Revivals were often ignored, minimized or opposed for many reasons:
- Some historians wrote for predominantly secular purposes, so ignored significant Spirit movements. Josephus referred only briefly to Jesus and his troublesome sect.[i]
- Many historians wrote from the perspective of the established church, which often opposed and suppressed revival movements.[ii]
- Strong impacts of the Spirit constantly initiated new movements which criticized and threatened the established order, so these movements were opposed, their writings destroyed and many leaders martyred.[iii]
- Authentic revival movements were often regarded as heretical, and their leaders killed, as happened with Jesus, the leaders in the early church, and throughout history.
- Some Spirit movements became cults with heretical teachings, and so brought disrepute on the whole movement and suspicion concerning charismata, especially prophecies, so they were opposed and suppressed.
- Excessive enthusiasm or fanaticism in revival movements have brought these genuine Spirit movements into disrepute and so generated more opposition.
- Personal and historical accounts of impacts of the Spirit have been systematically destroyed during subsequent historical periods, often burned as heretical.
- Leaders and adherents of revivals have often been occupied with other pressing priorities such as ensuring their own survival rather than recording their history.
[i] Jopsephus gives one brief paragraph reference to Jesus (including later Christian editing) in his section on Pilate within his voluminous accounts of The Antiquities of the Jews:
“There was about this time a wise man named Jesus – if it is lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of the type of men who enjoy hearing the truth. He drew many of the Jews and Gentiles to him; he was the Christ. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the Jewish leaders, condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold, along with many other wonderful things concerning him. The tribe of Christians named for him still exists today” (1988, Josephus, Barbour, p. 61).
[ii] The excesses of Montanism, for example, brought it into disrepute and for centuries it was regarded as heretical. Wesley acknowledged the Montanists’ authenticity, as do recent historians, while also noting their fanatical and schismatic tendencies.
[iii] The Reformation period provides many examples, such as the burning of the works of Hus, Savonarola, Wycliffe, and the reformers, many of them suffering martyrdom.
The Middle Ages – to 1500