The great awakening
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The Great Awakening. In Colonial America. In Review. Colonial America was in transition. The communities had been established and were thriving. Immigration from Europe was increasing day by day Colonial America was developing it’s own leadership, in the wealthy, land owning men.

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The Great Awakening

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The great awakening

The Great Awakening

In Colonial America


The great awakening

In Review

  • Colonial America was in transition.

  • The communities had been established and were thriving.

  • Immigration from Europe was increasing day by day

  • Colonial America was developing it’s own leadership, in the wealthy, land owning men.

  • This leadership was highly educated, well read and influenced by the Enlightened mind set.

  • Colonial people were beginning to develop a sense of identity.

  • Politically speaking:

  • The Enlightened way of thinking caused the leadership to challenge the authority of England.

  • The colonies want their own identity and the right to determine their own future.

  • Religiously speaking, the Great Awakening also encouraged a new way of thinking.

  • The religious authority was being challenged.


The great awakening

The Great Awakening

  • During the late seventeenth and early eighteen centuries, colonial America saw major changes.

  • American cities developed into major seaports

  • Southern plantations were major contributors to colonial America’s economy.

  • The population increased with immigrants coming in large numbers and due to the growth of this new American economy.

  • It was during this period of economic boom that colonial America experienced two major revivals that had lasting effects on the country. The Enlightenment and the Great Awakening.

  • The Great Awakening was a period of great revivalism that spread throughout the colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. It deemphasized the importance of church doctrine and instead put a greater importance on the individual and their personal spiritual experience.


The great awakening

What was the Great Awakening

  • The Great Awakening was a spiritual renewal that swept the American Colonies, particularly New England, during the first half of the 18th Century.

  • Certain Christians began to disassociate themselves with the established approach to worship at the time which had led to a general sense of complacency among believers, and instead they adopted an approach which was characterized by great fervor and emotion in prayer.

  • This new spiritual renewal began with people like the Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield (who came from England) during the first half of the 18th Century.

  • Unlike the somber, largely Puritan spirituality of the early 1700s, the revivalism ushered in by the Awakening allowed people to express their emotions more overtly in order to feel a greater intimacy with God.


The great awakening

What Caused the Great Awakening?

  • In late 17th Century England, fighting between religious and political groups came to a halt with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, an event which established the Church of England as the reigning church of the country.

  • From a political perspective, this led to stability since everyone now practiced the same religion. But instead of being a positive driving force for religious belief in general, it created complacency and spiritual “dryness” among believers.

  • Religion became something of a pastime in which people would “go through the motions” during religious services without deeply-felt convictions of the heart and soul. It was only after some decades of this kind of complacency in both England and the American colonies that the spiritual “revival” of the Great Awakening came about.

  • The Great Awakening came about at a time when people in the American colonies were questioning the role of the individual in religion and society. It began at the same time as the Enlightenment which emphasized logic and reason and stressed the power of the individual to understand the universe based on scientific laws. Similarly, individuals grew to rely more on a personal approach to religion.


The great awakening

What were the effects of the Great Awakening?

  • The Great Awakening’s biggest significance was the way it prepared the America people for its War of Independence.

  • In the decades before the war, revivalism taught people that they could be confident when confronting religious authority, and that when churches weren’t living up to the believers’ expectations, the people could break off and form new denominations or new churches.

  • Through the Awakening, the Colonists realized that religious power resided in their own hands, rather than in the hands of the religious authority.

  • The Colonists also came to realize that political power did not reside in the hands of the English monarch, but in their own will for self-governance.

  • By 1775, even though the Colonists did not all share the same theological beliefs, they did share a common vision of freedom from British control.

  • Thus, the Great Awakening brought about a climate which made the American Revolution possible.

  • The Great Awakening also provided an alternative to the Enlightened philosophy of rationalism.


The great awakening

Towards an American Identity

  • The major effect of the Awakening was a rebellion against authoritarian religious rule which spilled over into other areas of colonial life. Amidst the growing population of the colonies charismatic personalities traveled around to deliver their messages.

  • As preachers visited various town, sects began to break off larger churches and a multitude of Protestant denominations sprouted.

  • The social effect of many new denominations was not, however, a fracturing of communities, but a unifying drive which helped to create a “national consciousness”

  • The effect of Great Awakening unity was an attitude that went against the mainline thinking that consumed English politics and religion. Rather than believing that God’s will was necessarily interpreted by the monarch or his bishops, the colonists viewed themselves as more capable of performing the task.

  • The chain of authority no longer ran from God to ruler to people, but from God to people to ruler. The children of revivalism later echoed this radicalism and popular self-righteousness in the American Revolution.

  • It was not to any church that the signers of the Declaration of Independence appealed to, but directly to the “Supreme Judge of the World”.

  • It was through the revivalism that the colonists were finally able to step out from under the protection of the established churches and assert religious control over their own nation’s destiny.


The great awakening

The Government as Governing Body of the People

  • Another effect of the Great Awakening on colonial culture was the growth of the notion of state rule or the government would govern and set the laws for the people.

  • Believers during this time period gained an understanding of what “covenants” meant with their churches.

  • Each believer understood that they owed their allegiance to their church, and their church in turn owed their congregants the duty to be faithful to the Gospel.

  • Believers though reserved the right to dissolve the covenant and to sever ties with the church without prior permission.

  • This notion of “covenant” was popular in the Puritan society and later formed the ideological basis for breaking from Great Britain.

  • As stated in the Declaration of Independence, the colonists were accustomed to separating themselves from authoritarian institutions.


The great awakening

What is the Significance of the Great Awakening?

  • It pushed individual religious experience over established church doctrine, thereby decreasing the importance of the church.

  • New denominations arose or grew in numbers as a result of the emphasis on individual faith and salvation.

  • It unified the American colonies as it spread through numerous preachers and revivals. This unification was greater than had ever been achieved previously in the colonies.

  • The religious revival of the Great Awakening led the colonists in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. Eighteenth Century Americans thought of religion as a form of social cooperation, rather than a competitive endeavor that the world of commerce envisioned.

  • Believers were told to be benevolent and to make self-sacrifices, and many were connected by way of their shared mass conversions. Thus, they could afford to make sacrifices for their land in times of need.


The great awakening

Significant Revivalist Preachers

  • Jonathan Edwards

  • Jonathan Edwards was a key American revivalist during the Great Awakening who preached for close to ten years in New England. He emphasized a personal approach to religion. He also bucked the puritan tradition and called for unity amongst all Christians as opposed to intolerance. His most famous sermon was "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," delivered in 1741. In this sermon he explained that salvation was a direct result from God and could not be attained by human works as the Puritans preached.

  • George Whitefield

  • A second important figure during the Great Awakening was George Whitefield. Unlike Edwards, Whitefield was a British minister who moved to colonial America. He was known as the "Great Itinerant" because he traveled and preached all around North American and Europe between 1740 and 1770. His revivals led to many conversions and the Great Awakening spread from North America to the European continent.


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