What images does the word “revival” bring to your mind? For me, the image is a rather monolithic one of fiery preaching and hands waving, altar calls and massive crowds. Robert W. Caldwell III’s Theologies of the American Revivalists: From Whitefield to Finney surveys the field of these American revivals and offers both a corrective and instructive voice.
The work is organized around different revival movements. Caldwell III differentiates between such movements as the Congregationalists, the New Divinity Movement, Jonathan Edwards, the Second Great Awakening, the Early American Baptists, Charles Finney, and more. After these chapters providing overviews of these varied movements, a chapter follows offering analysis of and response to revival theology.
What the overview chapters revealed to me was that my vision of what a “revival” looks like was really an amalgamated picture combining elements of Jonathan Edwards, the New Divinity Movement, and more. This is one of the greatest strengths of the book; it provides readers with clearer definitions of and differentiation between Revival movements. Each movement had a slightly different goal, many had differing views of what it meant to be “saved,” prayer and spirituality differed as well. Caldwell III helps draw these lines in an interesting, if sometimes dry, way.
The analysis of Revivalist theology leads Caldwell III to argue that a “moderate evangelical” theology can reveal a kind of shared link between all the revivalist movements, as well as reveal the underpinnnings of modern evangelicalism. This latter insight is particularly valuable, especially due to modern evangelicalisms oft-bemoaned lack of self-awareness regarding its roots. Caldwell, through this book, shows that evangelicalism did not spring ex nihilo, but rather had its own period of development with an interesting and sometimes checkered past.
Theologies of the American Revivalists: From Whitefield to Finney is a fascinating work. Caldwell III has shown that the American Revivals were interconnected in many important ways, but more intriguingly, has shown the spontaneity of the movement and its continuing impact.
+Demonstrates the diversity of the American revivals, as well as connections between them
+Shows a broad historical perspective while also focusing on major voices
+Important historically for understanding its topic
-Somewhat dry at times
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.
Origins Debate– Here is a collection of many of my posts on Christianity and science.
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