Friday, March 2, 2012

Book Review: The Great Awakening

The Great Awakening. A Brief History With Documents. Thomas S. Kidd. 2007. Bedford. (Bedford Series in History and Culture). 160 pages.

From the introduction: On March 7, 1743, James Davenport, one of the most influential leaders of the Great Awakening, removed his pants and cast them into a bonfire. 

I have been looking for a book on The Great Awakening for a few years now. I've been wanting to know more about it, to learn more about the key figures. Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, of course, come to mind. And I've read a little about both men. (I've even read a rather thick and fascinating biography of George Whitefield...a book that left me wanting more, more, more). But I still felt there was more to learn. I still do, in a way, after reading this lovely little book.

What I enjoyed about this little book was how concise and how informative it was. It is short; it is straightforward. It gets to the point, and stays on the point. For twenty-five to thirty pages it has quite a narrative to share with readers. I was pleased with the presentation. Since this was not published by a Christian publisher, since it is one of many books in a series on history and culture in America, I worried that it might be secular and condescending. (You may or may not be surprised at how Christianity is "presented" in history and/or literature textbooks these days.) So I was pleasantly surprised at how well-rounded everything was. Meaning, there were conflicting ways of viewing the revivals from the very moment they started--on both sides of the Atlantic. There were men who definitely were "opposed" to the radical nature of the revivals, men who were skeptical that these conversions were genuine, men who were unhappy with the changes going on in the church--how tradition was being questioned, how ministers were being questioned and challenged. And there were men who saw things more realistically--the good and the bad; the strengths and weaknesses of the revivals, of the key preachers of the revival, etc. And, of course, there were people in complete support of the new way God was working. Kidd presents all possible sides to this story, to this exciting time in history. He doesn't just summarize either. Though, of course, he does summarize in the first part. No, he shares primary documents with his readers--these documents again cover all sides, all angles.

While I would love to still know more, while I would still like to take a longer fact-finding journey at some point, this simple book covers the basics. And I am glad I read it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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