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Michael Yount: A. B. Simpson

Michael G. Yount, A. B. Simpson: His Message and Impact on the Third Great Awakening (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2016), 232 pages, ISBN 9781498282802.

An appreciation for the role that A. B. Simpson (1843–1919), founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, played in the shaping of late nineteenth-century trans-Atlantic evangelicalism has been growing in recent years. While the impact that he had on the denomination that he founded is obvious, the impression that he left on early Pentecostalism seems now beyond academic dispute. Only more recently has Simpson’s contribution to a wider Evangelicalism been considered. Michael Yount’s A. B. Simpson: His Message and Impact on the Third Great Awakening will certainly contribute to that growing understanding and appreciation.

At the heart of Yount’s work is the assertion that Simpson played a significant role in shaping the Third Great Awakening, a movement of God that brought new life to the Church and emerged from, among other influences, the Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1857 and Phoebe Palmer’s Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness. After providing a very helpful chapter that surveys the religious landscape that led to and marked this Awakening and after providing a chapter laying out an insightful biography of Simpson’s life, Yount moves on to describe those areas, both theological and practical, where Simpson’s contributions may be seen most clearly. These are 1) evangelism, 2) the Holiness Movement, 3) the Healing Movement, 4) the Premillennial Movement, and 5) Urban and Worldwide Evangelization. These, of course, align with Simpson’s “Fourfold Gospel” and his emphasis on mission. Each of these chapters is clearly laid out, starting with an examination of the theological and historical context of the topic at hand and then moving on to describe and analyze Simpson’s particular views and contribution in that field.

Simpson believed that evangelism was the primary message of the Gospel and, therefore, was also his primary task.

In regard to the first area, Yount notes that Simpson believed that evangelism or “the saving of souls” was the “primary message” of the Gospel and was, therefore, the primary task of both his own work and that of the ministries that he helped to found. In regard to the second, the Holiness Movement, the author describes the mediating position that Simpson took between two popular understandings of sanctification (Wesleyanism and Keswick), his role in promoting holiness, and, particularly, both his influence on and distinction from the emerging Pentecostal Movement. In the chapter on Simpson’s relation to the Healing Movement, Yount shows how Simpson understood this blessing to be grounded in the atonement, how he resisted those who would misrepresent it, and how he was a leading figure in the development and dissemination of this theology in North America. When it comes to the Premillennial Movement, Simpson is shown to be a thorough-going premillennialist, though not a thorough-going dispensationalist. Yount goes on to show that Simpson believed that certain historical events must precede Christ’s return, including the evangelization of the world. Therefore, if the Church truly longed to “hasten” the Lord’s return, as it should, it would dedicate itself immediately to worldwide evangelization. Yount’s most fulsome chapter, that regarding Urban and Worldwide Evangelization, carefully traces Simpson’s various evangelistic efforts, innovations, and iterates the significant influence that he had on those who, in various ways, would take up the effort within and even beyond the confines of the Alliance. The book concludes by examining the ramifications of Simpson’s on-going influence on the church, particularly The Christian and Missionary Alliance, today.

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Category: Church History, Spring 2017

About the Author: Bernie A. Van De Walle, Ph.D. (Drew University), is Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology and theology program convener at Ambrose University College in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the author of The Heart of the Gospel: A. B. Simpson, the Fourfold Gospel, and Late Nineteenth-Century Evangelical Theology (2009), Rethinking Holiness: A Theological Introduction (2017), and contributor to other works including The Spirit Renews the Face of the Earth: Pentecostal Forays in Science and Theology of Creation (2009), Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (2011), and The Holy River of God: Currents and Contributions of the Wesleyan Holiness Stream of Christianity (2016). He has served as the President of the Christian Theological Research Fellowship and sits on the Steering Committee of the Wesleyan Holiness Connection. Amazon Author page

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