Review George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father

81WMNFVOv1L._SL1500_“The greatest evangelical preacher the world has ever seen”, quips author, Thomas Kidd as he closes this volume on the paradoxical and brilliant life of George Whitefield. Names like this fall in line with those giants of the faith such as Augustine, Calvin and Wesley. What is it about the life of Whitefield that draws the reader in, nearly 250 years after his passing? In George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father Kidd shines on a light on this great hero of the faith who paved the way for many who would follow in his deeply planted footsteps.

Teetering somewhere between a lofty scholarly tome and a popular weekend read, we have in this compact hardback a well-researched and carefully planned out biography of the man who, almost on his own, brought the First Great Awakening to the American colonies. Through his interactions with figures like Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley we see a man in Whitefield who struggled through shortfalls and his own sinful heart as he sought to have the Word of God expounded before crowds that numbered in the tens of thousands.

In the midst of exposing his heart and his weaknesses, we also see a man who was afflicted with illnesses even in the heat of the sermon. Kidd points us to times where Whitefield would be on the brink of physical exhaustion even while waiting to ascend the steps of the platform to preach. Though intense pain and ailment followed this man there can be no doubt of the effect and the mighty working of God through his preaching, which reached across the ocean and impacted nations beyond his wildest imagination.

A peek at the bibliography reveals that Kidd has taken the best of Whitefield ever written and molded that information into a commendable yet comprehensive biography. Along with the wealth of primary sources, secondary literature, and first-hand research, Thomas Kidd has done the church a valuable work in presenting this material in all its splendor. However, he has gone a step further and showed us the ugly side, the not so glamorous life, of Whitefield. I would recommend this volume to anyone looking to get  a full picture of this great evangelist or anyone who is just looking to get a good dose of the history of Christianity in America. This is likely the new, and best, place to go for a solid biography of Whitefield. Much like Marsden did for Jonathan Edwards and Bainton did for Martin Luther, I see this volume becoming a classic. George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father should have no problem finding its way into the top ranks of secondary literature that was written about a great man we have come to know and love, even on account of his shortcomings.

Kidd, Thomas S. George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 344.

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