The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism

Harry S. Stout, Author, Nathan O. Hatch, Editor, Mark A. Noll, Editor Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company $30 (325p) ISBN 978-0-8028-0154-8
Stout, a professor of American religious history at Yale and coeditor of Dictionary of Christianity in America , has produced the first comprehensive biography of Whitefield (1714-1770) in many years. According to the author, the Anglican Calvinist p. 252 clergyman was not only America's earliest popular hero but also the first to unite the colonies in a sense of common identity. With his single-minded emphasis on regeneration, he introduced into religion the personal, privatistic piety that is today characteristic of the evangelical movement. As the title suggests, the key to Whitefield's success on both sides of the Atlantic is to be found in his theatricality. He quickly recognized the power of open-air field preaching. He was a shameless, egotistical self-promoter who, in a startling parallel with modern televangelists, consciously (albeit sincerely) employed histrionics ``with all the dramatic artifice of a huckster,'' a traveling salesman for the New Birth. By the end, according to Stout, there was no private person, only the public preacher. This book reflects exhaustive research and offers a solid portrait of a person of pivotal importance to present-day evangelicalism. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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