The impact of the Second Great Awakening and how it's know:the relation to Evangelicalism

Sorry if this seems a bit out of place in the sub-forum on non-Catholic religions. It’s b/c of it’s relation to Evangelicalism (which can’t be ignored,imo) which made me feel inclined to place it here.

Imo,a really understated period in the history of Christianity is the Second Great Awakening. I could see how history courses go organize themselves by events like Constantine’s conversion,the Schism and the Reformation…:rolleyes: in the broader scope of things even those events only seem (continental) Eurocentric :o (if you exempt Anglicanism).

What is not emphasized as much or as properly on a widespread level I gander is the history of Christianity in the .U.S.* after *the Puritans,as if the common conception of American Christianity is that,it has only been rooted in Puritanism ever since it’s beginnings and that the presence of Catholicism (and Orthodoxy) is almost only b/c of late 19th-early 20th century waves of (continental) European (and Irish) immigrants.

Having found out about the Second Great Awakening is sort of an “eye-wakener”^1 to the factors and precursors of American Evangelicalism which (for now) seems to kind of be the generalized conception of (mainstream) religion in the .U.S. and to some individuals has been conflated to being the general conception of Christianity on a whole (to the chagrin of some "-w- …)^1.

If someone were to rants on about bad things done for the sake of Christianity and the history of not-so-nice doings the bitter conflicts after the Reformation is seems to be the last major scale occurence of fighting btw denominations and it’s like they’d think that whatever positions and attitudes Christians have had since then are the same ones from the Reformation^2 …thus the obliviousness of the Second Great Awakening is not a neglect I’d like to be made,you see :slight_smile: .

Does anyone know enough to think they can explain the Second Great Awakening and do you guys think it deserves to be WAY more known about?.

^1 more surprising to consider,still?:wink:

^2 no offence or disrespect to any Lutherans or Anglicans :o

Hello Sidetrack.

I’d like to respond to your concerns. First off, the Second Great Awakening you’re referring to isn’t part of “Christian History.” It is part of Protestant history, in particular Methodists and Baptists and enabled several denominations to have their beginnings. In my opinion, there isn’t anything *great *about it.

Secondly, your assumption that everyone has the same education in history that you have that is defining how you perceive the mainstream teaching of history on the whole from which you are drawing a conclusion that all of American religious history is about the Puritans and what came after them is too skewed to be conclusive. We don’t all have the same historical view or background. I think educationally I left the Puritans and the Indians behind in about third grade and most certainly it wasn’t the only religious history my public school education in the lower grades included.

The third problem I have with your statements is the way you’ve blended things. You’ve blended Church history with Protestant history to come up with a third category, Christian history as if it is acceptable to blend the two to have a third that is, as you say, American Christian history. This simply isn’t so. Each denomination that is Protestant has it’s own beginnings and its own historical record of events and through time, and they’ve even changed their public historical records and have even re-written the general historical record to make things seem as if they are part of the early Church, looking for a foundation they lack. The Church’s history however is part of the whole history of Western Civilization and of the world. We don’t re-write history to make a place for ourselves. We make history.

The blending of our history with that of the Protestants to come up with a “Christian history” is disturbing coming from a Catholic. I’m not okay as a Catholic having my history blended with the Protestants. I don’t consider their history to be part of mine. I think some of them too would be insulted if you told them their history is included with the Catholics, They left the Church. They choose to stay away from the Church and have various reasons for that and will tell you them if you sit still long enough to listen. They don’t want their history joined to ours any more than we want our history blended with them. See what I mean? In blending the two, you are treating the Church as if it is just another denomination. It isn’t.

All that said, we come back to your understanding that the 2nd Great Awakening is underreported in the history books as an event. Why do you feel we should be better educated about these events?


Hello and your response is appreciated. My reply to your question comes from the OP

A lot of quick money was to be made in those roving tents where emotions ran high during dramatic services. There were many tent preachers that had quite a reputation and rather sorid backgrounds. Perhaps some did good (maybe the first ones?) but many were not much different than the snakeoil salesmen that were common during that era as well. Personally, I found it very interesting that the Mormon religion as well as the JWs arose from that era.

And the SDAs.


It’s important. I think the First Great Awakening is more consequential to both British and American history. I know more about the First.

Anyway, it’s just one of those times of spiritual renewal. One distinctive aspect was the highly positive evangelical outlook. Evangelicals were feeling good about the direction of human history and their place in it. They were going to usher in the Kingdom of God in conjunction with the spread of Christian culture and American democracy.

It didn’t work out that way. This was the same time period that the mainline began to succumb to modernist theology. Before they knew it, the evangelicals had lost control of the oldest and most institutionally developed denominations. Evangelicals retrenched for a while, embracing a decidedly negative dispensationalism. Liberals embraced the Social Gospel and rejected anything that smacked of revivalism.


Most educated Protestants do indeed consider “church history” to include Catholic as well a Protestant history. This isn’t a matter of “rewriting” but simply defining the Church as the company of baptized believers throughout time–a definition shared, at least to some extent, by the Catholic Church. Vatican II clearly recognizes Protestants as baptized Christians who thus have an imperfect relationship to the Church.

Clearly you don’t know much about how Protestants–educated, moderate Protestant at least–actually think. This is unsurprising since you think their history is irrelevant and unimportant.

Since the Second Great Awakening created what you probably think of as Protestantism (if you are an American), it does indeed behoove you and everyone else in America (and in the world, given the international importance of America) to know more about it than you do.

I would suggest Nathan Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity as a good starting point and Mark Noll’s America’s God as a more in-depth follow-up.



Thanks for the info. However how can you say modernist theology when this was only the early 1800’s?. I thought modernist philosophy wouldn’t pop up until the early 20th century?.Would Dispensationalism eventually tie in with Millenialism?.

Thank you for the recommended books.

Late 19th. Itwin telescoped things a bit. Roughly, one can say that up until the Civil War evangelicalism was dominant. After the Civil War denominational seminary professors became increasingly influenced by German liberal theology, and if Noll is right the debate over slavery brought the “Biblicism” of early-19th-century evangelicalism into question.

I would differ from Itwin inasmuch as I’d say that both “fundamentalism” (what he’s referring to when he says “evangelicalism had to retrench for a while”) and “modernism” are branches of the earlier evangelical tradition. Certainly the fundamentalists were a more recognizable continuation on the whole, but they dropped the optimism and zeal for social reform found in the older tradition, which the modernists continued. Both branches of the tradition emphasized individual interpretation of Scripture, in different ways. Both were committed to proclaiming the good news that in Jesus humanity was reconciled to God, though they interpreted this differently. And so on.

Would Dispensationalism eventually tie in with Millenialism?.

Dispensationalism is, by definition, a form of what Catholics call “millennialism,” although the definition of millennialism in the Catechism really sounds more like post-milleninialism.

The basic claim of dispensationalism is that the Kingdom of God is entirely separate from the Church, and will not be established until the personal return of Christ, which will usher in the Millennium. The Kingdom is also seen as intrinsically Jewish–when the Jews rejected Jesus, the coming of the Kingdom was postponed while the Gentiles were invited into an entirely different relationship with God based on faith.


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