The Great Awakening was a religious revival in American religious history. Historians and theologians identify three or four waves of Great Awakening occurring from the early 18th century to the late 20th century, each 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, a jump in evangelical church membership, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations.
First Great Awakening
The First Great Awakening began in 1725 and lasted to about 1750. Ministers from various evangelical Protestant denominations supported the Great Awakening,. 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. Leaders of the Awakening such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield had little interest in merely engaging parishioners' minds; they wanted far more to elicit an emotional response from their audience, one which might yield the workings and evidence of saving grace.
Influence on political life
Joseph Tracy, the minister and historian who gave this religious phenomenon its name in his influential 1842 book The Great Awakening, saw the First Great Awakening as a precursor to the American Revolution. The evangelical movement of the 1740s played a key role in the development of democratic concepts in the period of the American Revolution. This helped create a demand for the separation of church and state.
Second Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening was strongest in the western states, following the revival at Cane Ridge in Kentucky, and also in the "burned over" district of upstate New York.
New denominations included several major religious denominations, including Seventh-day Adventists, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism).
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