In American revival history the Great Awakening (a term actually applied one hundred years later to the New England revival of the 1730s and 1740s) is the Holy Grail. It is the revival by which all other revivals are compared, the revival of the type that so many seek today. Other revivals have come and gone. They are debatable, even within revival oriented circles. But not the Great Awakening. It is considered, beyond question, to have been one of the greatest movements of God in church history, on par with Pentecost and the Reformation. So when Frank Lambert dares to title a book Inventing the “Great Awakening”he is truly invading holy ground. Holy grounds are places where you take your shoes off, not where you drop kick sacred church history. But Lambert does it anyway, and he does it well.
Using abundant primary sources Lambert espouses a different understanding than most have been accustomed when reading of the Great Awakening. The author never questions that something amazing happened during this period of history, but he does question how these events have been interpreted. And this is the essence of the volume. Whether church leaders who lived through this period of history viewed these events as a “Great Awakening” or a “Great Ado” (and actual term used by distracters of the time) depended entirely on interpretation. Those who had come from a background rich in revival history, who expected special periodic outpourings of God’s mercy, saw the 1740s as the answer to their prayers. Those who had not come from such a background either ignored the whole thing or saw it as “irrational exuberance,” resulting from hype, propaganda, excellent use of PR and the press. To Lambert what distinguished the Great Awakening from other revivals was it promotion and advertisement.
Lambert does an excellent job of documenting both sides of the issues. I recommend this work for any who are interested in the subject of revival.