The causes and consequences of the Great Awakening

Categories: Religion

What were the causes and consequences of the Great Awakening? Discuss key people who influenced the Great Awakening and the differences between old and new lights.


  • The Great Awakening was a spiritual renewal that swept the American Colonies, particularly New England, during the first half of the 18th Century.


Glorious Revolution of 1688: fighting between religious and political groups came to a halt with the Church of England was made the reigning church of the country. oPOV England: From a political perspective, this led to stability since everyone now practiced the same religion.

oPOV people: Other religions, such as Catholicism, Judaism, and Puritanism, were suppressed and people were complacent and spiritually “dry”. Religion became something of a pastime in which people would “go through the motions” during religious services without deeply-felt convictions of the heart and soul.

Because of the dryness, Certain Christians began to disassociate themselves with the established approach to worship and instead adopted an approach which was characterized by great fervor and emotion in prayer.

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Key people:

Jonathan Edwards

  • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
  • Based on Puritan/Congregationalist ideals
  • Preached personal salvation
  • Discussed repentance for sins (why? Remember “declension”?)

John and Charles Wesley

John Wesley is considered to be the father of Methodism.

His brother, Charles, became one of the most prolific English-speaking poets, composing more than 6,500 hymns. othe brothers were founding members of a small Oxford University reform group that eventually spawned the second-largest Protestant denomination in America.

George Whitefield

  • Revivalist
  • travels through the colonies
  • More emotional, revival-like sermons and preaching

Influences the south (slaveholders participate; try to prevent slaves from attending) o“Let us, therefore, not be weary of well-doing; for we shall reap an eternal harvest of comfort, if we faint not.

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Influence of the “backcountry” – non-wealthy colonists living further west, take new revivalism to heart and form new sects (remember the significance of this group on Early American Effects:

  • helped bring people together
  • led to greater toleration, or acceptance of religious differences
  • changed the way of how many people practiced their religion
  • made people more fervent in their beliefs rather than thinking religion was a chore.
  • The Awakening’s biggest significance was the way it prepared America for its War of Independence.

Through the Awakening, the Colonists realized that religious power resided in their own hands, rather than in the hands of the Church of England, or any other religious authority. After a generation or two passed with this kind of mindset, the Colonists came to realize that political power did not reside in the hands of the English monarch, but in their own will for self-governance. Thus, the Great Awakening brought about a climate which made the American Revolution possible.

Old Light vs. New light:

The terms New Lights and Old Lights refer to factions that appeared within New England Congregationalism in the mid-18th century. The New Light/Old Light dispute brought on the final dissolution of the Puritan social and theological system that had shaped New England religious culture for more than a century. While each side claimed to be the genuine heir of Puritanism, each in its own way was responsible for the reshaping of American Protestant thought. New light: supported the Great Awakening and believed the revivals of the awakening to be genuine works of God that strengthened American Christianity.

  • Old Lights: viewed revivalism as an unnecessary and disruptive element within church life.
  • Old Lights: emphasized rationalism, which was born out of the Enlightenment and signified orderliness, common sense, and self-control.
  • New Lights: were representatives of the emerging evangelical (see evangelicalism) movement, which stressed the emotions and was both pietistic and Perfectionistic.
  • New Light: Unlike the somber, largely Puritan spirituality of the early 1700s, the revivalism ushered in by the Awakening allowed people to express their emotions more overtly in order to feel a greater intimacy with God.

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The causes and consequences of the Great Awakening. (2016, Apr 30). Retrieved from

The causes and consequences of the Great Awakening

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