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
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Reformation
Your comments are welcome!
With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?
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.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion
This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.
Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.
“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan
Running time: 85 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)