Because the Protestant Reformation was a movement that originated from the re-emphasis of the Bible, most of the efforts had concentrated on defining doctrines. But faith is more than rational arguments. Just as monasticism was a reaction to the dead medieval church, pietism and Methodism were a reaction to the dead orthodoxy in the post-Reformation church.
Pietism first emerged in
The Age of Reason, with its belief in human
ability to chart its own course and its hostility to imposed authority (religious
or civil), influenced the political thoughts. In
In the new
Republican ideals and religion coexisted in
Advances in philosophy, science, social science and historical studies all challenged the necessity of religious belief.
In philosophy, David Hume (1711–1776) tried to show that rationalistic approaches to knowledge would only lead to uncertainty and skepticism. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) proposed a theory of knowledge that denied the existence of purely objective knowledge and concluded that the pure rationality of rationalists is only an illusion. They undercut the foundation of rationalism.
In social science, Auguste Comte (1798–1857), father of positivism, advanced the theory that cultures were not static but evolved from a primitive stage to a mature stage, from theology to metaphysics to science. In other words, religion had now been eclipsed by philosophy and science.
In science, the challenge from Darwinism was particularly strong. The publication of On the Origin of Species  by Charles Darwin was influential because it suggested a mechanism by which the order of the universe could be accounted for by natural processes, thus eliminating the necessity of a Creator God.
In response to these challenges, some Protestants tried to redefine Christianity. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), the father of religious liberalism, argued that religious truth was a matter of subjective feeling, not objective knowledge. He sought to secure a place for religion by retreating to the inner realm to find its validity. Albrecht Ritschl (1822–1889) and Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930) continued the liberal movement by arguing that the Bible contained the revelation of God, but not by itself the Word of God. Christianity, therefore, could be studied scientifically, as a historical and cultural phenomenon, essentially reducing Christ to a caring human with deluded followers, thus denying the core of the gospel.
The reaction by the Roman Catholic church was very different. The church resisted the challenges by emphaszing on the role and dominance of the church’s leadership. In order to resist liberalism in the church and culture, Pius IX issued the Syllabus of Errors , which condemned specific new ideas, but the effect was pushing dissent underground. In the Council of Vatican I , the preservation of orthodoxy was achieved by the assertion of papal infallibility.
In late 18th-century was the vast overturning of
traditional ideas and institutions. Deism in
Drawing upon the renewal movements of the previous century, and responding to the social ills brought on by the emergence of uncontrolled capitalism and industrialization, this period was marked by Christian leadership in improving the society through social reforms. The record of accomplishments was impressive. For example, Robert Raikes (1735–1811) established what became known as the Sunday School Movement to educate poor children. Lord Shaftesbury (1801–1885) worked hard to secure child-labour laws. John Howard (1726–1790) sought prison reform. William Wilberforce (1759–1833) laboured to end the immoral slave trade. Influential lay Christian leaders cooperated to gain favourable legislation for the oppressed. Monumental results were achieved by the YMCA, founded by George Williams (1821–1905), and the Salvation Army, founded by William Booth (1829–1912) and Catherine Booth (1829–1890). Both helped to relieve the ravages of industrialization. Such good works were perceived as the natural fruit of being a Christian, never as merely an option.
While Christianity in Europe was under cultural
pressures to remodel to fit with the secular world, Christians in the
After the American Revolution, a Second Great Awakening
[1800s–1830s] swept the new nation. It affected every religious tradition, brought
in new denominations, and spawned a variety of cults. Revival first broke out
in colleges such as Yale, led by its president Timothy Dwight (1752–1817),
Jonathan Edwards’s grandson. They swept the eastern seaboard and rural
After the civil war, a Third Great Awakening [1880s–1900s] was led by Dwight Moody (1837–1899) and Ira Sankey (1840–1908) who preached to large gatherings calling people to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ.
After these, revivalism would become a staple feature of American Christianity. The revival fervour led to the founding of new religious groups. Among them were the Restoration movement founded by Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone (objecting denominationalism, concentrating on the essential aspects of the Christian faith, allowing for a diversity of understanding with non-essentials); the Holiness movement (a renewed emphasis upon John Wesley’s views on complete sanctification); but also cults including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons, organized by Joseph Smith); the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Watch Tower Society (founded on the teachings of Charles Taze Russell); and Christian Science (founded by Mary Baker Eddy).
The most important impact of the Awakening was
the dominance of Christianity in the general culture;
Just as the 18th-century had been the great
century of renewal in many churches, so the 19th-century was the century of Protestant
missionary movements. William Carey (1761–1834), a principal founder of the
Baptist Foreign Missions Society , was called the founder of the modern
missionary movement for calling Christians to cooperate across denominations in
sending missionaries. In the