Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. ~Revelation 3:2
George Whitfield (1714–1770) and Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758)
Ryan M. Reeves (PhD Cambridge) is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
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 1850s. The Second Great Awakening reflected Romanticism characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the super-natural. It rejected the skeptical rationalism and deism of the Enlightenment.
The revivals enrolled millions of new members in existing evangelical denominations and led to the formation of new denominations. Many converts believed that the Awakening heralded a new millennial age. The Second Great Awakening stimulated the establishment of many reform movements designed to remedy the evils of society before the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Historians named the Second Great Awakening in the context of the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s and of the Third Great Awakening of the late 1850s to early 1900s. These revivals were part of a much larger Romantic religious movement that was sweeping across Europe at the time, mainly throughout England, Scotland, and Germany.
Third Great Awakening
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The Third Great Awakening refers to a hypothetical 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 affected 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, and Christian Science.
The era saw the adoption of a number of moral causes, such as the abolition of slavery and prohibition. However, some scholars, such as Kenneth Scott Latourette, dispute the thesis that the United States ever had a Third Great Awakening.
)))Fourth Great Awakening
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.
Whether or not they constitute an awakening, many changes did take place. The “mainline” Protestant churches 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 politicallypowerful. Other evangelical and fundamentalist denominations also expanded rapidly. At the same time, secularism grew dramatically, and the more conservative churches saw themselves battling secularism in terms of issues such as gay rights, abortion, and creationism.
Azusa Street Revival (1906)