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Reasoning vs Emotion ; Impact of Enlightenment and Great Awakening

The Enlightenment ( 1688-1815) or also known as the Age of Reason, began in Europe and essentially made its impact globally, and especially in the new and rapidly growing colonies in America. The Enlightenment was the idea of logic, reasoning, and human nature should come before emotion, religion, and any beliefs. The clash came along in 1730s and 1740s, when a religious movement in America, known as the ” Great Awakening” affected the colonies and sparked religious fear and the call for change and return to the Calvinist Church. The Great Awakening and Enlightenment were practically opposites; one called for science, reasoning, thought above feelings, and ideas such as scientific method, law and justice, etc., while the other imposed a return to the Church, that God’s people in the colonies were all to be damned due to the lack of their faith and the overwhelming amount of sin. The conflict came with the seen and unseen ; determined and undetermined. Such can be showed in Edward’s The Distinguishing of a Work of the Spirit of God, where he states that ,  If the spirit that is at work among a people operates as a spirit of love to God and man, it is a sure sign that it is the Spirit of God” ( Edwards, 91). He hear undoubtedly states that if the works and emotions that motivate the people pursue them to change their ways and turn towards God, then they are being impacted by the Holy Spirit. Also, his statement , “The spirit that operates in such a manner as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity is certainly the Spirit of God”  ( Edwards, 92) goes to show that since as humans we naturally fall into sin, and if a man through Scripture becomes closer to God, that also is work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the undetermined and unseen can be emotionally felt and concluded through the people feeling moved and impacted to change.

On the other hand, Chauncey in The State of Religion in New Englandgoes against Edwards and Whitefield’s movements, stating that the people fearing damnation would logically look for ways of salvation, due to human nature and feeling fear. He even goes to compare people to when a house is burning, “ So did the people here behave with respect to their souls, terrified by the preachings of Edwards and Whitfield; they thought themselves in great Danger.”  ( Chauncy, 96). Chauncy here represents the Enlightenment and goes against the Great Awakening, the unseen and undetermined can only be proven through logic and reasoning, such as religion.

Therefore, both these writings support that the Enlightenment and Great Awakening contradicted one another; and that reason and emotion became popular in America, liberal Christians and Baptists came around, science and religion could not easily intermix, and that your economic and political stance could affect your appreciation for either movement.



( Great Awakening sermon) 



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