Evangelist for God and Empire
Paperback, Eerdmans, 2018
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Reviewed by Alex Joyner
Experiments flourish on the margins. It’s why visionaries and mavericks gather in places far from the watchful eye of social convention and official control. Think Donald Judd making his art and his mark in Marfa in ultra-West Texas. Think Brigham Young and the Mormons building Utah. Or think George Whitefield and his Georgia plantation. Wait…what?
George Whitefield has been hard for American religious scholars to classify. The 18th century transatlantic evangelist clearly had a major impact on the Great Awakening, but, as Peter Choi puts it in his new book on Whitefield, he has always been “a sort of third wheel among undisputed leaders of the evangelical awakening.” (233) The two big wheels being Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley. “Edwards was the indisputable intellectual leader of the early evangelicals,” Choi says, “and Wesley the sophisticated organizer who laid the groundwork for worldwide Methodism.” (233) But what did Whitefield do?