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incc thc vangclical Awakcning is thc cnginc
ol thc grcat rcnaissancc ol thc Filth poch, this
topic is in somc ways thc most impor tant. For
most vangclical Christians in thc Vcst, thc van
gclical Awakcning as a phrasc has to bc thc most
signicant pair ol words sincc thc days ol thc apostlcs.
Protcstantism was vcry dicrcnt prior to thc vangcli
cal Awakcning. !n thc timc ol thc Rclormation thcrc
wcrc thc Roman Catholic armics and thc Protcstant
armics. Tcrc wcrc also thc Anabaptists and othcr
various non conlorming groups ol thc socallcd Radi
cal Rclormation. Tat third lorcc did not comc to
thc surlacc until Pictism cxtcndcd it. !n Pictism thc
csscncc ol thc Radical Rclormation, thc third lorcc,
nally burst into lull vicw. !t appcars, morc clcarly than
in any othcr placc, in thc cightccnthccntury ng
land in thc pcrson ol John Vcslcy, in what is callcd
thc Evangelical Awakening. vangcl icals today carry
thcir scvcral thcological traditions, but also, cvcn morc
importantly, thcy arc morc likcly to tracc thcir wholc
lilcstylc and attitudcs to thc vangclical Awakcning
morc likcly than to thc Protcstant Rclormation.
Te Roots
of the Evangelical Awakening
Most ol thc distinctivc traits ol cvangclical Christi
anity wcrc virtually invcntcdthat is, thcy bccamc
publicin thc vangclical Awakcning. Tc most
obvious trait lor this contcxt is thc lact that missions
as thcory and practicc rcally didnt cxist in Protcs
tantism to any cxtcnt until thc Awakcning. Tc only
cxccption was thc Moravians, who wcrc ahcad ol thc
timcs but wcrc not, strictly spcaking, Protcstants. !t
was thc Mora vians whom John Vcslcy wcnt to visit
and whom hc rst mct on his trip to Amcrica. n that
trip in a big, tcrriblc, horrilying storm thc main mast
was split, and cvcrybody on thc ship was just trcmbling
in horrorcxccpt thc Moravians, thc dcpth ol whosc
Christian laith was apparcntly such that thcy simply
quictly praycd and sang hymns in thc midst ol that
ghastly storm. John Vcslcy took notc ol that.
Latcr, back in London, John and Charlcs Vcslcy
lcllowshippcd with a small group ol Moravians. nc
ol thc lcadcrs, as Latourcttc puts it, spokc to thcm ol
scllsurrcndcr, instantancous con vcrsion, and joy in
conscious salvation. Tis is quintcsscntial cvangcli
calism. Altcr that kind ol an cxpcricncc John Vcslcy
madc a trip to Gcrmany. Hc got a tcrriblc cul turc
shock and wcnt away with mixcd lcclings about thc
Gcrmans and no longcr cagcr to simply bc Moravian.
8ut thc Moravians vcry dcnitcly inu cnccd John
Vcslcy, cvcn bclorc hc wcnt to Gcrmany. !n Vcslcys
Aldcrsgatc cxpcricncc, Pctcr 8ochlar, thc Moravian,
had workcd with him, and Vcslcy lound that thcrc
was somcthing richcr and lullcr in thc 8iblc than thc
dctcrmincd, almost ascctic obcdicncc which was thc
pattcrn ol his lilc bclorc that point.
Tc thcologians dont know what to do with this so
callcd convcrsion ol John Vcslcy. You can makc out a
casc lor him not bcing a truc Christian bclorc. !l you do,
you consign almost all Christians in history to thc outcr
darkncss. As onc Christian lcadcr said, !l John Vcslcy
was not convcrtcd bclorc Aldcrsgatc, God hclp Christcn
dom! Tat is onc approach. Tc othcr approach chooscs
Te Evangelical Awakening

Ralph D. Winter
Rcprintcd with pcrmission lrom Vintcr, Ralph . Te Unfolding Drama f the Christian Movement. n.d., Chaptcr 11.
::o Tnv v~xcviic~i Aw~xvxixc
to cxplain what happcncd as a sccond work ol gracc. !t
was thus an cvangclical cxpcricncc ol thc typc which bc
camc lamous in thc Holincss movcmcnt (dircctly dcrivcd
lrom Vcslcys impact on history) which cmphasizcs a
sccond work ol gracc. !n modcrn tcrminology, you can say
that it was thc baptism ol thc Holy Spirit.
Ncvcrthclcss, Aldcrsgatc was an important cvcnt. Hcrc
was this giant ol disciplinc and obcdicncc, a godly
pcrson, visiting thc poor, thc homclcss and thc prison
crs, witncssing lor Christ and rcading thc 8iblc cvcry
daybut thcrc was somc thing morc. Somchow, what
cvcr thc cxpcricncc was, it opcncd John Vcslcys hcart
to thc world on a scalc and a lcvcl ol intcnsity that had
ncvcr bclorc cxistcd in his lilc.
Tcrc is no othcr way to dcscribc thc coursc ol cvcnts
in cight ccnthccntury ngland than to say that Aldcr
sgatc was thc opcning cvcnt.
John Wesley
and the Methodist Movement
Kcnncth Scott Latourcttc pointcd out that thc Mcthod
ist prcachcrs wcrc in all lunc tional rcspccts similar to
thc lriars. Tcy livcd up to thc idcals ol povcrty, chastity,
and obcdicncc. Vcslcys trcmcndous dctcrmination put
stccl and toughncss into thc bcr ol that movcmcnt,
dcrisivcly callcd thc Mcthodists, who wcrc so rigorous
in thcir managcmcnt structurc and accountability. To
this day, in no placc on thc lacc ol thc carth do you nd
a church structurc ol any sizc, or lcngth ol cxistcncc,
with a toughcr intcrnal disciplinc than in thc Mcthodist
tradition. An Anglican bishop or a Roman cardinal has
no powcr whatsocvcr comparcd to a Mcthodist bishop!
Tis is John Vcslcys lcgacy in that tradition.
l coursc, thcrc wcrc many othcr things that camc
out ol thc Mcthodist movcmcnt. A trc mcndous holy
glow was spawncd in ngland. Tc hallmarks ol thc
movcmcnt wcrc not, as is oltcn strcsscd, a rcturn to thc
8iblc, although that was part ol it. 8ut John Vcslcy
wouldnt allow his prcachcrs to makc scrmons up
lrom thc 8iblc. Hc gavc thcm twcnty basic scrmons,
and that was all thcy wcrc supposcd to prcach! John
Vcslcy didnt cxpcct thcsc pcoplc to dcvclop thcir own
scrmons. Tcsc mcns solc common dcnominator was
thcir rcsponsivcncss to an absolutc obcdicnccnot to
Christ, but to John Vcslcy, Vcslcy was thc onc who
obcycd Christ. Hc said as Paul did, 8c yc imitators ol
mc, cvcn as l am ol Christ.
So it was that in this movcmcnt thcrc was a rc, thcrc
was an assurancc ol salvation, a pcacc ol hcart and lilc
that Calvinism dcspitc its rich varictics ncvcr routincly
gavc pcoplc.
8oth thc Roman Catholic tradition and Protcs tantism,
and cvcn cvangclicalismany lorm ol Christianity
tcnds to movc in thc dircction ol holding pcoplc in
suspcnsc. Guilt trips is thc busincss wc oltcn arc in, in
our wcak momcnts, trying to makc our product morc
ncccssary to our pcoplc. 8ut Vcslcy was vcry lrcc and
casy about this wholc thing. Much too lrcc and casy in
tcrms ol thcology!
Unlikc thc Roman Catholic tradition and othcr lorms
ol Protcstantism, Vcslcy didnt havc much conccrn
about thc nc points ol thcology, which allowcd all
kinds ol libcralism in Mcthodist traditions. 8ut hc
did usc thc Vcstminstcr Conlcssion ol laith and
thc slightly modicd Vcstminstcr catcchism, which
is usually considcrcd Calvin istic. For thc most part,
Vcslcy was a Calvinist. Tc socallcd Arminians, who
lought and dcbatcd with thc Calvinists on thc Amcri
can lronticr, wcrc mainly Calvinists. Jacobus Armin
ius himscll was a lollowcr ol Calvin, cvcn though hc
disagrccd with somc ol thc Calvin-ists in Holland. !n
somc rcspccts, Arminius was closcr to Calvin than thc
Calvinists wcrc. Tcchnically, it is nonscnsc to con
trast Arminians with Calvin ists. Vc may spcak ol thc
Arminian Calvinists vcrsus thc othcr Calvinists who
claimcd thc namc.
Tc ncw thing was not Arminian thcology, but thc
assurance of salvation. As latc as thc ninctccnth ccntury,
whcn Charlcs Finncy wcnt to Princcton Scminary to
nd out how to bc savcd, thc prcsidcnt ol thc scminary
said, Young man, thcrc is no way lor you to bc savcd.
Tcrc is nothing that you can do. All that you can do is
go homc and pray. And il God wants to savc you, thcn
Hc will. Finncys grcat rcvival and cvangclistic corts
would havc bccn hopclcss with that kind ol thcology!
Vithin this cvangclical movcmcnt, this assu rancc ol
salvation, this scnsc ol holincss, this cmphasis upon thc
lilc, not just thc bclicl, was a vcry blcsscd thing, and
it cvcntually sccpcd into all lorms ol Christianity all
around thc world.
vangclicals, as is truc whcn a ncw movcmcnt gcts
startcd, rcthought through many things. Tcy bcgan to
wondcr about thc dictary assump tions ol sccular soci
cty. John Vcslcy himscll cxpcrimcntcd with clcctric
Ralph D. Winter ::+
ity as a mcans ol calming pcoplc who wcrc mcntally
disturbcd, and wrotc and cditcd a numbcr ol books
on scicncc and othcr subjccts. His intcrcst in scicncc
and widcranging rcading lcad him into contact with
a ccrtain writcr in Amcrica, whom hc thcn introduccd
to thc Royal Socicty ol ngland. Tat Amcrican writcr
was 8cnjamin Franklin.
Tc vangclical Awakcning was not just a ncw thcolog
ical tradition. !t didnt build a ncw thcological systcm
and lor that rcason it is downplaycd in scmi narics
today. vangclical thcology is somctimcs cquatcd with a
lundamcntalist cmphasis. Ccrtainly thc socallcd Fun
damcntalists (as a spccic his torical movcmcnt) wcrc
cvangclical. 8ut most ol cvangclical history portrays an
cvangclical as radical, not conscrvativc!
Tc cvangclicals wcrc thc oncs who intro duccd into
thc churchcs !saac Vatts pocms, and thcy actually got
pcoplc singing human poctry instcad ol thc psalms!
Tc Protcstant movcmcnt had takcn ovcr thc psalms
lrom thc monastic movcmcnt. Tc Prot cstant churchcs
wcrc thcmsclvcs a substitutc lor thc monastic houscs.
!n thc monastic houscs thcy sang thcir way through
thc psalms cvcry wcck, and so thc Protcstants also
dutilully sang thc psalms. 8ut, duc to thc buoyancy ol
spirit and thc ncw assurancc ol salvation and ol Gods
willingncss lor all mcn to bc savcd, thc cvangclicals
bcgan writing, and thcn ultimatcly thcy introduccd hu
man hymns into church worship!
!t took about a 100 ycars to do this. vangcl icals also in
troduccd what bccamc known as thc Sunday School. Tcy
cvcn allowcd womcn to havc mcctings by thcmsclvcs!
Tcy opposcd thc usc ol alcohol. Tcy proposcd thc usc
ol missionarics. Tcy did a varicty ol radical things! Tc
cvangclical movcmcnt today is a complcx ol culturc traits.
!t cannot bc dcncd in purcly thcological tcrms.
8ooks on thc cvangclicals arc incrcasing in numbcr,
1

but in vcry lcw ol thcm, to my knowlcdgc, can you nd
any scrious rclcrcnccs to thc subjcct ol missions. Tcsc
books do not rcally talk about thc mission movcmcnt,
which had its origins in thc impctus and thc spiritual
rc ol thc vangclical Awakcning.
Conclusion
To concludc, in its carly stagcs thc vangclical
Awakcning itscll was primarily a spiritual rcbirth ol
Protcstantism. nly latcr did it gct into thc subjcct
ol missions. !t was not until thc vcry cnd ol Vcslcys
ccntury that Villiam Carcy, clcarly thc product ol thc
vangclical Awakcning, took that additional intcllcc
tual lcap into thc placc whcrc hc lclt that a missionary
cxprcssion ol this zcal was thc only propcr thing.
A modcrnday parallcl could bc thc charismatic movc
mcnt which, altcr so many ycars ol bcing a purcly
spiritual cmphasis, sccms to bc nally gctting to thc
placc whcrc it is intcr cstcd in missions.
Tc vangclical Awakcning was a powcrlul spiritual
movcmcnt, which ovcrowcd into Amcrica in thc Grcat
Awakcn ing and has cxtcnsivcly dcncd most ol Vcstcrn
Christianity. Tcrc was not ncccssarily, howcvcr, any con
ncction bctwccn this amazing spiritual rcbirth and a clcar
cut missionary organizational stratcgy. Spiritual rcbirth in
itscll docs not ncccssarily lcad to missionary stratcgics.
Endnote
1
Somc ol thcsc books arc: 8crnard Ramms Te Evangelical
Heritage: A Study in Historical Teology (Grand Rapids: 8akcr
8ook Housc, 1981, 2000 rcprint), onald G. 8locschs Te
Evangelical Renaissance (Grand Rapids: crdmans, 1973),
avid Vclls Te Evangelicals: What Tey Believe, Who Tey
Are, Where Tey Are Changing (Abingdon Prcss 1975, Rcv. cd.
8akcr 8ook Housc, 1977).