Relg310  The American Evangelical Tradition

Fall Semester, 2006
Instructor:        Dr. James S. Dalton
Office:               Clare Center, 2nd floor
Office Hours:   W 8:30-11:30
Phone:              783-4235 (office)

Course Description

This course will be concerned with the nature and development of the religious experience of Evangelical Christianity in the United States from its roots in English Puritanism to its current manifestations in "born again" Christianity, from Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism to liberal Evangelicalism. These traditions will be looked at both in terms of their diversity and the unity which underlies them. Emphasis will be placed on the role which Evangelical religious experience has played in the ongoing political, social and religious life of the American people. The role of Evangelical religion in American politics will be a special concern. In addition, the role of religious imagination, especially in its musical forms will be examined.



McLoughlin, William G. Revivals, Awakenings and Reform: An Esay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978.


Sweeney, Douglas A. The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.


Zoba, Wendy Murray. The Beliefnet Guide to Evangelical Christianity. NY: Doubleday, 2005.

Course Objectives

The primary objective of this course is to give the student an appreciation of the major forms of Evangelical religious experience amidst the diversity of Evangelical traditions. Further, the course is intended to acquaint the student with the role which Evangelical traditions have played in the religious, cultural and political life of the United States.

Course Requirements


All students will be required to have computer accounts on Siena's computer and will be expected to be able to utilize electronic mail, word processing and the World Wide Web.


During the semester there will be a quiz and two examinations. The quiz will be held on Tuesday, September 26. The mid-semester examination is scheduled for Tuesday, October 17. Final examinations are to be held December 13-16 and 18-19.


Each student will be expected to develop a research project focusing on some contemporary aspect of Evangelical religion and relating this to its historical roots. A printed report of approximately fifteen pages will be submitted to the instructor by Tuesday, November 21. A preliminary report of progress on the project will be due to the professor by Tuesday, October 31 via the "Assignments" function of Blackboard. This preliminary report will be graded. The students should also expect that their selected topic will be an aspect of the final examination. For further information on this project see the attached criteria.


Students will be required to attend class regularly. If the student is unable to attend he or she will still be responsible for what occurs during that class period. As a general guideline any more than two absences will be considered excessive and may effect the final grade.


Quiz and Test Make Up Policy

I will offer make up quizzes or tests under the following conditions:

1.    A documented family emergency situation that I agree is compelling such as a death in the immediate family.

2.    An absence where you are representing Siena College in an official capacity. Documentation is required and I must be notified in advance.

3.    Significant illness or injury. Documentation is required.

4.   Severe weather conditions. I must agree.

5.    Circumstances (described to me in advance) that I agree are compelling.


The instructor presupposes that every student will do his or her own work according to accepted academic standards. Any student who copies someone else's work or is an any other way guilty of cheating or plagiarism will be subject to the penalties outlined in the Siena College  Committee statement. At a minimum, the student will receive a grade of "F" for the course.

Grading Policy


My touchstone grade is a "C". This grade is awarded for performance which is expected of all students in a particular course. It means that the student's work is "ok" (no significant problems or special promise). It is not a negative grade but reflects what can be expected of a typical student doing adequate work.


A "B" reflects my judgment that the student's work is better than what I would expect from my "typical" student. The student's work is "good" and shows promise.


An "A" exhibits outstanding work or, better put, work that "stands out" from typical students in a course such as this. It displays characteristics such as original thinking, a firm grasp of materials and an ability to critique these materials. It is attainable, not only by students who are "brilliant" but by any student who works hard and is engaged with the materials of the course. It also reflects an ability to communicate clearly and thoughtfully.


A "D" is given to communicate to a student that there are "problems" with the student's work. Such problems might be in communication or understanding of course materials and could arise due to inadequate study habits, poor preparation, or social difficulties. It is important for the student to locate the source of these problems. Students are strongly encouraged to discuss this grade with the professor.


An "F" is my "do it over again" grade. It means that there are so many problems that we (the student and I) need to go back to the beginning of the process and walk our way through it again.


Course Outline

1. Introduction

    A. The business of the course.
    B. Religious experience in history and society.
    C. Contemporary Evangelicalism: unity or diversity?
    D. Awakenings as "revitalizations of culture."
    Reading: McLoughlin, 1-23; Sweeny, 17-26; Zoba, vii-42.
    Video: "Amazing Grace with Bill Moyers"

2. Roots of the American Evangelical Tradition

    A. The experiential tradition in Western history.
    B. English Puritanism and the conversion experience.
    C. The tradition of Pietism.
    D. The Godly experiment of American Puritanism.
Reading: Sweeny, 27-36; Zoba, 43-53.

3. The storm breaks: The First Great Awakening, 1735-1750.

    A. Tradition transformed in a new situation.
    B. Cultural transformation: Revivalism and   the birth of a nation.
Reading: Sweeny, 36-51; Zoba, 53-61.

4. The cycle continues: the Second Great Awakening, 1790-1840.

    A. Religious decline and national identity.
    B. New England: respectable Revivalism.
    C. Western New York: Charles Grandison Finney's "New Measures."
    D. The frontier: camp meetings and the Sacred Harp tradition.
    E. The consolidation of Evangelical America, 1820-1850.

        a. Revivalism, voluntaryism and benevolence.
        b. The Evangelical Empire shaken: Industrial beginnings.
        c. Race and Evangelicalism.

    Reading: McLoughlin, 98-140; Sweeny, 53-131.

5. A new world is born: the Third Great Awakening, 1870-1920.

    A. Religious and cultural crisis: war, industry, city and immigrant.
    B. Evangelical responses to a new world.

        a. The rise of Fundamentalism.
        b. Dwight L. Moody and urban revivalism.
        c. Liberalism and the Social Gospel.

    C. The Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy to 1925.

        a. Individual conversion or social transformation.
        b. The Bible: Is God's Word authoritative?
        c. The Bible: Creation and/or Evolution?

    Reading: McLoughlin, 141-178; Sweeny, 133-180.

6. Evangelical resurgence: 1940-1999.

    A. From Pentecostalism to Charismatic Renewal.
    B. The coming of Neo-Fundamentalism.
    C. The Evangelical Right: religion and politics.
    D. The Creationism/Evolution Debate.

    Reading: McLoughlin, 179-183, 211-216; Sweeny, 181-185; Zoba, 81-113..


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