More Than Just a History Book: A Review of Great Southland Revival
To quote the great Professor Stuart Piggin, Australia has a missing story. And that story needs to be told.
For decades, secular historians have neglected the profound impact that Christians, Christian ideas and Christian institutions have played in the development of modern Australia. In reality, our Christian heritage permeates the Australian story from the First Fleet to the 21st Century.
However, secular historians have left this part of our story largely untouched.
Preface: The Publication of Stuart Piggin’s Seminal Research
That all began to change in 2018 with the publication of The Fountain of Public Prosperity, a seminal study examining the history of evangelicalism in Australia. Written by Professor Stuart Piggin (Macquarie University) and American historian Professor Robert D. Linder (Kansas State University), the magisterial work revealed: “the largely unknown but very significant extent to which these currents shaped our nation” (Hon. John Anderson AC, former Deputy Prime Minister).
The historical academy began to notice.
Dr Meredith Lake (University of Sydney) called the book “[o]ne of the great works of Australian history,” while Dr Geoff Treloar (University of New South Wales) described it as “monumental”. Dr Brian Dickey (Flinders University) said that the study was a “masterwork of Australian history”.
History is important.
Even if we are unaware of it, we are all products of the distant past just as we are products of our immediate context. Accordingly, an awareness of history helps us to make sense of who we are as individuals and as a society.
However much many of our politicians and media elites would seek to deny it, Christianity has played a huge role — and a hugely positive role — in Australia’s past. Professor Stuart Piggin’s research has helped — perhaps more than anyone else — to establish this fact.
Taking the Truth About Australia’s Christian Heritage to a Wider Audience
Given Professor Piggin’s monumental role in the rediscovery of Australia’s Christian heritage, I cannot think of a more appropriate person to write the foreword to the Canberra Declaration’s latest book.
As I noted in my comments during the book’s official launch webinar, Great Southland Revival stands out to me in a few ways.
Firstly, it is a one-stop-shop work. Of course, reading more than one book on any given subject is always advisable. However, if you are determined to only ever read one book on the history of revival (and you are Australian), Great Southland Revival has to be a contender for that slot.
It provides a whirlwind tour of global revival history, covering (arguably) all of the “need-to-know” revival stories from our American, English, Welsh and European brothers and sisters.
But the book also takes a deep dive into areas of Australia’s revival history that are still relatively unknown — even to scholarship, let alone to the wider Australian public.
And this leads me to the second thing that stood out to me; namely, the book’s accessibility. Academic books are great — and trust me, I’ve read my fair share — however, they are typically very restricted in their readership (for obvious reasons: cost, speciality, accessibility, etc.). Popular books, on the other hand, are regularly inclined to sacrifice accuracy for readability (this is the historian in me speaking). Inconvenient truths can be omitted; the truth can be sensationalised, and, at the more innocent level, sloppy research and writing can affect a book’s accuracy, too. In popular works, entertainment can easily be privileged over truth, and the inevitable complexities and subtleties of life can be flattened out — simplified beyond recognition.
Kurt and Warwick’s book, as far as I can tell, balances these various tensions unbelievably well.
Without sensationalising or whitewashing the past, Great Southland Revival promises to expose a wider audience than ever before to the reality and extent of Australia’s Christian history.
I truly hope it does.
More than Just a History Book; It’s a Cure
But Great Southland Revival is more than just a history book.
The final thing that impressed me about the book is that it comes from a place of deep passion and heartfelt inspiration.
As they outline in the introduction, Kurt and Warwick’s hope for the Great Southland Revival is that, through it, the spiritual fires of revival might be rekindled. Professor Piggin called the book “the divine cure for a deadly, sleeping sickness”.
It is more than just a history book; it is a cure.
These three reasons, and more, were why I was among the scores to heartily endorsed the book:
“Great Southland Revival provides a whirlwind tour tracing the unbroken line of revival history from the first century A.D. to contemporary Australia. It is simple but not simplistic, maintaining scholarly rigour while presenting a sympathetic and accessible treatment of historical revivals. The authors skilfully balance the voice of a scholar with that of a narrator. They display a deep appreciation of Christian history and a breadth of experience and awareness within the wider contemporary Christian tradition. I hope this book will appeal to a broad cross-section of the Christian community. The book will inspire you to seek the role that you can play in God’s kingdom—whether as a Paula of Rome, a John Wycliffe, a Dwight L. Moody, a Hannah More, or a Lachlan Macquarie. I wholeheartedly endorse Great Southland Revival for anyone seeking to be both instructed and encouraged by Australia’s riveting revival story.”
If you want to buy Great Southland Revival, you can do so on the Canberra Declaration website.
Originally published on The Daily Declaration.