HTH-511 Topic 6: Overview Romanticism, Pietism, and Awakening (1700-1800)

Just as the new world in America was beginning to take off, the Enlightenment was coming into full force. The new world was a place with many who would not have had the opportunity to make a name for themselves in the old world of Europe due to the class system. The Enlightenment and the new world were meant for each other. Just as the new world gave opportunity to those who would not have otherwise had any, the Enlightenment said that all people had a right to determine for themselves their chances. As the new world was breaking away from the old world, a major religious renewal movement known as the Great Awakening occurred. This event was very much at home in the times. Many were dissatisfied with the Puritan experiment. In fact, a genre of sermons known as Jeremiads developed as preachers tried to call their complacent congregations back. Two movements also fed into the Great Awakening. They are Romanticism and Pietism. Romanticism was another wing of the enlightenment. Whereas philosophers like Hume and Kant focused on reason, others like Rousseau focused on feeling. Romanticism shared the general Enlightenment interest in nature against culture, but focused on the innate human conscience. If humans would just trust their innate feelings rather than allow cultural conventions to interfere, all would be well. This interest was developed religiously in Pietism.

As was mentioned before, Pietism was in part a reaction to the perceived coldness of Protestant scholasticism. Pietism was interested in human feeling. If orthodoxy was cold and cerebral, Pietism intended to be warm and emotional. These currents fed into and readied people for a time of religious revival. Indeed, the revivalists were very much participants in larger Enlightenment patterns. If the Enlightenment philosophers encouraged people to think for themselves, to eschew their clergy and traditional lords, and to take charge of their destiny, likewise the revivals were critical of clergy and traditional views of salvation, and encouraged people to experience the Spirit for themselves. The revivals often happened outside church buildings in farmers’ fields and other common meeting places. Revivalist preachers were not always endorsed by the institutional church. Finally, the revival approach to conversion was very controversial and at odds with traditional views. In fact, the revivals were very much at home with the Enlightenment themes of individualism and autonomy. Just as Enlightenment thinkers encouraged people to think for themselves because they had their own reason, revivalists encouraged people to draw upon their own individual experience of the Holy Spirit. The effects of the Great Awakening cannot be underestimated. It shifted Christianity to a much more populace movement and assisted its disconnection from political institutions. Revivalist preachers encouraged common people to have religious experiences on their own, to read the Bible for themselves, to believe that when it came to relationship with God they were in equal standing with their pastor, etc. What this meant is that the understanding and experience of the common, untutored person became the standard for churches across America. This would lead to a divide in Christianity that will resurface only a century later, namely, a divide between the more educated and elite and the common, average person. The fundamentalist- modernist controversy can be read as a variation on this divide, for the fundamentalists were generally less educated and favored a more simplistic reading of the Bible, whereas the modernists tended to be more educated and nuanced in their theology. Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the Turabian Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. In a paper of 1,000-1,500 words, examine Enlightenment rationalism and evangelical revivalism. While Enlightenment philosophers were criticizing traditional institutions like the church and urging people to think for themselves, evangelicals were preaching to people outside the church, criticizing traditional clergy, and urging people to have a conversion experience for themselves. To what extent was evangelical revivalism a parallel movement to the Enlightenment? Explain your answer.

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