SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION

George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire

Eerdmans. Aug. 2018. 240p. maps. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780802875495. pap. $24. BIOG
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Along with Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley, George Whitefield (1714–70) is known for his role in the First Great Awakening. However, unlike Wesley or Edwards, Whitefield's contribution tends to be limited to his work as a revivalist. Choi (director, academic programs, Newbigin House of Studies) endeavors to situate Whitefield as a transitional figure as Britain becomes an empire, beginning with Whitfield's choice to spend time in the backwater of Savannah, GA. Here, he finds that Whitefield saw Savannah not as a backwater but as the leading edge of the empire and Protestant Christianity. Choi argues that Whitefield embraced a Protestantism that included both the established Church of England and the dissenters as well as the ideals of liberty and self-determination. This pairing explains how Whitefield could be at such variance among other revivalists, as evidenced by his enthusiasm for the Seven Years War or his support of slavery. Early on, Choi employs the phrase "British Exceptionalism," which says much about how the author reconciles the contradiction within Whitefield and allows readers to gain a better understanding of his subject and to draw a parallel with American exceptionalism.
VERDICT A thoughtful choice for better insight into a complex figure.

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