Great Awakening, Revivals and Calvinism

The Great Awakening, Revivals and Calvinism
by Edward T. Babinski

Edward T. Babinski
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Trevor (Calvinist), Grt.Awaken, My Calvin research

Trevor writes:

You mentioned briefly that the Great Awakening had no lasting effects, in our last email.

Here is further food for thought that verifies your conclusion. I have attached several quotes about the after-effects of the Great Awakening. There did seem to be some social effects, such as how life was conducted and how beliefs were changed (i.e. altar calls, prayer benches or weeping benches were commonplace for people to cry at in front of the church, the rise in millenial fervor, etc). American Christianity actually took on a sour note after the Awakening. To be truthful, the fervor of the awakening made people get into an uproar of emotions and hysteria over the feeling of religion and guilt, etc, but no lasting intellectual effects resulted (except the writngs of some of the Calvinists who were critical of the awakening.


Also, you are proably busy (too me). But if you ever get the chance, the best analysis of the Great Awakening I have read has been "The Religious Affections" by Jonathan Edwards, who stated the hogwash in most of the manifestations of the Awakening. And HE was the one who supposedly started it...only to become its harshest critic. You might enjoy it.


Trevor J.

SEE ATTACHED. Tell me if it accords with your conclusions on the Great Awakening.

Thanks Trevor!

I forgot about Edwards being The Awakening's harshest critic.

Reminds me.... There was a famous Catholic, Cardinal Neuman (Newman?), who wrote a thick, highly praised book titled ENTHUSIASM in which he critiqued religious enthusiasms of the past. Actually when you study the Reformation and the subsequent Catholic Counter Reformation, you find the Protestant and Catholic scholars agreeing that serious thought takes precedence over religious enthusiasm. Scholars do not seem to appreciate religious enthusiasm very much, they are much more concerned with trying to "prove" things to one another via the intellect.

Here's a quotation I ran across that mentions ye olde "mourning bench":

I regard revivals as essentially barbaric. The fire that has to be blown all the time is a poor thing to get warm by. I think they do no good but much harm; they make innocent people think they are guilty, and very mean people think they are good.

In the days of my youth, ministers depended on revivals to save souls and reform the world. The emotional sermons, the sad singing, the hysterical "Amens," the hope of heaven, the fear of hell, caused many to lose what little sense they had. In this condition they flocked to the "mourner's bench" -- asked for prayers of the faithful -- had strange feelings, prayed, and wept and thought they had been "born again." Then they would tell their experiences -- how wicked they had been, how evil had been their thoughts, their desires, and how good they had suddenly become.

They used to tell the story of an old woman who, in telling her experience, said, "Before I was converted, before I gave my heart to God, I used to lie and steal, but now, thanks to the grace and blood of Jesus Christ, I have quit 'em both, in a great measure."

Well, while the cold winter lasted, while the snows fell, the revival went on, but when the winter was over, the boats moved in the harbor again, the wagons rolled, and business started again, most of the converts "backslid" and fell again into their old ways. But the next winter they were on hand again, read to be "born again." They formed a kind of stock company, playing the same parts every winter and backsliding every spring.
- Robert Ingersoll, "Why I am An Agnostic"

Were it true that a converted man as such is of an entirely different kind from a natural man, there surely ought to be some distinctive radiance. But notoriously there is no such radiance. Converted men as a class are indistinguishable from normal men.

By the very intensity of his fidelity to the paltry ideals with which an inferior intellect may inspire him, a saint can be even more objectionable and damnable than a superficial "carnal" man would be in the same situation.
- William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

Oh, I had no idea you were an Aussie! (But your "G'day" gave it away.)

I look forward to seeing your paper and/or your collection of quotations concerning the abominable fancy! Wish I had time to look in the book I already mentioned to you, for the Isaac Watt's quotation. (Some of those books must include an index of "topics" that might include "hell" or "the saints" and make it easier to find the line that we would both like to verify.)

Lastly, I recently completed some Calvin research, regarding two questions in particular, whether a "rebellious" child was exectued in Calvin's Geneva (at least one was -- see my references below), and adulterers as well, and what Calvin's complicity was in those events, and whether those events were unusual even for their brual time period. Kingdon (who has edited the definitive modern day translation of the Registers of the Consistory of Geneva in French, as well as publishing the first three years of them in English), admits that the executions for adultery In Geneva were unusual even for their time period, and Calvin argued for executions in both the case of adultery, and "rebellious" children.

Best, Ed

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