually the religion of magical technique. It is an ancient religion that simply has found a new expression in contemporary America. The purpose of all such religious technique is to control and manipulate the god who serves those who want to worship themselves under cover of worshiping him. By using certain techniques in their worship, they will receive personal salvation, personal affluence, and a personal relationship.
The techniques themselves reveal the essential gnostic flavor of American Christianity. Each person is assumed to have the divine ability to choose that which is good and is called upon regularly by the evangelist to make that choice. If the one being invited relies on his own heart, makes the right decision in his own heart, and follows the instructions given to him very carefully, then he will receive what he wants. In one place, it is necessary to go forward at the end of the church meeting. In another place, it is necessary to say the words printed in the back of a tract or booklet. (Of course, by God’s grace, a number of people have been genuinely saved under such circumstances. But it must also be said that many others have remained in their sins, clutching their technique.)
Whenever men make a religion, they make one that can be manipulated with some ease. In revivalism, therefore, the rules are simple: When you know what you want, go forward and get it. From the time of Charles Finney on, few have questioned such things because they are assumed to be Scriptural. But are they?
I am fond of telling people that Christianity is not a relationship, it is a religion. Of course, having made the point, I hasten to add that it is a covenantal religion with a covenantal relationship at its heart. God promises that we will be His people and He will be our God. But this is not what the religion of revivalism demands. It insists that there be what is called “a personal relationship.”
We must be careful here, for each believer is a person, and God has poured out His Spirit into the hearts of believers, causing them to cry out, “Abba, Father.” In a profound sense, this is a personal relationship. But this is not what revivalism means by “personal relationship.”