George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire

George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire

Peter Choi

Foreword by Mark A. Noll

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714–1770) is remembered as a spirited revivalist, a catalyst for the Great Awakening, and a founder of the evangelical movement in America. But Whitefield was also a citizen of the British Empire who used his political savvy and theological creativity to champion the cause of imperial expansion.

“Choi’s portrait confirms the Grand Itinerant as a great preacher and a positive force in promoting evangelical faith, but also as a man embedded in his times. . .” —Mark A. Noll

In this religious biography of “the Grand Itinerant,” Peter Choi recounts a fascinating human story and, in the process, reexamines the Great Awakening and its relationship to a fast-growing British Empire.

Read the excerpt here.

Peter Choi is Director of Academic Programs at Newbigin House of Studies and a pastor at City Church in San Francisco. Specializing in eighteenth-century American history, he has taught history of Christianity courses at Calvin Theological Seminary and the University of Notre Dame.


Christopher Grasso
— College of William and Mary
“Rather than emphasizing, as most studies do, George Whitefield’s role in the dramatic events of New England’s ‘Great Awakening,’ Peter Choi concentrates on Whitefield’s own focus—his orphanage in Georgia. Pushing past the turmoil of the early 1740s, Choi studies the neglected second half of the Grand Itinerant’s public career, after the revival fires had cooled. This provocative book’s Whitefield is not merely a celebrity evangelist; he is an imperial strategist, a tactical theologian, and an empire builder who becomes an eager slaveholder and wartime propagandist. He embodies the central dynamics of the British Atlantic world in the eighteenth century.”

Margaret Bendroth
— Congregational Library & Archives, Boston
“Peter Choi shows us a George Whitefield we never knew, not just the fiery revival preacher but the pragmatic entrepreneur, a canny citizen of the British Empire. The result is a skillful and complex moral portrait of Whitefield—and a telling parable of American evangelicalism in the making.”

— Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)
“Impressive. . . . Accessible prose and clear signposting make this an excellent choice for a general reader, and Choi’s engagement with broader issues of 18th-century colonialism will make it an important volume for scholars of early America. ”

— Library Journal
“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 endeavors to situate Whitefield as a transitional figure as Britain becomes an empire. . . . A thoughtful choice for better insight into a complex figure.”

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