Theologies of the American Revivalists: From Whitefield to Finney, By Robert W. Caldwell III
Theologies of the American Revivalists
  • Length: 246 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: April 04, 2017
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5164
  • ISBN: 9780830851645

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For centuries, revivals—and the conversions they inspire—have played a significant role in American evangelicalism.

Often unnoticed or unconsidered, however, are the particular theologies underlying these revivals and conversions to faith.

With that in mind, church historian Robert Caldwell traces the fascinating story of American revival theologies from the First Great Awakening through the Second Great Awakening, from roughly 1740 to 1840.

As he uncovers this aspect of American religious history, Caldwell offers a reconsideration of the theologies of figures such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Joseph Bellamy, Samuel Hopkins, and Charles Finney. His scope also includes movements, such as New Divinity theology, Taylorism, Baptist revival theology, Princeton theology, and the Restorationist movement.

With this study, we gain fresh insight into what it meant to become a Christian during the age of America's great awakenings.

"Revival—or even more, the longing for revival—has been central throughout American Christian history. But what is meant by revival? Robert Caldwell's well-researched and exceedingly evenhanded book explains clearly what leaders of the American First and Second Great Awakenings taught concerning conversion, free will, the Holy Spirit, and how to interpret Scripture. He also explores with rare sensitivity what they assumed in their revival theologies. The result is a book rich in historical insight but also practical in guiding believers today in thinking about this vitally important matter."

Mark Noll, author of The Rise of Evangelicalism

"Theologies of the American Revivalists should be a valuable resource for scholars, evangelists, and laypersons. It provides clear accounts of the various understandings of evangelical conversion from the days when proponents of revival thought carefully about and debated such matters."

George M. Marsden, author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life and C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity

"How can we explain the transformation of American revivalism between Edwards and Finney? Why did Americans move from eighteenth-century convictions about the bondage of the will to nineteenth-century confidence in the will's freedom? What drove the transformation of American theology from systematic constructs to common-sense approaches? Caldwell's study provides new answers to these important questions. It is an immensely helpful work of historical theology that is well researched and clearly written. Recommended for all students of American religion and theology."

Gerald McDermott, Beeson Divinity School, author of The Theology of Jonathan Edwards

"Conversion experiences and narratives have long been central to evangelical identity, but the doctrines undergirding them are seldom understood with much clarity by their subjects, let alone most others. In this evenhanded history of theologies of revival from the time of George Whitefield to that of Charles Grandison Finney, Robert Caldwell helps us out. He supplies what we need to understand our own experiences, those of converts in churches with different doctrinal perspectives, and the engine of the evangelical movement itself. Everyone interested in American church history, evangelicalism, or the history of revival and evangelistic methods will want to read this reliable, comprehensive, and fair-minded book."

Douglas A. Sweeney, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Since it entered the English language in 1820, the term revivalist has come to be used generically. Like a one-size-fits-all shoe, the designation has been deemed equally applicable to every evangelistic preacher from Whitefield to Moody, from Edwards to Graham. But these awakeners were not just so many duplicates. The strength of Robert Caldwell's Theologies of the American Revivalists is that it helps us see that there were distinguishable ideas of Christian revival in circulation prior to the Great Awakening, that the Great Awakening immediately spawned competing theologies of revival, and that the early nineteenth century's Second Awakening spawned still more. This is now the go-to volume for those wanting to trace these developments and to understand their bearing on our time."

Kenneth Stewart, professor of theological studies, Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, GA, author of Ten Myths About Calvinism

"Robert W. Caldwell's Theologies of the American Revivalists offers an illuminating and authoritative review of how leading American revivalists, from Jonathan Edwards to Charles Finney, grappled with issues such as the nature of gospel preaching, conversion, and sanctification. I recommend it highly."

Thomas S. Kidd, distinguished professor of history, Baylor University

"In this one volume, Robert Caldwell has carefully traced the fascinating story of revival through an event-filled century of change. Dependent on primary sources and freshly locating figures from Fuller to Finney, this is important theology presented by an even-handed guide."

Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, president of

"Robert Caldwell offers a sophisticated and thought-provoking analysis of revivalist theology, rooted in the peculiarities of Jonathan Edwards's Reformed and evangelical theology, but developing and bearing fruit in ways that at times were flatly contradictory to Reformed doctrine. Linking Finney to post-Edwardsean theologians like Hopkins, Caldwell's monograph will stimulate scholarly discussion on a topic important both for the history of theology and the practice of the modern church."

Joel R. Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

"Theologies of the American Revivalists is a skilled presentation of historical theology that admirably serves historical, theological, and pastoral purposes. I highly recommend the work."

Matthew C. Shrader, Themelios, 43.3

"Caldwell's thorough scholarship covers a wide variety of disputed theological themes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century revivalism, including the nature of conversion, conviction of sin, the bondage and freedom of the will, and sanctification. . . . The book is a helpful counterpoint to any who would argue that revivalism is historically short on theological underpinning, and deserves to be widely read and carefully studied."

Tim Woolley, Wesley and Methodist Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1

"Theologies of the American Revivalists is a landmark study that summarizes and synthesizes the best of recent scholarship about the history of revival theology."

Nathan A. Finn, Southwestern Journal of Theology, Spring 2019


1. Moderate Evangelical Revival Theology in the First Great Awakening
2. First Great Awakening Alternatives: The Revival Theologies of Andrew Croswell and Jonathan Edwards
3. Revival Theology in the New Divinity Movement
4. Congregationalist and New School Presbyterian Revival Theology in the Second Great Awakening
5. Methodist Revival Theology in the Second Great Awakening
6. Revival Theologies Among Early American Baptists
7. The New Measures Revival Theology of Charles Finney
8. Two Responses to Modern Revival Theology: Princeton Seminary and the Restoration Movement
General Index
Scripture Index


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Robert W. Caldwell

Robert W. Caldwell III (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is associate professor of church history at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Communion in the Spirit: The Holy Spirit as the Bond of Union in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards and the co-author of The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards: Text, Context and Application.