What is the Catholic view of the Great Awakening?

Was it “beneficial” for Christianity? Were the doctrines sound? Should they be condemned? Was it good because it brought people closer to God? Was it bad because made CHristianity more “lax” when it comes to doctrines and the importance of works? Etc?

Please, discuss.


Perhaps it would help if you identify which ‘Great Awakening’ you’re referring to – there are, at the least, three I can think of.

So, are you asking whether Catholics approve of Protestant revivals in the U.S.?

In one sense, anything that brings people to Jesus is a good thing. In another sense, it would be even better if people came to an acceptance of the fullness of the truth (i.e., the teachings of the Catholic Church), rather than to teachings that do not contain the entirety of that fullness of the truth… :shrug:

Oh, yes. Sorry. I mean the one in the early American Colonies. Whitfield and all them. Thanks!

I would appreciate a fuller response to this question. I am teaching in a Christian school, using the Abeka History Series for 5th grade. There is a a whole chapter on how this revival changed America for the good. It mentions nothing about Catholicism except to state that people were trusting their good works to save them and had not accepted Christ as their personal savior. With this new preaching, they were convicted of their sins and of their need for Christ. Edwards brought them back to the Bible. They go on to say that Jonathan Edwards was the most intelligent man in colonial America…

What is the Catholic perspective on all this?

Do the research. The ‘Great Awakening’ was invented, not by historians but by eighteenth-century ‘revivalists’ who were skillful and enthusiastic religious promoters.

Yes, they were primarily non-mainstream revivalists, so Catholicism didn’t really enter into the picture. They were preaching to the Calvinists. Catholics were pretty marginalized at that time in history so I would say there wasn’t much of a response from them at all.

A Beka was my favorite curriculum publisher among the several we used when we were homeschooling our children. It was a blessing to be able to spend so much time together, to ensure they were learning not just facts, but analysis, discrimination, and values associated with otherwise dead facts. A Beka of course is Protestant, and a fine Christian curriculum. Back when we were homeschooling, I couldn’t find much in the way of specifically Catholic curriculum. I see there are very many on-line now. Congratulations on the wisdom, beauty, and love expressed in your decision to homeschool. :thumbsup:

I went to a school with the Abeka curriculum. The curriculum takes a pretty hostile view towards the Catholic Church. I was in History class and one section was pretty much about how the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Protestant England was proof that God favored Protestants over Catholics.

I left that school not long after.

:hmmm: Wonder if the Spanish conquering the French Hugenots and driving them out of Florida was proof that God favored Catholics in that event :shrug:

I, too, studied with Abeka books when I was home-schooled. They are pretty anti-Catholic and pretty much present Reformers like Luther as immaculate heroes with no flaws. Needless to say, as an adult reading church history books (and those written by Protestant historians!), I am very disillusioned now. Not that the Catholic side of the dispute didn’t have its own issues, but the Reformers were hardly flawless superheroes. Even scarier, my Abeka history books essentially said that the reason it was good for the Catholic side to win the crusades was so that Europe could later have the light of the Reformation, as if there weren’t any actual Christians in Europe already. Gag!

But more on topic, while I can’t give you a fully Catholic perspective on the Great Awakening, I can at least dispel the Abeka version. So the Abeka version says that people were believing their good works to save them, but that’s not really the case. You see, much of the colonists were Calvinists. Calvinists go through this funny cycle of antinomianism and revival, caused by either assuming they’re elect no matter what they do, or just shrugging their shoulders in uncertainty and slipping into fatalism. They need preachers in revivals to wake them up and make them question their election. Some repent, there is fervency in the Christian faith for a time, until the cycle repeats itself again. Even among those who aren’t Calvinists today but who believe in eternal security (influenced by one aspect Calvinism) fall into the same cycle.

Granted, this is just my opinion. I’m hardly a historian. But the Abeka version of the Great Awakening is rather lacking. Whitfield was hardly reprimanding people for trusting in their good works–there weren’t any good works to begin with! The same with Wesley.

Perhaps this is why Wesley said the following regarding Calvinism:

“Make it a matter of constant and earnest prayer, that God would stop the plague.”
–John Wesley

Early 19th century camp-meetings:
In attendance would be believers, scoffers, thrill seekers, drinkers, even prostitutes. Revivals were known to be hot beds of sexual opportunity, especially when women began swooning and falling to the ground unaware of their decorum. Under such a condition, wrote one historian, “A lady lays aside all her modesty.” Camp meetings also “especially attracted female prostitutes because they worked at night. [also] at camp meetings, young maids would faint with all their charms [on] display. temptation was strong when men and women were lying around together.” Another historian penned: “At some camp meetings, watchmen carrying long white sticks patrolled the meeting grounds each evening to stop any sexual mischief. Enemies of camp meetings sneered that ‘more souls were begot than saved.’”

Grant Palmer is a well-known and respected name among ex-Mormons. I have read some of his articles. I was not familiar with Cynthia Lynn Lyerly and Timothy K Beougher, so read their writings that Palmer referred to in the quote. The quote is without a doubt cynical, and it is cynical because it is selective. Beougher’s full article reports more good than bad, both in the circuit riders, preachers, and attendees, than the quote admits. Grant’s choice of what to use from Cynthia Lynn Lyerly gives a cripplingly lop-sided view of the meetings precisely because of her intentional focus on marginal people, and on defiance against religious standards. I suspect the majority of attendees at these revivals did not deviate far from the expected norm. The white head-boppers were to wake people up (not mentioned in the quote) and I suppose to break up improper relations - because they quote says so and I haven’t found a report that such was not the case - nor a corroborative report that it *was *the case. Overall, the Great Awakening had a beneficial effect on the nation as a whole.

It was not “made up”. There was undoubtedly self-promotion, but it is historically undeniable that some kind of large-scale religious movement occurred in colonial America.There were revivals in England and America spurred on by international networks of Calvinists and Pietiests in continental Europe.

George Whitfield became a national celebrity in both England, Scotland, and America. Jonathan Edwards and other Congregationalist ministers fanned flames of revival throughout New England.

There was an entire schism over revivalism within the colonial Presbyterian Church called by historians the Old Side-New Side Controversy. A New Side minister, Gilbert Tennant and other Presbyterians welcomed George Whitfield (an Anglican minister) to preach in Presbyterian churches even when his own Anglican co-religionists banned him from their pulpits.

Methodism was birthed during this time with Methodist societies sprouting up everywhere in Britain and America and itinerant ministers (circuit riders) bringing religion to previously un-churched frontier regions in the colonies.

The impact of the Awakening can be seen in how quickly the most evangelical denominations–Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians–outpaced the formerly dominant (and state-supported) Episcopal and Congregational churches.

I admit my lack of knowledge on the subject.

Maybe I’ll pick up a copy of Lyerly’s Methodism and the Southern Mind, 1770-1810.

Well put. I’m rather inclined to believe that this awakening of fervor was a reaction to the cold rationalism of the Enlightenment Period and the rote, liturgical worship that characterized the Church of England ( and the Lutherans, for that matter, but the Germans and Scandinavians had their own way of inspiring greater personal devotion in the context of Lutheran worship: blogs.lcms.org/2014/evangelicalism-the-heartbeat-of-american-protestantism). The Great Awakening is a part of our common heritage as Americans and we would probably do very well to make an effort to study its history so we can understand how America fares now with the tension that exists between the devout and the secular churchmousec.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/the-first-great-awakening-and-its-effect-on-american-protestantism/.

It also seems to have been a major factor in today’s national perception of religion as something essentially private, to be freely chosen and followed reference.com/history/did-great-awakening-affect-colonies-f1999a5f7c928c0f, turning the churches almost into business competitors for the souls of the people they could persuade to join their ranks awakeningamerica.us/story/, bostonreview.net/blog/americas-religious-market.

To me, your questions point toward the following:

  • Who has the authority of Christ to reinvent Christianity or reinterpret scripture?
  • Did people such as DL Moody or Charles Finney have such authority?
  • The practice of altar calls, as a method of fulfilling Christian faith and doctrine, began during this time period.
    -Does it matter this practice and doctrine came to be in the 19th century ?
    -Are doctrines such as “once saved always saved” helpful or hurtful ?

Obviously you’ll get different answers to these questions from different people. As a Catholic, you can understand the reasons we would disagree.

Yet, with satanic masses happening again in OKC, the local bishop is calling for baptists, Catholics, and others to unite.

Pardon my ignorance but I do not know what OKC stands for. Also could you elaborate on what your last sentence is referring to? Thanks.

Oklahoma City

The bishop wants the Christians to unite against a common enemy.

They plan to desecrate Catholic images. They even stole a Eucharist but they were sued and had to give it back.

I’m really not familiar with her myself except through some very cursory reading of reviews. Your quote for which a link was provided, led to Grant Palmer’s essay. His [quoted] essay led in turn to footnotes identifying his sources, Lyerly and Beougher. I like to read source material when people offer them. And also to look into the perspectives of the authors, mostly to determine their biases. :slight_smile: I found Beougher a little interesting, but don’t know what his [LEFT]sources [/LEFT]were.

Very well put, yourself. And thanks for the links to **churchmousec **and awakeningamerica. I have studied Colonial and Early American history, and appreciate opportunities for review and further study. I bought into the “it’s a private thing” about religion, because when I was a child, I thought as a child. Mature now, I see that there are only about two things that are “private” - or personal - about religion - those relate to Birth and Death. Everything else is social, and some, particularly law-makers and law-enforcers, try to make even birth and death a politically social event.

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