World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Old and New Light


Old and New Light

The terms Old Lights and New Lights (among others) are used in Christian circles to distinguish between two groups who were initially the same, but have come to a disagreement. These terms have been applied in a wide variety of ways, and the meaning must be determined from context. Typically, if a denomination is changing, and some refuse to change, and the denomination splits, those who did not change are referred to as the "Old Lights", and the ones who changed are referred to as the "New Lights".


The terms were first used during the [4] The Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania would experience a division during the Great Awakening, with those elements of the denomination embracing the revivals called "New Side" and those opposed to the revivals called "Old Side."[5]

In the Church of Scotland in the 1790s the "Auld Lichts" followed the principles of the Covenanters, while the "New Lichts" were more focused on personal salvation and considered the strictures of the Covenants as less binding.[6]

The terms were also used during the Second Great Awakening in America, in the early 19th century. New Lights were distinctive from the Old Lights in that they were more evangelical and, as historian Patricia Bonomi describes, carried "ferocity peculiar to zealots...with extravagant doctrinal and moral enormities."[7]

The terms were also used in 1833, when a debate over swearing allegiance to the U.S. Constitution split the Reformed Presbyterians. The "Old Light" Reformed Presbyterians, in keeping with their Covenanter heritage, refused to swear allegiance to the constitution and thus become citizens because the constitution made no mention of the Lordship of Christ, whereas the "New Light" Reformed Presbyterians allowed for it. Following the split, the Old Lights eventually formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and the New Lights formed the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Synod.


  1. ^ Patricia U. Bonomi (1986). Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America. Oxford University Press. pp. 131–67. 
  2. ^ Ava Chamberlain, "Self-Deception as a Theological Problem in Jonathan Edwards's 'Treatise concerning Religious Affections,"' Church History, (1994) 63#4 pp. 541-556 in JSTOR
  3. ^ Bushman, Richard L. (1967). From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 182–95 & 235–66. 
  4. ^ Thomas R. Schreiner, Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, (B&H Publishing Group, 2007) pg. xvi
  5. ^ Bonomi, Patricia U. (1986). Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 139–52. 
  6. ^ M. Lynch, Scotland: A New History (London: Pimlico, 1992), ISBN 0712698930, p. 400.
  7. ^ Bonomi, Patricia U. (1986). Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 139. 

See also

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.