Historical Background

The most important religious development in colonial America was the introduction of religious revivals known as the Great Awakening. Religious revivals first appeared in England, Scotland, and Germany, and ultimately spread to the colonies. The fervor of these revivals represented a reaction against the formality of Congregational churches. A leading figure in the Great Awakening was the clergyman Jonathan Edwards, who attempted to reconcile Calvinism and the Enlightenment.

Significance

The Great Awakening in the colonies, unlike in Europe, crossed class lines. This is significant in the development of a common American identity. At the same time, the Great Awakening produced a splintering of American Protestantism.

Essential Question

Did the Great Awakening contribute to the colonists’ desire to declare their independence from England? Explain.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain, in writing, what is meant by the Great Awakening.
  • Students will be able to contrast the “ways to salvation” among the followers of predestination (Puritans) and the revivalists.
  • Students will be able to define “licentiousness,” “lewd,” “frolicking,” and “Arminianism.”
  • After reading “Great Awakening: The Christian History,” students will be able to relate the reading to the issues that gave rise to the Great Awakening.
  • Students will write a paragraph explaining the beliefs of the Great Awakening.
  • Students will interpret Jonathan Edwards’s speech “A Faithfull Narrative of the Surprising Work of God.”

Motivation

Ask students to write what they think is meant by “freedom of religion” as found in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Ask students to determine if there is any mention of religion in the body of the Constitution.

Activities

  • Distribute to each student a copy of Notes on the Great Awakening (pdf). As the teacher calls on students to explain each bullet point, students take notes.
  • Distribute The Christian History (pdf)
  • Review the meaning of “licentiousness,” “lewd,” and “frolicking.”
  • Break students into groups of two. Working together, the team revises spelling and grammar to reflect modern English.
  • Students describe what is meant by “Dullness of Religion.”
  • Students describe what the article states regarding the behavior of the youth in paragraph 3.
  • Students describe why and how the behavior of the youth changed.
  • Have students define “Arminianism.”
  • Have students interpret each paragraph and conduct a discussion.
  • Distribute A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (pdf).

Closure

Students write an essay answering the essential question: Did the Great Awakening contribute to the colonists’ desire to declare their independence from England? Explain.

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