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Theologies of the American Revivalists: From Whitefield to Finney (Caldwell)

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For centuries, revivals—and the conversions they inspire—have played a significant role in American evangelicalism.

Often unnoticed or unconsidered, however, are the particular theologies underlying these revivals and conversions to faith.

With that in mind, church historian Robert Caldwell traces the fascinating story of American revival theologies from the First Great Awakening through the Second Great Awakening, from roughly 1740 to 1840.

As he uncovers this aspect of American religious history, Caldwell offers a reconsideration of the theologies of figures such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Joseph Bellamy, Samuel Hopkins, and Charles Finney. His scope also includes movements, such as New Divinity theology, Taylorism, Baptist revival theology, Princeton theology, and the Restorationist movement.

With this study, we gain fresh insight into what it meant to become a Christian during the age of America's great awakenings.


Table of Contents: 

1. Moderate Evangelical Revival Theology in the First Great Awakening
2. First Great Awakening Alternatives: The Revival Theologies of Andrew Croswell and Jonathan Edwards
3. Revival Theology in the New Divinity Movement
4. Congregationalist and New School Presbyterian Revival Theology in the Second Great Awakening
5. Methodist Revival Theology in the Second Great Awakening
6. Revival Theologies Among Early American Baptists
7. The New Measures Revival Theology of Charles Finney
8. Two Responses to Modern Revival Theology: Princeton Seminary and the Restoration Movement



Robert W. Caldwell III (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Communion in the Spirit: The Holy Spirit as the Bond of Union in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards and the co-author of The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards: Text, Context and Application.



"Revival—or even more, the longing for revival—has been central throughout American Christian history. But what is meant by revival? Robert Caldwell's well-researched and exceedingly evenhanded book explains clearly what leaders of the American First and Second Great Awakenings taught concerning conversion, free will, the Holy Spirit, and how to interpret Scripture. He also explores with rare sensitivity what they assumed in their revival theologies. The result is a book rich in historical insight but also practical in guiding believers today in thinking about this vitally important matter." - Mark Noll, author of The Rise of Evangelicalism

"Theologies of the American Revivalists should be a valuable resource for scholars, evangelists, and laypersons. It provides clear accounts of the various understandings of evangelical conversion from the days when proponents of revival thought carefully about and debated such matters." - George M. Marsden, author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life and C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity

"How can we explain the transformation of American revivalism between Edwards and Finney? Why did Americans move from eighteenth-century convictions about the bondage of the will to nineteenth-century confidence in the will's freedom? What drove the transformation of American theology from systematic constructs to common-sense approaches? Caldwell's study provides new answers to these important questions. It is an immensely helpful work of historical theology that is well researched and clearly written. Recommended for all students of American religion and theology." - Gerald McDermott, Beeson Divinity School, author of The Theology of Jonathan Edwards

"Conversion experiences and narratives have long been central to evangelical identity, but the doctrines undergirding them are seldom understood with much clarity by their subjects, let alone most others. In this evenhanded history of theologies of revival from the time of George Whitefield to that of Charles Grandison Finney, Robert Caldwell helps us out. He supplies what we need to understand our own experiences, those of converts in churches with different doctrinal perspectives, and the engine of the evangelical movement itself. Everyone interested in American church history, evangelicalism, or the history of revival and evangelistic methods will want to read this reliable, comprehensive, and fair-minded book." - Douglas A. Sweeney, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School