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What is Revival? Dr. David Hogg

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Guest: Dr. David Hogg | Dr. Arnold interviews Dr. Hogg about revival. Topics of conversation include:

  • How we define the terms revival and awakening
  • Examples of revival in the Bible
  • Movements of revival throughout history
  • The First and Second Great Awakening
  • Resources for further reading on revival.

Dr. David Hogg serves as vice president of Academic Affairs at Phoenix Seminary, where he also teaches Church History. Dr. Hogg has many years of pastoral and seminary ministry, and holds a PhD in Medieval Theology from St. Mary’s School of Divinity at St. Andrews University in Scotland.



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Intro (00:01):

Welcome to Faith Seeking Understanding, a podcast from Phoenix Seminary—helping Christians grow in their understanding of the faith, hosted by Dr. Brian Arnold, president of Phoenix Seminary.

Brian Arnold (00:18):

On February 8th 2023, reports came that revival fell on the campus of Asbury University. Following a regular chapel, students stayed, not to converse with friends or talk with professors, but to pray and repent. And for the next 16 days, people met nearly around the clock to worship, to pray, and, for some who traveled great distances—even from other countries—to have the smoldering coals of their faith rekindled. Stories from other campuses began to be told, and hope is high that we might be experiencing another awakening throughout our country. With revival, though, comes skepticism and questions about what constitutes genuine revival. Was this an authentic outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Or was this a manufactured phenomenon that was emotionalism unhinged? I, for one, am hopeful that this was an actual expression of revival. What I certainly don’t want to be is guilty of praying for revival, and then being skeptical when God does it. Nevertheless, it stirs up a lot of questions about what revival is. So to talk with us about that today, we have with us Dr. David Hogg, who serves as vice president of Academic Affairs at Phoenix Seminary, where he also teaches in church history. Dr. Hogg has served numerous years in pastoral ministry, and has taught at multiple seminaries. He received his PhD from St. Andrews in Medieval Theology, and is published widely. Dr. Hogg, welcome back to the podcast.

David Hogg (01:39):

Thank you. It’s great to be here again.

Brian Arnold (01:41):

So our big question for today is—what is revival? And obviously this is a lot of talk right now with what is going on at Asbury University just recently. And one of the first questions that I hear people talk about a lot when it comes to revival is—how do we define revival, and how do we differentiate revival from awakening?

David Hogg (02:02):

Yeah, that’s a good question. You’re going to find people, of course, on different sides. You know, you could go the etymological route—revival, what does it mean from the Latin, and so forth. And awakening. And it seems to me that no matter what term we might want to apply, so often the two things that we often look for and hope for in revival or awakening is, number one, that people who are not believers would become believers. And number two, those who are believers would be spurred on to greater faithfulness and devotion to their Savior. And so, whether, you know, revival tends to be used in terms of people coming to faith in Christ. We see that in, for example, the Second Great Awakening, and Finney, and so forth. Whereas awakening tends to be used a little bit more for believers who are already…people who are already believers, and then are spurred on to greater devotion.

David Hogg (02:55):

We see, you know, examples of that in the comments of, for example, Jonathan Edwards in the First Great Awakening, when he and George Whitefield and some others commented on just how amazed they were at the increase in faithfulness, and even like family worship, amongst those who are already believers. So I don’t know if that quite answers your question, but there are usually those two components. And in my mind, you know, we can fuss about some of the terminology, I suppose. But those are sort of the two things that we look for most when we’re talking about either revival or awakening.

Brian Arnold (03:28):

It’s interesting that you say that, because I’ve actually heard those terms used in the reverse. That revival is something that happens when you’re already a believer, and the faith has grown cold and you need something to kind of stimulate it to get back. And awakening is kind of a conversion response. You can see even in this conversation there’s different understandings of even how these terms are used. But lumped together, it really is this idea that the Spirit of God is moving in a unique way, calling people from sin—whether that’s for the first time to salvation, or whether it’s patterns of sin in their life, and they’re repenting and turning away from those things and growing in godliness. And it happens to be that it is widespread. It’s like the Spirit really just pours out and overflows into more people than we generally see happen, right?

David Hogg (04:13):

Yeah, absolutely.

Brian Arnold (04:14):

So when we talk about this, I think our minds immediately go to—and I think this is right, and this is where you kind of went too—was people like Jonathan Edwards. And we’re going to talk about him, the First Great Awakening, but what about this idea, biblically? So if we want to see God move, we want to see him do it in ways that he’s done in his Word, he’s talked about this. Do we see examples of this in the Bible? Thinking about the Old Testament, thinking about the New Testament. Where would you point somebody to say—that is an example of what we’re talking about here?

David Hogg (04:46):

Hmm. Well, of course the most obvious, I suppose, is Acts two. I mean, you can’t miss that one for the trees. You know, the coming of the Spirit upon those who are gathered together on what we now call the Day of Pentecost. And, you know, there, I think it’s interesting, because we have a both/and, in terms of—on that day there were people, you know…that those who were in the upper room continuing to pray after Jesus had ascended, and those are people who were believers. Those are people who understood, even in a nascent way, they understood that Jesus, in fact, is the Messiah. And they were excited about this, and the Spirit descended upon them, as we read, in tongues of fire. And then, at the same time, that because of that, they then are preaching, they’re teaching, they’re spreading the Word. They’re engaged in what we now call “gospel conversations” with people. And it led to, you know, 3000 souls being saved. And then we continue to read in Acts about how that spread. So there’s sort of a both/and there in Acts two. I think that’s probably the most obvious place. I don’t know. What would you…I mean, yeah.

Brian Arnold (05:49):

Obviously, Acts two is the one that the mind goes to. And you see this kind of outpouring of the Spirit. I mean, the whole point of Pentecost is the Spirit has come, he’s indwelling his people, and new believers are coming into the fold. Why don’t we see something like that in the Old Testament as much? I mean, I guess you get these periods, periodically, where you’ll have some sort of a mass repentance, and there’ll be sackcloth and ashes and things. I mean, do you attribute that to even the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament as being different than the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, especially in regards to the indwelling of the believer?

David Hogg (06:27):

So I would say that, yes—I want to be careful here—so I would say, yes, there is a different working of the Spirit between Old Covenant/New Covenant…what we would call Old Testament/New Testament, perhaps. But I think the difference is not so much—again, I want to use my language carefully here—not so much in the…maybe the manner of the Holy Spirit’s working, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. I mean, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ really did change absolutely everything in history. I mean, the whole basis of new creation is founded upon his being raised from the dead in history. And so, in a certain sense, the work of the Holy Spirit, post-resurrection is of a different…well, it is a work that comes with resurrection power.

David Hogg (07:21):

And which, you know, in time could not have happened before the resurrection. That does not mean the Spirit was weaker in the Old Testament, or the Spirit was not active in the Old Testament, or under the Old Covenant. It simply means that the experience that we could have in history of the Spirit is going to be, I think, different between Old Testament and New Testament believers. The Spirit is required in both cases for someone to be saved. But that resurrection power really does change something. And I think that’s what we see in Acts two, and the rest of the Book of Acts, and the unfolding of…I mean, the spread of the gospel throughout the whole world. Does that make sense?

Brian Arnold (07:58):

It does, it does. I would just want to really press on the New Covenant passages in the Old Testament. Things like Jeremiah 31, things like Ezekiel 36 and 37, where it does seem like the indwelling presence of the Spirit is going to be what differentiates it in many ways, is that the believer in the Old Covenant…I mean, you see the Spirit kind of coming in, especially with kings and things, where David will have the Holy Spirit, but whether or not he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit all the time, I think, is a matter of discussion. But it doesn’t seem to be that the average Israelite is. Whereas, the New Covenant is—all of a sudden it’s not going to be tablets of stone. It’s going to be written on the heart. And even the picture that we get of the Valley of the Dry Bones, where the Spirit comes in and really animates, and brings life to that which was dead.

Brian Arnold (08:46):

So, yeah, I mean…and as we think about revival and awakening throughout the Church Age, it is something that we would often attribute, I think, to the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through his people. So yeah. And I appreciate your caution there. We don’t want to pretend like—or not even pretend like—we don’t want to suggest that the Holy Spirit was somehow absent, and just like finally appeared in the New Testament. Which is not what I’m suggesting. But a unique way, post-resurrection, like you said, that now is in the Church Age. So I want to talk about the First and Second Great Awakening some. And even into the modern period. But you and I are church historians of an earlier period. So as I study the Fathers, as you study the medieval period, do we see these kinds of peaks of revival and awakening in the early church and in the medieval church, would you say?

David Hogg (09:46):

Yeah. You know, I think we do. But I think the other thing we have to bear in mind is we are not going to have the same records for these sorts of things, so it’s a little harder for us to examine that. So, for example, you know, the First Great Awakening takes place in the early mid-18th century, when you have people writing about this, and writing letters, and we have their correspondence, and we have all sorts of information. Whereas in the ancient period, and then in the medieval period, not so much. We don’t have nearly the levels of literacy, and so forth. So just as a cautionary aspect to this, we need to recognize the differences in the material that’s available to us. But, you know, just think about the Middle Ages—you know, it’s…when we think of the church in the Middle Ages, I think there’s…we have to distinguish between the church as represented by the writings of those who were in power—which were not always good Christian people, dare I say it.

David Hogg (10:40):

But there were then…then there were those who were the average Jane and Joes of the church. And in that respect, like, I can think of the 12th century, and you have a group like the Waldensians. The Waldensians, you know, they had some of their quirks and so forth. But for the most part, that seems to be a movement in which we see God working to continue to call people to himself. They were labeled as heretics by the church authorities of their day. But to many people, they could pass for evangelicals, believing, for example, that, you know, that they should read the Bible for themselves, believing that they shouldn’t…that recognizing the importance of the church in interpreting Scripture, recognizing that someone—now, not everyone’s going to believe this…go along with this position even today—but recognizing that and believing that people should be baptized after they profess faith

Brian Arnold (11:29):

Only the right ones. Yes. Go on.

David Hogg (11:31):

<laugh> There is that side. So, but it’s kind of intriguing to me. Like that, I would say, that’s a movement of the Spirit that at that time took place in what we would now call Northern Italy in the 12th century. And that’s God, you know, making sure that the apostolic succession rightly understood is actually continuing. And when I say apostolic succession rightly continuing, I mean those who are continued to be, like Peter in Matthew 16, the right speakers, the correct proclaimers of what is the gospel and the truth. And those who do that are in apostolic succession. And I think we see, therefore, that there are—this is just one example—but we see these movements in the church where the Spirit takes ahold of somebody and that person begins to—and this is almost always the case—begins to read Scripture far more fervently, and begins to reckon and to love God more, and to enter into longer periods of prayer with greater fervency. And the result of that is—cannot help but be—some sort of change that is Spirit-led. Whether it’s a massive change that’s been well documented, like the First and Second Great Awakening, or whether it’s something that is less documented, like the Waldensian movement in the 12th century.

Brian Arnold (12:47):

And I think it’s important to note what you said there about this greater fervency in reading Scripture, in prayer, in just this consciousness of who God is in your life. That happens on an individual basis. You know, as I think about conversion stories in church history, all the way from Justin Martyr up through John Wesley, and in my own life, of this heart that is strangely warmed, kindled for the things of God in a way that it wasn’t before, that’s really the miracle of the rebirth that’s playing out. And what we’re saying right now, I think, is when that happens on a large scale, at a fast pace, you have a revival that is happening. And, you know, even when I think about the medieval period, too, I think about some of those preaching orders that developed. Things like the Dominicans or the Franciscans, where they said—we need to preach the gospel in the vernacular of the people, so that they can understand and respond to God as well.

David Hogg (13:45):

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s also worth noting that not all revivals or awakenings, depending on how you want to define those things, are geographically or population-wise massive. I mean, there are revivals, for example, in the 19th century in Northern Scotland, that unless you know something about Scottish history or British church history, most people don’t know about. But, you know, for smaller geographic locations, massively influential in terms of what the Spirit did in a group of believers, and then, through them, drawing many to himself. So it’s also worth noting that when we think about these things, it doesn’t have…a revival, or, well, a work of the Spirit that is unusually powerful—it doesn’t have to…we don’t have to wait for it to be a certain size before we can say, “Oh, okay, so this is now a legitimate revival. Or a legitimate awakening.” Sometimes they do happen on slightly smaller scales.

Brian Arnold (14:40):

It can happen in a church. It can happen in a ministry. Right? And even the time frame. I think when people think of the First Great Awakening, it’s…they’re thinking years of awakening and revival. When really, it’s about 18 months. And just as surprisingly as it came, it kind of…it just went out. And you stopped seeing some of those kind of mass movements kind of happening. But there’s a lot of people who are awakened during that time who continue on with that level of fervency. And then, of course, we could talk about the Reformation as its own kind of revival. And then from the Reformation of the 16th century, you move into the 17th century, and you get these great movements of the Puritans in England. And even one of my favorite, yet unappreciated, groups of the pietists on the continent.

Brian Arnold (15:26):

And there’s some real, beautiful things happening amongst the pietists. Even things like small groups. I don’t know if it was in the Pia Desideria by Jacob Spener, but…I can’t remember who I read it in, but basically saying that they started small group ministry. So there’s nothing new under the sun, folks. If your church is starting small groups, and you think, we’re really on the cusp of something—they’ve been around for about 400 years. And then, of course, we go into the awakenings that people are most familiar with—the First and Second Great Awakening. So if we can just take a minute to kind of unpack what happened there, with the First Great Awakening figures like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, George Whitefield. So what really stands out to you from that First Great Awakening?

David Hogg (16:12):

A couple of things stand out to me. And I would…I mean, yes, you have Jonathan Edwards preaching on justification. Jonathan Edwards was preaching on sin, and doing so…now, some historians have now questioned this, but for the most part, we recognize Jonathan Edwards, amazingly, was probably the most boring preacher on the planet. You know, he read his manuscripts, and so forth. Some people are trying to now say—oh, no, no, no. He was far more exciting. But for the most part, it seems like he was not a pulpiteer, as we now use the phrase.

Brian Arnold (16:40):

Like David Hogg, correct, yes.

David Hogg (16:42):

<laugh> Or not. But yeah, I mean, so it’s kind of intriguing that here’s a man who’s just simply preaching the Word. That’s one thing that catches my attention. You know, he’s not trying to manufacture something. But also what intrigues me is the kind of pre-Great Awakening and post-Great Awakening. And what I mean by that is like the awakening that took place with Edwards in the 1730s and 1740s, and Whitefield and Wesley, and so forth, depending on how you’re going to look at…you know, define that. All of that was…the precursor was, for example, Edward’s own grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, just faithfully preaching and ministering God’s Word. And almost in a sense, I think, preparing the soil on which his grandson would then spread the seed of the gospel. So to some degree, there’s something to be said for the continuing faithful ministry in between revival, or great awakenings, that simply is continuing to prepare that soil.

David Hogg (17:40):

The other thing I like about the…at least the First Great Awakening, as we often refer to it, is some of its broadness. You know, there was an interdenominational aspect. You’ve got Whitefield, who’s an Anglican. William Tennant was a Presbyterian. Jonathan Edwards was a congregationalist. Eventually…the Baptists are always late to the party, but eventually they joined in the fray. So you get like a multi-denominationalism here, where people are so focused on the person and work of Christ, and the wonder of God in his triune nature, and the glory of salvation to sinful and fallen humanity, that to a degree, there’s that recognition that—well, we’re in this together. Well, we may have our differences over infant baptism, or, you know, church government, or what have you. There is a wonderful unity that pervades. And in a way, you’ve got to ask yourself—is this not the answer to Jesus’s prayer in John 17?

Brian Arnold (18:32):

Oh, and I think in many ways it is. And we just see it manifest in so many different ways, even between the First and Second Great Awakening. But even with what God is doing today, that people aren’t using the right labels for things, they could miss some of the great movements of God. So the First Great Awakening, I like to think of it as, you know, just this genuine work of the Holy Spirit. But when I talk about the Second Great Awakening, I like to use the phrase “recipes for revival.”

David Hogg (18:59):


Brian Arnold (18:59):

Yes. So here we have guys like Charles Finney. It’s out of the Second Great Awakening kind of era, and all this religious movement, if I can say it like that, that you get things like the LDS church. That you get things like Jehovah’s Witnesses. You know, a lot of heresy was born out of the Second Great Awakening. So what do we learn from the Second Great Awakening, and how do you kind of juxtapose those?

David Hogg (19:25):

So I think…how I juxtapose them is the First Great Awakening, I would say was…I don’t know. It is probably not the best term for it, but it’s a bit of a surprise. I mean, even Jonathan Edwards, when things started to happen, I think rightly so, he said…he asked the question, “Is this genuine? Did the Holy Spirit really work in this way?” Now eventually he came to the conclusion—yes. And I think a healthy sort of cautious optimism—or call it skepticism, if you will. But I think that’s…you know, there’s a bit of a surprise, was the First Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening was a little more planned, in a way. You mentioned Charles Finney, and it’s kind of interesting. Finny is famous for saying that “religion is the work of man, and the result of the right use of appropriate means.”

David Hogg (20:12):

And he still believed that you…obviously, you can’t plan for the work of the Holy Spirit, but Finney was very much a believer in—I can manufacture something here. I can use means that the Spirit will then honor, I suppose we could say, and many, many people will be brought to salvation. So we can actually, we can…if we want revival, we can bring it. And Finney was very much in that vein of thinking. So for him, mass advertising was important. Just protracted meetings, just on and on and on, until something happened. You know, there are aspects of that that I think were very different than the First Great Awakening. And I suppose one of my critiques…and that’s not the only aspect of the…the Second Great Awakening is a bit more complex than most people think.

David Hogg (20:59):

But on that aspect of the Second Great Awakening, I think, one of the things we can…we should at least pause and think about is yes, I think there’s…we need to think about—to what degree can we manufacture this? Now, I happen to be on the side of—I’m not sure we can. You know, but I do think there are certain practices, certain habits of grace that Christians ought to be practicing with greater faithfulness, that I think will lead to the Spirit moving, and so forth. But I think the Second Great Awakening just raises some of those questions. And what happens when you set some theology aside, as I would argue Finney did, in favor of some pragmatic things that you think you can just produce? Does that answer your question?

Brian Arnold (21:44):

Oh, it absolutely does. And, you know, just to give some tangible aspects of this for our listeners, I would point to things like the altar call. So Finney had what he called “the anxious bench,” and if you felt like the Holy Spirit might be moving and calling on you during the service, you’d actually come up on stage where there was a bench, and people would be praying for you while he’s up there preaching. You know, I know from a lot of the background I have, it is still very common to see altar calls, as though that’s how Jesus did it. That’s how Paul did it. That’s how, you know, Justin Martyr did it, I mean, just for the ages. But really, it’s relatively new in church history. Not meaning it’s necessarily bad, but just I like to know the origins of things, and where they’re coming from.

Brian Arnold (22:25):

And then, maybe on the other side of that, where I would press on people today—and this is kind of a unpopular opinion—is, man, if we get the lights just right, and just enough fog coming from the machine, and we amp it up in this room, but we got to make sure like we amp it up early, then we get the right slow song right before the message. Like, we can do these things, and manufacture an atmosphere in which we think the Holy Spirit will be more, you know, likely to work. Now we are humans, and we…our hearts do pull towards affections in certain ways. And that’s not bad. And so I think we need to be thoughtful. So don’t hear me, if you’re listening to this, hear me just taking shots at everyone right now. I’m just saying we need to be very thoughtful about what we’re trying to do, and are we trying to manipulate the Spirit to do what we want him to do?

Brian Arnold (23:13):

Or are we trying to really create an atmosphere in which we think worship can be done in a God-honoring way, where preaching’s going to be heard, and we want that to pierce hearts? So. Well, I mean, there’s so, so much more we could say about revival, and I wish we could. But I did want you to maybe tell us a couple resources that people could be reading if they want to learn more about revival. Maybe specifically about the 18th century revivals, but more, I just even mean broadly, and how they might be praying for it.

David Hogg (23:44):

Yeah, I think that’s good question. There’s…it may not necessarily be…well, there’s a book that I think…I actually required my students to read it. Doug Sweeney’s The American Evangelical Story is, I think, just a helpful resource in helping people place the Great Awakenings in a broader context. And to see that there are lots of other things going on. I think, you know, that’s a helpful resource. There’s a series of books that I think are also rather helpful—The Dominance of Evangelicalism with David Bebbington, The Rise of Evangelicalism by Mark Noll, The Expansion of Evangelicalism by Wolffe, and so forth. There’s a series of books there. 

Brian Arnold (24:25):

Fantastic books.

David Hogg (24:25):

Yeah. Great books. And I think all of them do what needs to be done, which is not to deny the work of the Spirit, as though they’re going to turn around and say—oh, well the Spirit is not at work. But no, they accept that the Spirit is at work, and sometimes in wonderful ways, but they also want to say—but it’s part of a larger history. There are other things going on, and you need to be aware of these things. So I would actually point people to those resources as a way of helping them ground what they’re thinking in a historical context.

Brian Arnold (24:53):

I think those are really helpful works. And then, if I might just add one more, Lloyd Jones’s, Martin Lloyd Jones’s, book on Revival, as a way to really pray for, anticipate, expect. And folks, let’s continue to do that. Let’s hope that God is working at Asbury and other college campuses. Let’s pray that he’ll do it in our churches, and let’s pray that he’ll do it in our lives. Dr. Hogg, thanks so much for joining us today.

David Hogg (25:16):

Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Outro (25:18):

Thank you for listening to Faith Seeking Understanding. It means so much to us that this content is helping you grow in your understanding of the faith. I want to take a moment to tell you about our new online learning experience at Phoenix Seminary. Over the last year, we’ve been creating what we believe to be the highest quality of online courses for ministry training. If you’re called to train for a lifetime of faithful service, but can’t join us on campus, I’d like to invite you to join us online. Take courses featuring some of the guests you’ve heard on Faith Seeking Understanding, including Wayne Grudem, Mike Thigpen, Steve Duby, myself, and more. Learn more about Phoenix seminary online, and even access the entire online lecture content for my church history course at

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