Featured Reviews, VOLUME 7

Thomas Kidd – George Whitefield [Review]

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0300181620″ cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519Yc20bCFL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”102″]Page 2: Thomas Kidd – George Whitefield


Because Thomas Kidd is a student of early American history, his biography is firmly rooted in the culture of the 18th century.  He does a masterful job of helping us see George Whitefield in the context of his own world.  This is especially helpful when Kidd addresses Whitefield’s attitude toward slavery in America.  The reality is that George Whitefield owned slaves and advocated slavery in the colony of Georgia.  Kidd reveals that Whitefield broke the laws that banned slavery in Georgia and had slaves at his orphanage there before the laws were changed.


On the other hand Whitefield had a deep burden to bring the message of the gospel to the slaves of the south.  He also made plans for schools to teach slaves and urged masters to treat their slaves with respect.  Whitefield was certainly influenced in his view by the cultural accommodations toward slavery, but it’s not hard to wonder what might have happened in the southern colonies and in Georgia in particular if a man of Whitefield’s spiritual stature had taken a solid stand against slavery.


A Few Complaints

This biography is so well-written that I feel guilty bringing up anything I view as an imperfection.  The main one irritated me, but I’m not sure I have a better suggestion.  In order to avoid calling the subject of the biography “Whitefield” or “George Whitefield” all the time, Kidd refers to him as “the itinerant.”  It was fine at first, but toward the end of the book, he uses the term more and more (or at least it seemed that way).  It just got a little wearisome.


The bulk of the biography focuses on the early, exciting years of the revival.  Kidd gives us several chapters on the period of the 1740s, for example.  When Kidd gets to the later, quieter years of Whitefield’s ministry, the story moves much quicker.  I understand why he did it that way, but it seemed like Whitefield’s later years were not given the attention they deserved.


If You Only Read One . . .

If you only read one biography this year, make it this one – and if you don’t have a biography of George Whitefield on your shelf, buy this one.  I fell under Whitefield’s spell as one of my spiritual heroes many years ago as a young pastor.  I read Arnold Dallimore’s two-volume biography and I have admired Whitefield ever since.  Thomas Kidd’s biography has rekindled that admiration.  I see Whitefield the man more clearly and realistically now, but I also see Whitefield the passionate evangelist more clearly.  Hopefully as you read “the itinerant’s” amazing story you will catch something of the fire that burned in George Whitefield’s heart to tell men and women everywhere of God’s redeeming love in Jesus.


Douglas Connelly is the senior pastor of Parkside Community Church in Sterling Heights, MI, and the author of the InterVarsity Press study guides, The Twelve Disciples, and The Messiah.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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