America's Great Awakening

George Whitefield,
early America's greatest preacher

I. Elements of the Great Awakening

II. Content of Message

A. Salvation came through faith and prayer, not rituals or good works

B. The individual, not any religious authority, judged his or her own behavior based on one's understanding of God and the Bible

C. Personal piety--break away from the constraints of the past and start fresh. Revivals resulted in changed behaviors (decrease in card-playing, drunkenness, increase in church attendance, Bible study)

D. Individual revival--rejection of cold rationalism of Puritanism and Anglicanism and more reliance on the "heart" rather than the "head."

E. Leading preachers: George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, William  and George Tennent. Originally welcomed by local ministers, they often harshly criticized local religiious leaders.

III. Impact of the Great Awakening

A. Creation of new colleges to train "new light" ministers--Princeton, Brown, Rutgers

B. Divisions in denominations and a sharpening of the differences between those who defined religion as a rational process (old lights0  and those who focused on experience (new lights)

C. Religious challenges to authority strengthened political challenges to authority. Many Revolutionary War soldiers were "new light" believers, particularly Methodists, Presbyterians, and Batpists

D. Development of revivalism tradition in American religion. Future outbreaks:

3) Billy Sunday, Billy Graham and mass meetings--20th century revivalism