Great Awakening Definition
Definition of the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening a period of religious awakening and reform. It was a series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies that were led by evangelical Protestant ministers. The Great Awakening was sparked by the tour of an English evangelical minister called George Whitefield.
Great Awakening - Dates
The First Great Awakening began in 1725 and lasted up to 1750. The Second Great Awakening began during the early 1800's. The third and fourth revivals inspired by the Great Awakening occurred between 1880-1910 and in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This article covers the First and Second Great Awakening which occurred in Colonial America.
Great Awakening - Map
The First Great Awakening was a spiritual renewal that swept the American Colonies, particularly New England, during the first half of the 18th Century. The adjacent Map shows the spread and the paths of revival the Second Great Awakening. Upstate New York was called the "Burned-over district" because of the numerous revivals that criss-crossed the region during the Second Great Awakening.
The Great Awakening
Map showing the spread of the
Second Great Awakening
Purpose of the Great Awakening - Revivalist Movements
The Great Awakening was a revivalist movement prompted during the 1700's by the diminishing role that religion played in the everyday lives of American colonists. Protestant Churches and ministers, concerned for the spiritual well being of their congregations, set in motion a series of religious revivals which are referred to as the Great Awakenings. The Great Awakenings encompassed political factions to effect religious, social, and political changes. The Great Awakening sought to use the basis of religion to:
- Revive faith in members of the congregation - hence the terms 'revival' and 'revivalists'
- Bring about social reforms
Purpose of the Great Awakening - Evangelism
The Great Awakening adopted the evangelical style of preaching and adhered to the beliefs of the evangelists. Evangelism was movement in church history that started at the Protestant reformation. Evangelism was incorporated in the Great Awakening. Evangelists held conservative theological views believing in the Bible as the word of God and sufficient for salvation, for the establishment of faith and that Jesus Christ is the sole source of salvation through faith in Him. An evangelical is characterized by four elements:
The movements were characterized by revival meetings and emotional conversion.
The First Great Awakening
The First Great Awakening focused on the church congregation - people who were already church members. It changed their piety, their rituals and their self awareness. The First Great Awakening sought to make reforms to the church. It also sought to make conversions within the church community. The First Great Awakening led to a division between the "Old Lights" and "New Lights." Revivalists, or the "New Lights", split off from the Congregationalists, Anglicans and Presbyterians and formed their own denominations. Many "New Lights" became Baptists and Methodists, and a new revivalist Presbyterian denomination was formed. The First Great Awakening emphasized personal freedom and repudiated slavery.
George Whitefield - Great Awakening
Effects of the First Great Awakening
The results of the First Great Awakening had many effects. The effects of the movement were as follows:
- Faith in the Protestant religion was revived
- There was a sharp, general increase of interest in the subject of religion
- Evangelical church membership significantly increased
- Ardent and zealous enthusiasm of evangelical church members who had a profound sense of conviction and redemption
- A duty by believers to persuade others to accept Christ
- Heated debates between Protestants
- The governments in the Colonies passed laws to keep ecclesiastical order, fuelling sentiment for the separation of church and state
- Many converts separated from established churches to form churches with stricter membership requirements
- It brought Christianity to African slaves
- People started to challenge established authority
- The effects of the Great Awakening...
Effects of the Great Awakening
The "Old Lights" and the "New Lights"
One of the effects of the Great Awakening were the heated debates between Protestants. Some Protestants, referred to as the "Old Lights", rejected the Great Awakening and argued with the "New Lights", who accepted the new movement and sometimes suffered persecution because of their religious zeal and fervor. The adjacent picture depicts a scene in which Baptist ministers were 'dunked' in the local stream - and indication of the arguments between the traditional "Old Lights" and the evangelical fervor of the "New Lights".
Leaders of the Great Awakening
The leaders of the were George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, William Tennent and Gilbert Tennent.
The Second Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening enrolled millions of new members focussing on the belief that every person could be saved through revivals. The focus shifted from traditional evangelism and conversion, to recruitment into different denominations. In the North, the First Great Awakening resulted in the creation of voluntary, reformist societies, which led directly to the abolitionist movement in the middle of the 1800's. In the South, white evangelicals began to preach that the Bible supported slavery, a notion that was in the interests of the Slave Plantations.
Effects of the Second Great Awakening
One of the effects of the Great Awakening were the heated debates between Protestants. Some Protestants, referred to as the "Old Lights", rejected the Great Awakening and argued with the "New Lights", who accepted the new movement and sometimes suffered persecution because of their religious zeal and fervor. The leaders of the were George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, William Tennent and Gilbert Tennent.
Effects of the Second Great Awakening
The effects of the Second Great Awakening:
A decrease in Quakers, Anglicans, and Congregationalists
An increase in Presbyterians and Baptists increased
Seventh-day Adventists and Advent Christians
An emergence in black Protestantism
Religious schools and Bible study groups emerged
A division of religious beliefs between the North and the South
Abolitionist (anti-slavery) movements emerged in the North
Pro-Slavery movements emerged in the South
The Third Great Awakening
The Third Great Awakening in 1880-1910 was characterized by new denominations and very active missionary work.
Interesting Facts and information about the First and Second Awakenings
First and Second Awakenings
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First and Second Awakenings history resource for kids
Social Studies Homework help for kids on the First and Second Awakenings