John Wesley and George Whitefield were two very influential men in the great awakening. Though the impact of both of these men was felt far and wide during the great awakening; their view on the doctrine of election could not be more at odds. Justo L. Gonzalez in his book The Story of Christianity spoke about the dynamic nature of Whitefield and Wesley relationship. He stated, “Wesley and Whitefield worked together for some time, although slowly Wesley became the main leader of the movement. Eventually, they parted because of theological differences. Both were Calvinist in most matters; but, on the issue of predestination and free will, Wesley departed from orthodox Calvinism, preferring the Arminian position”. According to Gonzalez both of these men at one time were the leader of the Great Awakening but they parted ways on the issue of the doctrine of election.
The life of John Wesley and of George Whitefield, the doctrine of election, and Wesley’s response to this doctrine will be examined in an effort to better understand their views of this doctrine. By studying these two men’s life this paper hopes to establish the importance of these two men when it comes to Christianity in America. After establishing the tremendous impact of these two men, it would be appropriate to study the very doctrine that caused a rift between them. Lastly, once the doctrine of election is understood this paper will move into a brief study of Wesley’s response to this doctrine. The life of Charles Whitefield will be the starting point for this study.
George Whitefield was born on December 16th in the year 1774. George was born to an upper middle class family in the city of Gloucester. The childhood of George was somewhat uneventful though he was known to have spoken to crowds as early on as age fifteen. It was the love and natural talent for speaking that would eventually shape his path.
George would later attend Oxford to obtain his undergraduate degree. It was at school that George was introduced to John Wesley through his participation in the Holy Club. Mark Noll explained this time by saying, “Whitefield had been an Oxford undergraduate of very modest means when he was recruited into the Holy Club where John Wesley and his brother, the hymn writer Charles, were prominent”. Noll goes on to say that it was through the participation in the club that George was saved. After Whitefield graduated his talent for preaching was almost immediately recognized. He was asked to travel to many churches throughout England preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Arnold Dallimore explained that during this time that people would simply try to touch George’s garments as he passed them. Though Whitefield had celebrity type success in England he was called to continue his preaching in America.
George had a profound impact in England, however; his work in America was absolutely remarkable....