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The Great Awakening refers to a number of periods of religious revival in American Christian history. Historians and theologians identify three or four waves of increased religious enthusiasm occurring between the early 18th century and the late 20th century. Each of these "Great Awakenings" was characterized by widespread revivals led by evangelical Protestant ministers, a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected, an increase in evangelical church membership, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations.
Revivalism is increased spiritual interest or renewal in the life of a church congregation or society, with a local, national or global effect. This should be distinguished from the use of the term "revival" to refer to an evangelistic meeting or series of meetings.
Christianity was introduced to North America as it was colonized by Europeans beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish, French, and British brought Roman Catholicism to the colonies of New Spain, New France and Maryland respectively, while Northern European peoples introduced Protestantism to Massachusetts Bay Colony, New Netherland, Virginia colony, Carolina Colony, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Lower Canada. Among Protestants, adherents to Anglicanism, Methodism, the Baptist Church, Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Quakerism, Mennonite and Moravian Church were the first to settle in the US, spreading their faith in the new country. Notwithstanding this commonplace timeline, scholars of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assert that Christianity was first introduced to the Americas approximately 34 A.D., according to what is recorded in 3 Nephi Chapter 43, which chronicles the appearance of Jesus Christ to the Native Americans.
In Christianity, a minister is a person authorized by a church, or other religious organization, to perform functions such as teaching of beliefs; leading services such as weddings, baptisms or funerals; or otherwise providing spiritual guidance to the community. The term is taken from Latin minister, which itself was derived from minus ("less").
The Awakenings all resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal guilt and of their need of salvation by Christ. Some of the influential people during the Great Awakening were George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, and Gilbert Tennent, and some of the influential groups during the Great Awakening were the New Lights and the Old Lights.Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made religion intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction of personal sin and need for redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality. It brought Christianity to American-African slaves and was an apocalyptic event in New England that challenged established authority. It incited rancor and division between old traditionalists who insisted on the continuing importance of ritual and doctrine, and the new revivalists, who encouraged emotional involvement and personal commitment. It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational church, the Presbyterian church, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the German Reformed denomination, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist denominations. It had little impact on Anglicans and Quakers. Unlike the Second Great Awakening, which began about 1800 and reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety, and their self-awareness.
Jonathan Edwards was a North American revivalist preacher, philosopher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Edwards is widely regarded as one of the America's most important and original philosophical theologians. Edwards' theological work is broad in scope, but he was rooted in Reformed theology, the metaphysics of theological determinism, and the Puritan heritage. Recent studies have emphasized how thoroughly Edwards grounded his life's work on conceptions of beauty, harmony, and ethical fittingness, and how central The Enlightenment was to his mindset. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening, and oversaw some of the first revivals in 1733–35 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. His theological work gave rise to a distinct school of theology known as the New England theology.
Gilbert Tennent was a pietistic Protestant evangelist in colonial America. Born in a Presbyterian Scots-Irish family in County Armagh, Ireland, he migrated to America as a teenager, trained for pastoral ministry, and became one of the leaders of the Great Awakening of religious feeling in Colonial America, along with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. His most famous sermon, "On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry," compared contemporary anti-revivalistic ministers to the biblical Pharisees described of the Gospels, resulting in a division of the colonial Presbyterian Church which lasted 17 years. While engaging divisively via pamphlets early in this period, Tennent would later work "feverishly" for reunion of the various synods involved.
The terms Old Lights and New Lights are used in Protestant Christian circles to distinguish between two groups who were initially the same, but have come to a disagreement. These terms have been applied in a wide variety of ways, and the meaning must be determined from each context. Typically, if a denomination is changing, and some refuse to change, and the denomination splits, those who did not change are referred to as the "Old Lights", and the ones who changed are referred to as the "New Lights".
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The First Great Awakening began in the 1730s and lasted to about 1740, though pockets of revivalism had occurred in years prior, especially amongst the ministry of Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards' grandfather.Edwards' congregation was involved in a revival later called the "Frontier Revivals" in the mid-1730s, though this was on the wane by 1737. But as American religious historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom noted, the Great Awakening "was still to come, ushered in by the Grand Itinerant", the British evangelist George Whitefield. Whitefield arrived in Georgia in 1738, and returned in 1739 for a second visit of the Colonies, making a "triumphant campaign north from Philadelphia to New York, and back to the South". In 1740, he visited New England, and "at every place he visited, the consequences were large and tumultuous". Ministers from various evangelical Protestant denominations supported the Great Awakening. In the middle colonies, he influenced not only the British churches, but the Dutch and Germans.
The First Great Awakening or the Evangelical Revival was a series of Christian revivals that swept Britain and its Thirteen Colonies between the 1730s and 1740s. The revival movement permanently affected Protestantism as adherents strove to renew individual piety and religious devotion. The Great Awakening marked the emergence of Anglo-American evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement within the Protestant churches. In the United States, the term Great Awakening is most often used, while in the United Kingdom, it is referred to as the Evangelical Revival.
Solomon Stoddard was the pastor of the Congregationalist Church in Northampton, Massachusetts Bay Colony. He succeeded Rev. Eleazer Mather, and later married his widow around 1670. Stoddard significantly liberalized church policy while promoting more power for the clergy, decrying drinking and extravagance, and urging the preaching of hellfire and the Judgment. The major religious leader of what was then the frontier, he was known as the "Puritan Pope of the Connecticut River valley" and was concerned with the lives of second-generation Puritans. The well-known theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was his grandson, the son of Solomon's daughter, Esther Stoddard Edwards. Stoddard was the first librarian at Harvard University and the first person in American history known by that title.
Sydney Eckman Ahlstrom was an American educator and historian. He was a Yale University professor and a specialist in the religious history of the United States.
Additionally, pastoral styles began to change. In the late colonial period, most pastors read their sermons, which were theologically dense and advanced a particular theological argument or interpretation. Nathan O. Hatch argues that the evangelical movement of the 1740s played a key role in the development of democratic thought, [ disputed ] as well as the belief of the free press and the belief that information should be shared and completely unbiased and uncontrolled. Michał Choiński argues that the First Great Awakening marks the birth of the American "rhetoric of the revival" understood as "a particular mode of preaching in which the speaker employs and it has a really wide array of patterns and communicative strategies to initiate religious conversions and spiritual regeneration among the hearers". All these theological, social, and rhetorical notions ushered in the period of the American Revolution. This contributed to create a demand for religious freedom. The Great Awakening represented the first time African Americans embraced Christianity in large numbers.
Nathan Orr Hatch is president of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, having been officially installed on October 20, 2005. Before coming to Wake Forest Hatch was a professor and later dean and provost at the University of Notre Dame. Prior to his career in academic administration he was a historian who was a leading scholar on issues related to the history of religion in the United States.
In the later part of the 1700s the Revival came to the English colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, primarily through the efforts of Henry Alline and his New Light movement.
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime Provinces, and one of the four provinces that form Atlantic Canada. Its provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the second-smallest of Canada's ten provinces, with an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 sq mi), including Cape Breton and another 3,800 coastal islands. As of 2016, the population was 923,598. Nova Scotia is Canada's second-most-densely populated province, after Prince Edward Island, with 17.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (45/sq mi).
New Brunswick is one of four Atlantic provinces on the east coast of Canada. According to the Constitution of Canada, New Brunswick is the only bilingual province. About two-thirds of the population declare themselves anglophones, and one third francophones. One-third of the population describes themselves as bilingual. Atypically for Canada, only about half of the population lives in urban areas, mostly in Greater Moncton, Greater Saint John and the capital Fredericton.
Prince Edward Island is a province of Canada and one of the three Maritime Provinces. It is the smallest province of Canada in both land area and population, but it is the most densely populated. Part of the traditional lands of the Mi'kmaq, it became a British colony in the 1700s and was federated into Canada as a province in 1873. Its capital is Charlottetown. According to Statistics Canada, the province of PEI has 155,318 residents.
The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival that occurred in the United States beginning in the late eighteenth century and lasting until the middle of the nineteenth century. While it occurred in all parts of the United States, it was especially strong in the Northeast and the Midwest.This awakening was unique in that it moved beyond the educated elite of New England to those who were less wealthy and less educated. The center of revivalism was the so-called Burned-over district in western New York. Named for its overabundance of hellfire-and-damnation preaching, the region produced dozens of new denominations, communal societies, and reform.
The Burned-over District refers to the western and central regions of New York State in the early 19th century, where religious revivals and the formation of new religious movements of the Second Great Awakening took place, to such a great extent that spiritual fervor seemed to set the area on fire.
Among these dozens of new denominations were free black churches, ran independently of existing congregations that were predominately of white attendance. During the period between the American revolution and the 1850s, black involvement in largely white churches declined in great numbers, with participation becoming almost non-existent by the 1840s–1850s; some scholars argue that this was largely due to racial discrimination within the church.This discrimination came in the form of segregated seating and the forbiddance of African Americans from voting in church matters or holding leadership positions in many white churches. Reverend Richard Allen, a central founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was quoted describing one such incident of racial discrimination in a predominately white church, in which fellow preacher Absalom Jones was forcefully told to leave and grabbed by a white church trustee in the midst of prayer.
Closely related to the Second Great Awakening were other reform movements such as temperance, abolition, and women's rights. The temperance movement encouraged people to abstain from consuming alcoholic drinks in order to preserve family order. The abolition movement fought to abolish slavery in the United States. The women's rights movement grew from female abolitionists who realized that they too could fight for their own political rights. In addition to these causes, reforms touched nearly every aspect of daily life, such as restricting the use of tobacco and dietary and dress reforms. The abolition movement emerged in the North from the wider Second Great Awakening 1800–1840.
The Third Great Awakening in the 1850s–1900s was characterized by new denominations, active missionary work, Chautauquas, and the Social Gospel approach to social issues.The YMCA (founded in 1844) played a major role in fostering revivals in the cities in the 1858 Awakening and after. The revival of 1858 produced the leadership, such as that of Dwight L. Moody, out of which came religious work carried on in the armies during the civil war. The Christian and Sanitary Commissions and numerous Freedmen's Societies were also formed in the midst of the War.
The Fourth Great Awakening is a debated concept that has not received the acceptance of the first three. Advocates such as economist Robert Fogel say it happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Mainline Protestant denominations weakened sharply in both membership and influence while the most conservative religious denominations (such as the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans) grew rapidly in numbers, spread across the United States, had grave internal theological battles and schisms, and became politically powerful.
The idea of an "awakening" implies a slumber or passivity during secular or less religious times. Awakening is a term which originates from and is embraced often and primarily by evangelical Christians.In recent times, the idea of "awakenings" in United States history has been put forth by conservative American evangelicals.
Evangelicalism, evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide, trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity which maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus's atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the conversion or "born again" experience in receiving salvation, in the authority of the Bible as God's revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message. The movement has had a long presence in the Anglosphere before spreading further afield in the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries.
George Whitefield, also spelled Whitfield, was an English Anglican cleric and evangelist who was one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement.
The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant religious revival during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and, after 1820, membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the late 1840s. The Second Great Awakening reflected Romanticism characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the supernatural. It rejected the skeptical rationalism and deism of the Enlightenment.
The Third Great Awakening refers to a historical period proposed by William G. McLoughlin that was marked by religious activism in American history and spans the late 1850s to the early 20th century. It influenced pietistic Protestant denominations and had a strong element of social activism. It gathered strength from the postmillennial belief that the Second Coming of Christ would occur after mankind had reformed the entire earth. It was affiliated with the Social Gospel Movement, which applied Christianity to social issues and gained its force from the awakening, as did the worldwide missionary movement. New groupings emerged, such as the Holiness movement and Nazarene movements, Jehovah's Witnesses, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Thelema, and Christian Science.
The Holiness movement involves a set of beliefs and practices which emerged chiefly within 19th-century Methodism, and to a lesser extent other traditions such as Quakerism and Anabaptism. The movement is Wesleyan-Arminian in theology, and is defined by its emphasis on the doctrine of a second work of grace leading to Christian perfection. As of 2015 A number of Evangelical Christian denominations, parachurch organizations, and movements emphasize those beliefs as central doctrine. Holiness-movement churches had an estimated 12 million adherents.
The history of religion in the United States begins in 1776 with the American Revolution. For religion in North America before that, see the histories of particular colonies or the traditions of the continent's diverse Indigenous peoples.
The Fourth Great Awakening was a Christian awakening that some scholars — most notably economic historian Robert Fogel — say took place in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, while others look at the era following World War II. The terminology is controversial, with many historians believing the religious changes that took place in the US during these years were not equivalent to those of the first three great awakenings. Thus, the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening itself has not been generally accepted.
Jonathan Parsons was a Christian New England clergyman during the late colonial period and a supporter of the American Revolution. Born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, he was the youngest son of Ebenezer (Deacon) Parsons (1668-1752) and Margaret Marshfield of Springfield. Though intended for an artisan career, the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, then a tutor at Yale, persuaded young Parsons to prepare for college.
Protestantism originated from the Protestation at Speyer in 1529, where the nobility protested against enforcement of the Edict of Worms which subjected advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all of their property. However, the theological underpinnings go back much further, as Protestant theologians of the time cited both Church Fathers and the Apostles to justify their choices and formulations. The earliest origin of Protestantism is controversial; with some Protestants today claiming origin back to groups in the early church deemed heretical such as the Montanists.
Christianity is the most adhered to religion in the United States, with 75% of polled American adults identifying themselves as Christian in 2015. This is down from 85% in 1990, lower than 81.6% in 2001, and slightly lower than 78% in 2012. About 62% of those polled claim to be members of a church congregation. The United States has the largest Christian population in the world, with nearly 240 million Christians, although other countries have higher percentages of Christians among their populations.
Christianity in the 18th century is marked by the First Great Awakening in the Americas, along with the expansion of the Spanish and Portuguese empires around the world, which helped to spread Catholicism.
The history of modern Christianity concerns the Christian religion from the end of the Early Modern era to the present day. The Early Modern history of Christianity is usually taken to begin with the Protestant Reformation c. 1517–1525 and ending in the late 18th century with the onset of the Industrial Revolution and the events leading up to the French Revolution of 1789. This article only covers 1720 to the current date. For the early modern period, see the articles on the Protestant Reformation, the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Church and the Age of Discovery.
Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than also by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.
In the United States, evangelicalism is an umbrella group of Protestant Christians who believe in the necessity of being born again, emphasize the importance of evangelism, and affirm traditional Protestant teachings on the authority and the historicity of the Bible. Nearly a quarter of the US population, evangelicals are diverse and drawn from a variety of denominational backgrounds, including Baptist, Mennonite, Methodist, Holiness, Pentecostal, Reformed and nondenominational churches.
Christianity was introduced with the first European settlers beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries. Colonists from Northern Europe introduced Protestantism in its Anglican and Reformed forms to Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, New Netherland, Virginia Colony, and Carolina Colony. The first arrivals were adherents to Anglicanism, Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Quakerism, Anabaptism and the Moravian Church from British, German, Dutch, and Nordic stock. America emerged as a Protestant majority nation, with significant minorities of Roman Catholics and Jews.
Evangelical Anglicanism or evangelical Episcopalianism is a tradition or church party within Anglicanism that shares affinity with broader evangelicalism. Evangelical Anglicans share with other evangelicals the attributes of "conversionism, activism, biblicism and crucicentrism" identified by historian David Bebbington as central to evangelical identity. The emergence of evangelical churchmanship can be traced back to the First Great Awakening in America and the Evangelical Revival in Britain in the 18th century. In the 20th century, prominent figures have included John Stott and J. I. Packer.