What was the Great Awakening and how does it relate to today? The Great Awakening was a series of events taking place almost three hundred years ago in which revival broke out all over North America. These revivals served as providential, Spirit-led drivers that activated God’s purpose in Christians as America’s founders. More so, they ignited and advanced the biblical-social foundations that birthed the American Revolution and our nation. The love of Christ brought forward this light and revelation, acting as a catalyst for the free-flow of information and opinion across all denominations. This was a critical time in the 18th century not only in the beginnings of American history but also in world history as a whole.
Key participants of the First Great Awakening in the 18th century, from 1730-1740, were George Whitefield, Johnathan Edwards, and Gilbert Tennet. Christians in a movement that became to be known as the “New Lights” encountered an increased love and understanding of the cornerstone theology of God’s grace. Breaking forth through the walls of denominationalism, these revivals brought a unity in the Spirit, going beyond walls and barriers of church division. Frontier revivals sparked in both the North and South that brought a renewed infusion of Christian faith in culture in which George Whitefield’s traveling was instrumental. Top historian and scholar Nathan Hatch wrote extensively on how these key evangelical movements produced democratic freedom of thought in terms of our modern societal rights. These included freedom of the press and the belief that information should be shared unhindered by controlling forces. Free communication and flow of information was central to the Great Awakening, as mirrored by the freedom and free-flow of Spirit inspired sermons based on the Word of God.
All of this flowed in the following decades into the American Revolution and the development of our freedom encoded in the Constitution. Freedom of religion and of speech, rights that brought a multiplication of truth and hallmarks of the freest society on Earth, draw a direct line of cause to the Great Awakening revivals. And they didn’t just end at the founding. The Second Great Awakening brought the abolition movement from 1800-1840 and the women’s right movements. In themselves the abolition movements were spear-headed by devout Christians, in particular the Quakers. The Quakers formed the Religious Society of Friends, whom were the first to denounce slavery in America and Europe. This all served as a landscape in the continued formation and development of our modern free society in America, enabled by the bedrock biblical worldview at its very roots. Christianity, in the timeline of its construction of modern western civilization, began to fully sprout forth a tree in which all people of the world could gather under its shade.
So what is the relevance of the Great Awakening of the past to today's current times? Besides the fact that we should honor those heroes of the faith from history that sacrificed much to bring us what we have now, there is a distinct parallel of what happened then spiritually to what is happening now. In recent years past we’ve had the grace revolution, a return to the realization of the Gospel of the grace of God as the Apostle Paul described it (Acts 20:24), and the knowledge of dominion in the kingdom of God over sickness and disease restored. Finally we are now in an information revolution, another Great Awakening, in which Christians are standing up against new waves of censorship that seek to silence and shutdown voices of peaceful free speech and the advocating of free information. Once again spiritual revival is being coupled with human rights revival, directly inspiring a new evangelical movement to educate others on how our sacred rights came to be in the Constitution. It is the biblical worldview that awakened America to the worldview of freedom, in which now once again Christ is a central advocate and inspiration for freedom.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”