Third Great Awakening

The Third Great Awakening refers to a historical period proposed by William G. McLoughlin that was marked by religious activism in American history and spans the late 1850s to the early 20th century.[1] It influenced pietistic Protestant denominations and had a strong element of social activism.[2] It gathered strength from the postmillennial belief that the Second Coming of Christ would occur after mankind had reformed the entire earth. It was affiliated with the Social Gospel Movement, which applied Christianity to social issues and gained its force from the awakening, as did the worldwide missionary movement. New groupings emerged, such as the Holiness movement and Nazarene movements, Jehovah's Witnesses, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Thelema, and Christian Science.[3]

The era saw the adoption of a number of moral causes, such as the abolition of slavery and prohibition. However, some scholars, such as Kenneth Scott Latourette, dispute the thesis that the United States ever had a Third Great Awakening.[4]


This article focuses on the awakening that took place during the nineteenth century in America. So far, it also includes material about Korea. A similar awakening took place in Britain, identified by J. Edwin Orr as starting in 1859 with its influence continuing through to the end of the century, impacting church growth, overseas mission, and social action.[5]

The American Protestant mainline churches were growing rapidly in numbers, wealth and educational levels, throwing off their frontier beginnings and becoming centered in towns and cities. Intellectuals and writers such as Josiah Strong advocated a muscular Christianity with systematic outreach to the unchurched in America and around the globe. Others built colleges and universities to train the next generation. Each denomination supported active missionary societies, and made the role of missionary one of high prestige.[6]

The great majority of pietistic mainline Protestants (in the North) supported the Republican Party, and urged it to endorse prohibition and social reforms.[7] See Third Party System. The awakening in numerous cities in 1858 was interrupted by the American Civil War. In the South, on the other hand, the Civil War stimulated revivals, especially the Confederate States Army revival in General Robert E. Lee's army.[8]

After the war, Dwight L. Moody made revivalism the centerpiece of his activities in Chicago by founding the Moody Bible Institute. The hymns of Ira Sankey were especially influential.[9]

Across the nation drys crusaded in the name of religion for the prohibition of alcohol. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union mobilized Protestant women for social crusades against liquor, pornography and prostitution, and sparked the demand for woman suffrage.[10]

The Gilded Age plutocracy came under sharp attack from the Social Gospel preachers and with reformers in the Progressive Era. The historian Robert Fogel identifies numerous reforms, especially the battles involving child labor, compulsory elementary education and the protection of women from exploitation in factories.[11]

All the major denominations sponsored growing missionary activities inside the United States and around the world.[12]

Colleges associated with churches rapidly expanded in number, size and quality of curriculum. The promotion of "muscular Christianity" became popular among young men on campus and in urban YMCAs, as well as such denominational youth groups such as the Epworth League for Methodists and the Walther League for Lutherans.[13]

New religions

Mary Baker Eddy introduced Christian Science, which gained a national following.[14]

The Society for Ethical Culture was established in New York in 1876 by Felix Adler and attracted a Reform Jewish clientele.

Charles Taze Russell founded the Bible Students movement. In July 1879, Russell began publishing a monthly religious journal, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence. He and his group of fellow students first identifying themselves as The People's Pulpit Association, then in 1910 as The International Bible Students Association. In 1931 after schisms within the Bible Students and gaining control of the legal entity Watchtower Bible and Tract society, Joseph Franklin Rutherford along with former members of the Bible Student movement would go on to adopt the name Jehovah's Witnesses.

In 1880, the Salvation Army denomination arrived in America. Although its theology was based on ideals expressed during the Second Great Awakening, its focus on poverty was of the third.

With Jane Addams's Hull House in Chicago as its center, the settlement house movement and the vocation of social work were deeply influenced by the Social Gospel.[15]

The New Thought movement expanded as Unity and Church of Divine Science were founded.

The Holiness and Pentecostal Movements

The goal of the Holiness Movement in the Methodist Church was to move beyond the one-time conversion experience that the revivals produced, and reach entire sanctification.[16] The Pentecostals went one step further, seeking what they called a "baptism in the spirit" or "baptism of the Holy Ghost" that enabled those with this special gift to heal the sick, perform miracles, prophesy, and speak in tongues.[17]

The re-discovered Pentecostal movement can be traced to the Ocoee mountains in the Tennessee River valley, annex to North Carolina in 1886-96 when a group led by Methodist's minister Richard Spurling met and called for holy living. At that time they experience what is known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, empowering Christians to live in holiness. Little is known of this movement because it happened in the mountains, compared to the Azusa street revival which happened in Los Angeles, CA. However, the organization born from that group led by Spurling has grown to an international presence in over 200 countries around the world with a church membership of over 7 million Christians; it is known as the "Church of God" with headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee. The organization owns Lee University and Pentecostal Theological Seminary.

Charles Parham in Topeka, KS was also a Methodist minister who resigned his Ordination as a minister and began preaching about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. During a service on December 31, 1899 Parham laid hands on a woman named Agnes Ozman; she received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues and prophesying. This is the root of the better known "Revival in Azusa Street" in Los Angeles, CA (1906) led by William Seymour, an African American student of Parham's.

Impact on Korea

Chun Beh Im compared the evangelistic method and results of the Third Great Awakening in America with the Korean revivals of 1884–1910. Many techniques of the Second and Third Great Awakenings were transposed from America to Korea, including the circuit-riding system of the Methodists, the Baptist farmer preachers, the campus revivals of the eastern seaboard, the camp meetings in the West, the new measures of Charles G. Finney, the Layman's Prayer Revival, urban mass revivalism of D. L. Moody, and the Student Volunteer Movement. Im discovered four areas of influence from a comparison and analysis of the two countries' revivals: the establishment of tradition, the adoption of similar emphases, the incorporation of evangelistic methodologies, and the observation of the results of the revivals. The American revivals had a major influence on the Korean revivals, and the American revival tradition and enthusiasm toward missions helped Korean Christians develop their own religious experience and tradition. This tradition has influenced Korean churches even into the 21st century.[18]

See also




Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (1972). A Religious History of the American People. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Bordin, Ruth (1981). Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873–1900. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Cerillo, Augustus (1999). "The Beginnings of American Pentecostalism: A Historiographical Overview". In Blumhofer, Edith L.; Spittler, Russell P.; Wacker, Grant A. (eds.). Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. pp. 229–260. ISBN 978-0-252-06756-3.
Findlay, James F. (2007) [1969]. Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist, 1837–1899. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock. ISBN 978-1-55635-623-0.
Fogel, Robert William (2000). The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism.
Gottschalk, Stephen (1973). Emergence of Christian Science in American Religious Life. Berkeley, California: University of California Press (published 1978). ISBN 978-0-520-03718-2.
Im, Chun Beh (2000). A Critical Investigation of the Influence of the Second Great Awakening and Nineteenth-Century Revival on Revivals in Korea (1884–1910) (PhD thesis). New Orleans, Louisiana: New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. OCLC 47028152.
Jensen, Richard (1971). The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888–1896.
Jones, Charles Edwin (1974). Perfectionist Persuasion: The Holiness Movement and American Methodism, 1867–1936.
Kleppner, Paul (2009) [1979]. The Third Electoral System, 1853–1892: Parties, Voters, and Political Cultures. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.
Knight, Louise W. (2010). Jane Addams: Spirit in Action. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-07165-8.
Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1945). A History of the Expansion of Christianity.
McLoughlin, William G. (1980). Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform.
Miller, Randall M.; Stout, Harry S.; Reagan, Charles, eds. (1998). Religion and the American Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press.
Noll, Mark A. (1992). A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada.
Orr, J. Edwin (1952). The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
Setran, David P. (2005). "Following the Broad-Shouldered Jesus: The College YMCA and the Culture of Muscular Christianity in American Campus Life, 1890–1914". American Educational History Journal. 32 (1): 59–66. ISSN 1535-0584.
Shenk, Wilbert R., ed. (2004). North American Foreign Missions, 1810–1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8028-2485-1.
Varg, Paul A. (1954). "Motives in Protestant Missions, 1890–1917". Church History. 23 (1): 68–82. doi:10.2307/3161183. ISSN 0009-6407.

Further reading

Abell, Aaron Ignatius (1943). The Urban Impact on American Protestantism, 1865–1900. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. OCLC 2085203.
Carroll, H. K. (1912). The Religious Forces of the United States Enumerated, Classified and Described: Returns for 1900 and 1910 Compared with the Government Census of 1890: Condition and Characteristics of Christianity in the United States. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
Curtis, Susan (1991). A Consuming Faith: The Social Gospel and Modern American Culture. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-4167-5.
Dieter, Melvin Easterday (1980). The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth Century. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-1328-1.
Dorsett, Lyle W. (1991). Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8028-0151-7.
 ———  (1997). A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody. Chicago: Moody Press. ISBN 978-0-8024-5194-1.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
Edwards, Wendy J. Deichmann; Gifford, Carolyn De Swarte (2003). Gender and the Social Gospel. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-02795-6.
Evensen, Bruce J. (2003). God's Man for the Gilded Age: D.L. Moody and the Rise of Modern Mass Evangelism. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516244-8.
Finke, Roger; Stark, Rodney (1992). The Churching of America, 1776–1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-1838-1.
Fishwick, Marshall W. (1995). Great Awakenings: Popular Religion and Popular Culture. New York: Haworth Press. ISBN 978-1-56024-864-4.
Giggie, John M. (2005). "The Third Great Awakening: Religion and the Civil Rights Movement". Reviews in American History. 33 (2): 254–262. doi:10.1353/rah.2005.0030. ISSN 0048-7511. JSTOR 30031470.
Hutchison, William R. (1987). Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-36309-7.
Keller, Rosemary Skinner; Ruether, Rosemary Radford, eds. (2006). Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34685-8.
Long, Kathryn Teresa (1998). The Revival of 1857–58: Interpreting an American Religious Awakening. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511293-1.
Luker, Ralph E. (1991). The Social Gospel in Black and White American Racial Reform, 1885–1912. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-1978-4.
 ———  (1981). "Liberal Theology and Social Conservatism: A Southern Tradition, 1840–1920". Church History. 50 (2): 193–204. doi:10.2307/3166883. ISSN 1755-2613. JSTOR 3166883.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
McClymond, Michael, ed. (2007). Encyclopedia of Religious Revivals in America. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-32828-2.
McLoughlin, William G. (1959). Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham. New York: Ronald Press. LCCN 58012959. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
 ——— , ed. (1976) [1968]. The American Evangelicals, 1800–1900: An Anthology. Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith. ISBN 978-0-8446-0793-1.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
Marty, Martin E. (1986). Modern American Religion. Volume 1: The Irony of It All, 1893–1919. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-50893-1.
 ———  (1991). Modern American Religion. Volume 2: The Noise of Conflict, 1919–1941. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-50895-5.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
Marsden, George M. (2006). Fundamentalism and American Culture (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-530047-5.
Sizer, Sandra (1978). Gospel Hymns and Social Religion: The Rhetoric of Nineteenth-Century Revivalism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 978-0-87722-142-5.
Smith, Timothy L. (1962). Called unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes: The Formative Years. Kansas City, Missouri: Nazarene Publishing House.
 ———  (1980) [1957]. Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
Ward, W. R. (1992). The Protestant Evangelical Awakening. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511661075. ISBN 978-0-511-66107-5.
Weisberger, Bernard A. (1958). They Gathered at the River: The Story of the Great Revivalists and Their Impact upon Religion in America.
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