Evangelicals, Revival and Revivalism

Authored by: Michael J. McClymond

The Routledge Research Companion to the History of Evangelicalism

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781472438928
eBook ISBN: 9781315613604
Adobe ISBN:


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Writers use the terms ‘revival’ and/or ‘revivalism’ to denote a period of renewed religious experience, fervour or devotion. Michael Watts referred to the British evangelical revival of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as ‘an attempt to return, after the spiritual lethargy of the late seventeenth century, to the religious fervour of an earlier age’. 1 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines the term ‘revival’ as ‘a period of religious awakening: renewed interest in religion with ‘meetings often characterized by emotional excitement’. 2 The concept and experience of Christian revival are not unique to English-speaking Protestantism. Foreign equivalents for the English term ‘revival’ include: Erweckung (German), réveil (French), avivamiento (Spanish), fen xing (Chinese), and bu hung (Korean). To call a religious gathering a ‘revival’ is to suggest that an intensification of experience has occurred. A gathered multitude does not as such constitute a ‘revival’. What distinguishes a ‘revival’ is a deepening of religious feeling and expression. ‘Revivals’ are corporate, experiential events. In ‘revival’ there is often a spiritual contagion – an infectious influence transmitted by proximity – causing one person’s spiritual experiences to spill over to others. The term ‘renewal’ is not as well defined as revival, and yet it suggests a return of zeal or vitality to a group of Christian believers who have declined in their devotion.

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