Awakening Theology

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Revival theology , (also, especially as church movement: revivalism or short revival ) refers to a theological direction, especially within Protestantism , which in contrast to the rationalism of the piety wanted to revive.


Awakening theology is one of the conservative theological currents of the 18th and 19th centuries, which was primarily directed against rationalism and its "excessive overestimation" of reason (Beyreuther). With the main focus on the ecclesiastical trend, there is also talk of the revival movement . However, the characteristic of this current, which initially showed its attraction beyond school and confessional boundaries, is the development of a theological position. This clearly distinguishes the revival from pietism , which not only remained sterile at this point, but also never found its way out of the conventicles and back into the church.


In the colonies of New England and then in the United States, there were interdenominational revival movements in the 18th and 19th centuries , which continue to this day, the Great Awakening in the 18th century belonged to its leading theologians Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield , and the "Second Awakening" in the 19th century in which Timothy Dwight IV and Charles Grandison Finney played an essential role.

In Europe, too, the great historical upheavals of the French Revolution in 1789 and the fall of Prussia in 1806/07 made the weakness of rationalism evident, which was evident in the lack of meaning in history.

Awakening theology now sought to use this gap. The church historian August Neander (1789–1850) appeared as one of the first representatives of the revival . With his word pectus est quod facit theologum (it is the heart that defines the theologian) he stood for a theology that turned against rationalism and the Hegelian concept of reason , but was also open to the results of historical biblical criticism . This dogmatic generosity of August Neander's approach, also known as pectoral theology, remained the exception for conservative theology, although he was more than Schleiermacher able to shape the following generation.

Neander's most important student was August Tholuck (1799–1877). His youthful book The Doctrine of Sin and the Reconciler or the True Consecration of the Doubter (1823) became the most important document of the revival movement. Here the author tried to use psychological means to reveal the depravity of human nature: "Without the journey into hell of self-knowledge, the ascension of knowledge of God is not possible." The thus developed (hereditary) sin teaching , which is close to Augustine , was initially a rejection of Hegel's idealistic thesis of the identity of the human with the divine spirit, a contradiction also against the zeitgeist in the "pagan Weimar ". For the later, the doctrine of sin became almost the sole explanation of every form of contradiction to the zeitgeist.

Until well into the second half of the century, Tholuck was received primarily through his faculty colleague Julius Müller , whose dogmatic text The Christian Doctrine of Sin (1839/44, 6th edition 1877) was based entirely on him. In addition to the now explicit criticism of Hegel , there was also that of Schleiermacher's concept of sin in Schleiermacher's doctrine of faith . Even Søren Kierkegaard was based on Müller's work. Müller himself was counted among the mediation theologians .

In the 1830s and 1840s, the theology of revival found a continuation in the Repristinationstheologie (also: denominational theology), as v. a. was represented by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg . The Erlangen school , which was also (more rarely) run under the name "Franconian Awakening Theology", offered an independent reception and further development .


“If a clergyman is working to promote a revival, he must be very careful not to bring up any dispute , otherwise he will grieve the Spirit of God, and it will withdraw. Revivals are no longer held back by anything; this has been proven by the history of the Church over the centuries. Usually the preachers are responsible when a spirit of polemics takes hold of the audience and the Spirit of God is scared away because they raised, discussed, and heated about some issue. "

- Charles G. Finney : Revival

“We see why the revivals are often short-lived and so often result in backlash. It is simply because the Church of Christ has so little understanding of the matter. The revivals do not last because the Christians only call themselves to work now and then instead of going to work systematically. They let themselves be guided more by their feelings than by the awareness of their responsibility. "

- Charles G. Finney : Revival


  • E. Beyreuther: The Awakening Movement (= The Church in Her History , Lief. R), 1963
  • also in: RGG II, 3.A., 631ff.
  • FW Kantzenbach: The Awakening Movement , 1957

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Charles G. Finney: Revival. God's promise and our responsibility. 2nd Edition. Bernard, Solingen 1998, ISBN 3-925968-03-2 , p. 212.
  2. ^ Charles G. Finney: Revival. God's promise and our responsibility. 2nd Edition. Bernard, Solingen 1998, ISBN 3-925968-03-2 , pp. 331-332.