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Posted October 2, 2006
'Let The Name of Whitefield Perish'
It might surpise some readers of this review to learn that the words in the headline were those of Whitefield himself. History seems to have rendered them prophetic, since Whitefield is absent in most history books where names like Luther and Wesley are at least mentioned. Few today (outside of evangelical circles) have even heard of him. Yet it was Whitefield's wish that the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ would be the purpose of his life and legacy, not his own accomplishments (many though they were). His obscurity as a historical figure has not diminished the number of biographies written about him, however. This book, Forgotten Founding Father (aptly titled), is recommended because it draws on the information from previous biographies (such as Pollock and Dallimore, perhaps the best ever written) but also goes beyond mere chronology (the life of Whitefield is covered in the early part of the book) to take the reader in depth into Whitefield's thought, work and life by dividing it up into various topics that were relevant to him and his ministry. This allows the author to expand on material covered in the biographical data and present some very interesting perspectives on the man and his beliefs. The book is a good introduction to Whitefield for anyone who knows nothing of him, and those who seek to dig deeper into Whitefield will be primed for more detailed study such as Pollock's biography or even Dallimore's entire 2-volume work. And of course nothing is better for the Whitefield student than the Journals and Sermons. As a student of the lives of Luther and Wesley, it is interesting how much Whitefield draws from the teaching of both, though he perhaps broke more with traditional boundaries than either of them as far as what was thought 'proper.' Wesley himself drew much from Whitefield's example, particularly with field preaching. Like Luther and Wesley, Whitefield's concern was for the souls of those who heard him, not his own career. Many biographies often paint the opposite picture, presenting Whitefield as a selfish opportunist and egoist. After reading this book, one should be led to re-consider such a negative appraisal. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with Whitefield's doctrines, his life is worth a closer look than history gives. No less than Benjamin Franklin himself (who did not share Whitefield's faith) thought so. This book is a great place to start looking.
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