Fire in the Church
Maggie Helwig was a freelance writer and Professor of Pre-Industrial Arts, UPRPU, Peterborough, Ontario.
I could make various points about Rev. Ted Rendall’s Fire in the Church, a “study” of religious revival. I could suggest that a reprint of a book written eight years ago does not address the concerns of the present period, when there has been a major outburst of revivalism in fundamentalist Christianity. I could criticize Rendall for his theology, which is puerile; his historical perspective, which is drastically limited; or his style, which, despite a few passages whose simplicity and sincerity have real power, is in general numbingly bad. Finally, I could ask what it is really intended to accomplish, since it will almost certainly not be read by anyone who does not share Rendall’s views already, and since he has little to tell them that they do not already know.
That, however, would be to treat Fire in the Church as something it is not. It is, essentially, a sub-literary work, written throughout in “pamphlet English” (a dialect marked by repetitiveness, limited vocabulary, and much italicization); its aim is not so much to say anything to the reader as to share a few reassuring catch phrases. Those already predisposed to be inspired may find it inspiring, and its relative good sense may serve as a calming influence in an overheated revivalist movement somewhere. If so, it will have accomplished all it was intended to do, and to expect any more would be to expect far too much.