Thursday, September 15, 2011

Alcohol, Slavery and Loss of Social Concern 1

The Second Great Awakening in America (beginning in the early 19th century) proceeded through five developmental stages in which interdenominational evangelical societies spearheaded different levels of reformation:
  1. missionary societies sought to stimulate the evangelistic progress of the church at home and abroad.
  2. the production of Christian literature both for evangelism and nurture distributed through Bible and tract societies.
  3. societies promoting religion and education through Sunday Schools.
  4. societies for moral reformation.
  5. societies for broadscale social reform on issues like temperance, peace and antislavery.
Lovelace writes:

The American reform movement evolved into an extensive interdenominational network of interlocking leadership... characterized as a “Benevolent Empire." In the reform of mores it could on occasion appear to be moralistic or theocratic as in the case of the sabbath and radical temperance movements. But there were social and humanitarian concerns motivating even these initiatives, ...” (Dynamics, pp. 371-372).

Lovelace comments that while these initial stages of the Second GA were positive in many ways, before too long a united evangelical front begins to disintegrate:

By the 1830s some American evangelicals were moving toward radical solutions which seemed logical but were not necessarily biblical,... such as the redefinition of temperance as total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages rather than moderation... many denominational leaders began to think twice about the extraecclesiastical maneuvers of the reforming societies, and a resurgent confessionalism arose to counter the original evangelical impulse toward ecumenicity" (Dynamics, p. 375).

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