I finally ordered the biography on Leonard Ravenhill and it arrived in the mail today. I’ve read all of Ravenhills books and listened to all the sermons I could find so I was excited about this book. I was a bit concerned that the author was a graduate from a Baptist Theological Seminary and wondered if that bias would come across.
I was flipping through it and came across a chapter on Ravenhills theology. I was very disappointed. He really butchered it. Often times the author would simply teach his own view on a matter, not quote Ravenhill at all, and then just say that Ravenhill would say a “amen” to this teaching. Othertimes he flat out contradicted what I know to be true.
First he said Leonard was not a Pentecostal. But Leonard certainly was. He helped start a Holiness Pentecostal denomination in England in his early days. He believed in a definite baptism of the Holy Spirit, after conversion, though he did not believe that tongues was “the” evidence.
Second, he said that Ravenhill came down on the Calvinist side of things sometimes. That was the most shocking to hear. Ravenhill was no Calvinist. The author even said elsewhere that Ravenhill was an eighteenth century Methodist born in the twentieth century. I believe that to be the truth.
Third, he said that Ravenhill did not teach Christian Perfection. I am surprised anyone familiar with his preaching on holiness could say such a thing. He claimed that Ravenhill was “unclear” about whether he believed indwelling sin could be eradicated in this life. Though my own views on original sin differ from Ravenhill’s Wesleyan view, Ravenhill did say, “You won’t go to hell of being born with original sin. You will go to hell for not getting rid of it.” Clearly, Ravenhill did not believe the doctrine of “sin in believers” that the author was trying to portray.
Fourth, he said Ravenhill believed in Penal Substitution. Ravenhill actually believed in the Governmental Substitution view, which was commonly held by the eightieth century Arminian Methodists. Ravenhill recommend Albert Barne’s book on The Atonement on his recommended reading list, which expounds the governmental view. Leonard’s daughter in law told me that when she would go and visit Leonard, on break from her Bible College, Leonard would preach to her against what she was learning in Bible College, specifically the idea that “Jesus paid it all, all the debt I owe.” Leonard said “That’s a lie.”
So that chapter was HORRIBLY inaccurate and biased. Leonard was not a Calvinist, he was pentecostal, he did believe in Christian perfection, he rejected Penal Substitution, he held to the governmental atonement view, he taught freedom from original sin, etc.
I hope, and am pretty sure, that the rest of the book is better than that chapter on theology. At the very least, the pictures are good even if the content thus far stinks. I did notice that the biographer at least got his birthplace correct and at least all the Ravenhill quotes will be excellent.
– Jesse Morrell
My life was profoundly impacted and influenced by the preaching of Leonard Ravenhill. To hear more about that, see this video: