By Jay Rogers
Published September 1, 1993
The first generation of Americans were pioneers. Many of the first Europeans who came to America were Christians, more importantly they were Protestant Christians who came to the New World during a time when the Reformation that was going on in Europe was still very much in progress.
These people had a new sense of what it meant to be a Christian. Belonging to the Church was no longer a guarantee of salvation. Salvation came through an individual’s relationship with Jesus Christ, the sole mediator between God and man. Although all members of this new society were expected to behave as though they were Church members, salvation was a matter of election, the Calvinist idea that God had predestined certain individuals for eternal life.
Furthermore, they believed that God was sovereign and was guiding their destiny. This divine sovereignty placed God as the sole ruler over their society. There was no longer a need for kings, bishops and popes the rule in the affairs of men. Each had the responsibility to be self-governing and to stand alone before God in accountability. A man’s actions were rewarded as he obeyed the supreme laws of God. This alone was the necessary motivating factor in maintaining the social order.
These pioneers realized that saving grace was no longer a theological concept or a doctrine but an everyday experience. They lived and breathed and avoided death in a hostile environment because of the protective hand of God. In this strange new world they were without the intermediary of a national Church to insure salvation in the hereafter. These Christians saw their salvation being worked out by God alone in the here and now.
The Kingdom of Heaven was already comprised of individuals who were alone accountable before God. From this realization came the concept of individuality. God had made them individuals; each one of them was unique and had been called and predestined by God to fulfill a special destiny in this new unfolding society.
The second generation of Americans were settlers. This was the generation who took their destiny back from God. By the time that the first generation had accumulated wealth and passed it on to their children, a comfort and ease had begun to set into their society. No longer was life and death in the hands of an almighty God; predestination began to become a concept and salvation began to lose its relevance in the here and now.
Two other factors that determined American idealism during this time period were an unlimited access to land, wealth in the form of natural resources and freedom from European feudal systems in favor of private ownership and capitalist investment. From this perspective came the notion of unlimited wealth, the Protestant work ethic and the free enterprise system.
Capitalism in its pure form existed in this society; surplus was reinvested in order to gain a larger surplus. Because wealth was unlimited in the New World, wealth was available to all at the expense of no one. The only prohibiting factor was the amount of industry provided through individual initiative.
By the time that the second generation had settled in and had become comfortable, fewer could claim to have had the same experience of saving grace as the previous generation. This was the age in which Church membership and not election began to become the basis salvation.
The Pioneers baptized their children believing that they would have the same inner experience of a personal relationship with God when they came of age. But when it came time for the third generation to be baptized, the wealth which had permeated the society kept their children away from a need for a Savior.
They were like the Laodiceans: they already had everything they needed. They were aristocrats; they lived in comfort and ease. Many of them could not testify to having had a personal experience with their God. Their parents resolved to compromise, however, and let them continue as Church members although they had no experiential faith. The result of this was a repetition of some of the same circumstances which the reformers had protested. Church membership soon became the basis for salvation.
The drives of individualism, materialism and competition began to replace the idea that individuals were to work toward God’s reward and that wealth was only to be had as a blessing by Christians who were but stewards, part time owners of God’s material blessings. Individualism is distinct from individuality; materialism from the work ethic; competition from free enterprise. The former are birthed from selfish motives; the latter are descriptive of an individual’s God-given character and giftings.
The Spirit who gave life to these godly principles of the early Pilgrims had departed and these distinctly American characteristics now existed as merely an empty shell. The stage was set for a new move of God.
The Great Awakenings
The same pattern has followed in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. We see a Spiritual Awakening beginning around the turn of the century with three generations of pioneers, settlers and aristocrats in each. The following chart shows the three generations of Christians in the four centuries of American revival and reformation:
Although this chart is a generalization, we can see a definite pattern of spiritual awakening stirring America around the turn of each century during a time of great moral darkness and national crisis.
David McKenna, author of The Coming Great Awakening, offers this analysis:
Has God given up on our society or passed us by? Are evangelical prophets of doom, who squint into the twilight and fix their eyes on the darkness, right about our civilization? I say no. God has not given up on us. If we watch closely we can see the stirrings of the Spirit among us today….
Awakenings invariably begin in a time of cultural conflict. The cause may be a natural period of exhaustion and decline in the culture. When speeding social change creates moral disjunctures in the culture and makes the traditional ways of coping with change obsolete, a society is in trouble. In either case, malaise sets in, along with self-doubt and despair. The symptoms of cultural conflict are threefold:
(1) the existing moral consensus breaks down;
(2) the traditional authority of established institutions, such as the home, church and schoool, is rejected; and
(3) the credibility of legitimate leadership is questioned.
Each of the awakenings in American history began in a time of trouble caused by moral conflict … (which) caused disjuncture throughout the whole nation, from national leadership to grassroots. Social change with its resultant tension is not enough to stimulate the process of spiritual awakening. In a Great Awakening, the cultural conflict must be moral and the social tension must be disruptive….
Whenever society is threatened by revolutionary change, particularly in the field of morals, the first reaction is to return to the ways that worked in the past. Students of the Great Awakenings call this conservative swing a “nativist reaction.”
According to McKenna, the “nativist reaction” can actually stall a move of God rather than promote it. Nativism is defined as the revival of traditional values of a particular culture. In Puritan America, Cotton Mather spearheaded the call for a return to the “Old New England Way.” He was responding to the acculturizing trends of 18th century rationalism. But it wasn’t Mather who was responsible for bringing the Great Awakening to America but Jonathan Edwards who appeared on the scene just a few years after Mather’s death. Unlike the nativists, revival figures, such as Jonathan Edwards and 18th century evangelist Charles G. Finney, appear as children of their age – not enemies of progress.
In our day, the Reagan presidency and voices coming from what has been termed the “Christian right” called for a nativist return to “traditional family values.” Some imagined a return to the 1950s – Ozzie and Harriet television reruns, tail fins on Chevys, drive-in theaters and crew cuts – as if that would bring us a much needed moral awakening. We are still waiting for the Finneys and Edwards of our own generation.
We, in the 1990s, are the aristocratic, Laodicean generation of the 20th century. But if the pattern of revival and spiritual awakening holds, the next thirty to forty years promise to be a time of one of the greatest outpourings of the Holy Spirit in American history. Will you be prepared for it?
Puritan Colonial America
1620 – 1649 Pioneers
1650 – 1689 Settlers
1690 – 1719 Aristocrats
The Great Awakening and the American Revolution
1720 – 1739 Pioneers
1740 – 1769 Settlers
1770 – 1789 Aristocrats
The Second Great Awakening and the United States of America
1790 – 1829 Pioneers
1830 – 1859 Settlers
1860 – 1889 Aristocrats
1890 – 1919 Pioneers
1920 – 1959 Settlers
1960 – ? Aristocrats
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Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
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Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
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Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?
Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
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With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Running time: 105 minutes
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Watch a clip from Martin Luther.
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Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
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