Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future… Part 3

with 3 comments

Charles Finney

Charles Finney

The Second Great Awakening took place from 1790 to 1840.  The Second Great Awakening brought more of the revivalism of the First Great Awakening without many of the redeeming aspects of the First Great Awakening.  The critical difference between the First and Second Great Awakenings was the Revolutionary War that stood between the two.  The Revolutionary War had a profound affect on the ethos of American society.  There was a kind of rebellion not only against political hierarchy but of also religious and historical hierarchy.  Several US historians have pointed outthat following the Revolutionary War a democritization of knowledge also took place (see this and this and this).   The net effect of this was the weaving of anti-intellectualism, utilitarianism, pragmatism, and populism into the American tapestry.The First Great Awakening had the credence of George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley, whilst the Second Great Awakening brought us Charles Finney, the Restoration Movement, and numerous “New Religious Movements” (aka. cults).

Mike Horton on the Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney – please read this article if you are unfamiliar with Finney’s revivalism.

No single man is more responsible for the distortion of Christian truth in our age than Charles Grandison Finney. His “new measures” created a framework for modern decision theology and Evangelical Revivalism.

The Restoration Movement was an interesting beast.  The movement sought to create a united Christianity harkening back to the apostolic times.  A lot of times when these movements come around they make the mistake of thinking that true unity = least common denominator Christianity.  The result of these movements is often anti-intellectual, atheological, and destructive.  The Restoration Movement had some weird things about it, namely, claiming that baptism by immersion is necessary for salvation and strange marriage to Enlightenment thinking, particularly John Locke.  The end result of the Restoration Movement is weird theology, and three mainline (liberal) Protestant denominations.

Numerous cults formed in the wake of the Second Great Awakening:  Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Millerites (and other Millenarian sects), Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Scientists.  One has to ask oneself why all these new religious movements formed within a few decades of the Second Great Awakening?  You cannot help but think that the lack of discipleship and theology from the revivalistic methods of the Second Great Awakening contributed in large part to the formation of these abherrent theologies.

We need to continue to explore the impact of the Second Great Awakening on the history of evangelicalism…

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3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the visual on Finney – as if his story wasn’t scary enough!

    Brian

    October 14, 2009 at 10:07 am

    • Historians have said that Finney’s most powerful evangelistic tool was his intense eyes. Definitely scary!

      Michael Graham

      October 14, 2009 at 10:26 am

  2. […] We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked […]


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