Tag Archives: Great Awakening

Revival in secular New England? Yes, even this is possible

Sporadically we hear rumors of religious revival on the college campuses of one of America’s most notoriously secular regions: New England. The Boston Globe published one such report of Ivy League revival in 2003 (as of today, Jan 29, 2010, the link still works, and the article is still fascinating). Shocking? Not really. It’s just the latest in a long line of campus revivals in the land of the Unitarian Brahmins. The Globe article gave me the excuse (like I really needed it) to look into the story of those revivals.

An exciting New England development today: the campus of D. L. Moody’s Northfield College has now been purchased for the C S Lewis Foundation–the group that owns Lewis’s home, the Kilns, in England, and runs a study center there. Soon, Moody’s old stomping grounds will host of a new “great books” college (check out the videos at that link) named after Lewis.

Can Anything Good Come Out of New England?
Evangelical revival in the land of the liberal Brahmins may not be as historically odd as we suppose.
Chris Armstrong

A recent article in the Boston Globe discerns a spiritual “New Day” in New England—a day in which evangelical Christianity has penetrated even the liberal fortress of Harvard and stands poised for a full-blown regional revival.

To some modern-day evangelicals this may seem a bizarre—if welcome—a piece of news. On a level with God’s bulletin to Jonah that Nineveh would at last be saved. New England, such skeptics would say, long ago slid into a spiritual funk that has got to have John Winthrop (of Puritan “City on a Hill” fame) rolling around in his grave.

Never mind the glory days of Jonathan Edwards and his Northampton, Massachusetts-based Great Awakening (see last week’s newsletter), the evangelical skeptic might say. In a time when Harvard Divinity School students eviscerate their Bibles and celebrate “Coming Out Day” to affirm their homosexual colleagues, this spiritual legacy is long buried. No, the Unitarians and other liberals have, the critic would say, definitively won the day in that erstwhile blessed region, and God has passed over the land of his chosen (Puritan) children, moving on to revive hearts where the prospects seem more promising. Continue reading

Jonathan Edwards: Did you know?

Jonathan Edwards: Did You Know?
Interesting and unusual facts about Jonathan Edwards
Steven Gertz and Chris Armstrong

Evangelical Co-founder

A man was born three months before Edwards and an ocean away who was to share the New England divine’s twin passions for the church and the life of the mind. That man was John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The two never met, but they labored for their Lord on two continents, together helping to birth the movement called “evangelicalism.” Wesley read Edwards appreciatively and reprinted his Religious Affections, revising where the Puritan theologian’s Calvinism was most strongly expressed.

Revival Mediator

Edwards, a strong supporter of the Great Awakening, nevertheless took a cautious view of what went on in the revivals. On one hand, Edwards criticized the Awakening enthusiast James Davenport, who hotly insisted that many New England ministers were in fact unconverted and bound for hell, and who once burned a pile of classic Christian texts he considered insufficiently spiritual. On the other, Edwards debated the Boston rationalist clergyman Charles Chauncy, who argued true religion was a matter of the mind rather than the heart. “We should distinguish the good from the bad,” instructed Edwards, “and not judge of the whole by a part” (see p. 42).

Chocolate Addict

Consumed as a beverage usually at breakfast, “cakes” of chocolate were in steady demand in the Edwards household. The family often had to rely on travelers to Boston to procure it. In one letter, Edward begs the courier to save some of the chocolate he paid for. “If you will bring what remains,” he wrote, “you will much oblige your humble servant.” Continue reading

Preacher in the hands of an angry church: the fall of Jonathan Edwards

Minister. Thinker. Revivalist. America’s greatest theologian. “Homeboy” to today’s Young Reformed. Hero. Icon.

Failed pastor.

Why exactly was Jonathan Edwards, godfather of American evangelicalism, ejected from his own congregation–the church he had served faithfully for over twenty years? And what happened next? How did he respond? I explored these questions in an article for Leadership Journal:

[For a few reflections on what Edwards could still mean to the church today, see this post. For his claim to the title “father of evangelicalism,” see this one. On Edwards as the original “ancient-future” evangelical, see here.]

Preacher in the Hands of an Angry Church
by Chris Armstrong

As messy dismissals of ministers go, the 1750 ejection of Jonathan Edwards by his Northampton congregation was among the messiest. The fact that it involved the greatest theologian in American history—the central figure of the Great Awakening—is almost beside the point. The fact that it took place in a New England fast moving from theocratic “city on a hill” to democratic home of liberty is more relevant. Continue reading