An analysis and theological evaluation of revival and revivalism in America from 1730-1860
From the seventeenth century, North America has experienced a succession of powerful and nationally significant revivals. Such movements of the Spirit emanated from the seed of a reformed tradition that was maintained by the Pilgrim Fathers, Scots and Irish hesbyterians, Dutch Reformed and German Lutherans. For example, this heritage was foundational to the First Great Awakening, which produced a remarkable turn in favour of the Christian faith among the colonies during 1730-1750. Furthermore, following the American War of Independence this reformed heritage became the ground for promoting the Second Great Awakening, another movement of the Spirit that continued for a period of over twenty years. However in the 1820-30's, this heritage was seriously confronted by a different form of revivalism. During this decade, new theological/philosophical thinking, together with an updated method of evangelism, began to upset an accepted and traditional understanding of revival and revivalism. Existing friendships or loyalties between pro-revivalists were tried and tested and their eventual division over the issues meant that two alternative or separate views of revivals became common. The traditionalists tended to emphasize the sovereignty of God in revival, whilst the innovators appealed more to the use of human means in promoting 'outpourings of the Spirit.' This thesis will attempt to answer a central question: Can the church promote a revival? Is revival only, or always, directly attributable to God's sovereignty? Does God operate outside the employment of human agency in revival? If not, then at what level, to what degree, or by what means, does or can the church actively participate in the process of revivals? These questions will be considered from an overview of American revivalism during 1730-1860. This thesis will aim to present a case, based on biblical exegesis and historical illustration.
- Theology