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YUPThis October—two months before George Whitefield’s 300th birthday—Yale University Press will publish George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father, by Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University.

Mark Noll writes, ”This superb chronicle of George Whitefield’s life is now our fullest biography for the much-studied and much-debated eighteenth-century evangelist. It combines unusual empathy with unusual comprehension.”

Here is Yale’s description:

In the years prior to the American Revolution, George Whitefield was the most famous man in the colonies. Thomas Kidd’s fascinating new biography explores the extraordinary career of the most influential figure in the first generation of Anglo-American evangelical Christianity, examining his sometimes troubling stands on the pressing issues of the day, both secular and spiritual, and his relationships with such famous contemporaries as Benjamin Franklin, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley.

Based on the author’s comprehensive studies of Whitefield’s original sermons, journals, and letters, this excellent history chronicles the phenomenal rise of the trailblazer of the Great Awakening. Whitefield’s leadership role among the new evangelicals of the eighteenth century and his many religious disputes are meticulously covered, as are his major legacies and the permanent marks he left on evangelical Christian faith. It is arguably the most balanced biography to date of a controversial religious leader who, though relatively unknown three hundred years after his birth, was a true giant in his day and remains an important figure in America’s history.

Later this month Crossway will publish John Piper’s latest book, Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis. And if you want to read Whitefield for yourself, the most accessible resource is Lee Gatiss’s two-volume set, The Sermons of George Whitefield.

Here is a recent lecture on Whitefield from Dr. Kidd delivered on March 25-26, 2014, at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville (which is hosting a conference on Whitefield and the Great Awakening this October):

George Whitefield: Lessons from Eighteenth Century’s Greatest Evangelist from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

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6 thoughts on “George Whitefield: Lessons from Eighteenth Century’s Greatest Evangelist”

  1. Scott C says:

    “Now our fullest biography”? Really? I understand that the academic world of even Christian scholars like Noll and Kidd disregard non-critical and sympathetic biographies as hagiography, but it still disturbs me. If Kidd’s biography is only 344 pages it comes nowhere near the ‘fuller’ magisterial two volume work by Arnold Dallimore at 1200 pages. Dallimore’s work may not be a critical scholarly work but it is certainly not something to be ignored.

    I think Iain Murray is one of the finest Christian historians and biographers today and yet I suspect he is regarded with utter disdain among these elitist Evangelical historians who have made it into the upper echelons of secular academic acclaim. His research is superb, but because he doesn’t tow the accepted line of the academy he is probably considered a hack. While I certainly have benefited from Noll, Marsden and Kidd they don’t feed the soul like Murray and Dallimore because a distinctly Biblical and theo-centric view of history is not even remotely part of the historian’s craft if you want to be accepted in the halls Notre Dame.

    1. Binx says:

      No need for that kind of talk – Marsden and Noll are regarded as kind and decent scholars, and I’ve met Thomas Kidd – a first-rate Christian gentleman.

  2. kay says:

    you can pre-order at amazon for $31.89

  3. BJBates says:

    The link to hear the lecture goes to the upcoming conference in October. I don’t see the March lecture.

    1. Robert says:

      I’m sure Justin will correct the problem fairly soon, but until he does, here is the link he is referring to:

  4. Will Robinson says:

    Justin, I appreciate your advocacy of many books and agree with you most of the time. But I have to express my dissent toward Whitfield. Like J. Edwards, he owned slaves and advocated for slavery. Unlike Edwards, he advocated for the institution of slavery to be brought back where it had been outlawed. Perhaps it was inevitable and perhaps Whitfield helped speed the plow when it was moving slowly back toward the topic. It grieves me to my soul that some men like Whitfield are lionized for their great faith and fervor in preaching the gospel without any serious criticism about their participation in one of our country’s darkest crimes. Whitfield, from a letter contained in the multi-volume set of his works: ”

    As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt, since I hear of some that were bought with Abraham’s money, and some that were born in his house.—And I cannot help thinking, that some of those servants mentioned by the Apostles in their epistles, were or had been slaves. It is plain, that the Gibeonites were doomed to perpetual slavery, and though liberty is a sweet thing to such as are born free, yet to those who never knew the sweets of it, slavery perhaps may not be so irksome. However this be, it is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all?”

    The practice of slavery was at one time legal. It was even generally accepted by the majority. But if we discovered that Whitfield had owned a brothel at the same time he was so vociferously preaching Christ and disputing with the Wesleys, what would we think then? What if the brothel was entirely legal? If the women involved were all there by choice? There is a much closer parallel between the practice of slavery in the United States and prostitution than slavery in the first century or even the Old Testament. There is no such person as ‘a good slave owner’ just as there is no such person as ‘a good pimp’. Only less evil and just as needy of Christ’s grace as any sinner.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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