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John Wesley: A Biography [Paperback]

By Stephen Tomkins (Author)
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Item description for John Wesley: A Biography by Stephen Tomkins...

The life and work of John Wesley (1703-1791) have had an enormous influence on modern Christianity, including his role as founding father of the Methodists, now 33 million strong worldwide. In this lively new biography journalist Stephen Tomkins narrates the story of Wesley's colorful and dramatic life for a new generation. Writing with verve and a light, sure touch, Tomkins follows Wesley from his childhood at Epworth rectory through his schooling and university career at Oxford to his mission to Georgia, his "conversion" in 1738, and finally his life as a religious leader in England. Preaching in numerous villages, towns, and cities, Wesley and his followers faced intense and savage persecution, but their missions were also accompanied by extraordinary phenomena such as convulsions, laughter, and healings. In the course of his compelling narrative Tomkins examines Wesley's relationships with key people in his life, including his powerful and austere mother, Susanna, and his hymn-writing brother, Charles. Tomkins also explores key issues in Wesley's life, such as his renunciation of wealth and his attitude toward women, concluding with an assessment of Wesley's ongoing influence both in his own country and abroad. Superbly crafted, grounded in thorough research, and published in the 300th year of Wesley's birth, this book will appeal to students of Wesley, people from the Methodist tradition, and general readers interested in church history.

Publishers Description
A compelling portrait of the father of Methodism. The life and work of John Wesley (1703-1791) has had an enormous influence on modern Christianity, not least for his role as father of the Methodist church. John Wesley is a popular biography of the great figure, which brings his career and ideas alive for a new generation. Written with verve and grounded in thorough research, the book tells the story of Wesley's colorful and dramatic life. Stephen Tomkins chronicles Wesley's family background and early childhood, his school and university career, and his adult life as a religious leader in England. Throughout this engaging portrait, Tomkins pauses to explore a number of key issues in Wesley's increasingly rich religious views, including the renunciation of wealth and the role of women in church life. The volume concludes with an important assessment of Wesley's abiding influence both in his own country and abroad. Superbly crafted, John Wesley will interest those from the Methodist tradition as well as all general readers of church history.

Citations And Professional Reviews
John Wesley: A Biography by Stephen Tomkins has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Booklist - 08/01/2003 page 1932
  • Booklist - 10/01/2003 page 285
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 863
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 1097

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2003
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Edition  New  
ISBN  0802824994  
ISBN13  9780802824998  

Availability  7 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 10:17.
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More About Stephen Tomkins

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Stephen Tomkins is theauthor of "A Short History of Christianity," " John Wesley: A Biography," and "William Wilberforce: A Biography.""

Stephen Tomkins was born in 1968 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Homerton College, Cambridge.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Methodist

Christian Product Categories
Books > Inspiration > Motivation > Biography & Autobiography

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Reviews - What do customers think about John Wesley: A Biography?

John Wesley: a Biography  Mar 10, 2008
I real eye opener to his personal development and relationships. A person heavy on character! Even for people familiar with the Methodist faith, there are surprises in store in the way he led his life.
A Quick, Intense Look at An Extraordinary Christian Man's Life!  Sep 4, 2005
If you need to learn about John Wesley but only have a little time to spare, then this is the biography to read! It is accurate and full of pleasant insights into this great and unforgettable Christian leader. I was only sorry that it wasn't a little longer because the author writes so beautifully!
John Wesley: A Biography & Mockery  Jun 14, 2005
This is not the type of Christian biography I generally care for. The facts are all there (I hope), but the author's psycho-analytical comments on Wesley's relationships with women and subtle (and often not-so-subtle) mocking of John Wesley's characteristics, beliefs, choices and friends served to undermine the historical narrative rather than to support it. I hesitated in giving this book a 3-star rating, because it is (sadly) the best biography currently available on John Wesley. To that end, if you are primarily interested in his life and the origins of the Methodist church, then you could consider this a 4 1/2-star book instead. However, if you are interested in Christian biography for the sake of strengthening both your understanding and your spiritual fervor, this may not be the book for you. I'd like to comment briefly on the distinctive areas that comprise (in my opinion) a good Christian biography.

1) Historical Accuracy: As far as I can tell, the book sticks to the facts fairly well. If you have read Dallimore's biography of George Whitefield, you will notice that Tomkins' treatment of figures other than Wesley himself is somewhat lacking, but it is not the facts that cause the lack in this book. History-buffs will find what they are looking for here as long as they can distinguish between 21st century commentary and the true historical account. If anything, no one could accuse this biographer of candy-coating Wesley's life.

2) Spiritual Character Development: Do we get to see into Wesley's heart and glimpse the passion for God that drove him forward? At times you almost feel like the writer has accomplished this, but he quickly follows it up with discouraging, mildly-sarcastic statements that tear that feeling away from you. This is particularly true in his insistence on contrasting Wesley's characteristics in early, mid and late life.
The most disturbing point for me was in the discussion of Wesley's later life. A rather depressive segment from a letter written to his brother Charles is quoted and taken as formative for Wesley's outlook through his entire life. Any student of Christian history knows that most (but not all) great evangelists suffer from some form of depression. Luther, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, etc.--all of these men suffered at times from depressed spirits as a result of the great labor they put forth in declaring the word of God. At this point the author makes you feel as though everything he's reported about Wesley's great evangelistic success and powerful preaching has been a fraud. Overall a very disappointing portion of the book.

3) Theology: The author brings out Wesley's theology and its development with some degree of accuracy. I get the distinct feeling, however, that the lack of flow between Wesley's earlier convictions and later convictions was due to the authors own lack of theological understanding (or perhaps conviction is a better word). He perpetually seems to be condemning Wesley's doctrine of Christian Perfection and at one point agrees with the conclusion that salvation is by faith AND works while deriding Wesley's views on the matter.

4) The Author: I guess, when it comes down to it, this is really where the book falls short. Tomkins doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on Christian theology, much less Wesley's theology. He takes great delight in applying Freudian psycho-analysis to Wesley's varied female relationships, seems overly skeptical of Wesley's conversion, comments sarcastically on many of Wesley's decisions and repeatedly suggests (according to human wisdom and modern psychology) how Wesley might have better managed his life and doctrine.

Only in the chapter on his death and heritage is Wesley given much credit at all. I would recommend this book to history-minded persons, but could not in good conscience recommend it to sincere evangelicals (particularly those of the Calvinist persuasion). John Wesley is more muddled in my mind after reading this book than he was before. I only hope the truth lies other than where Tomkins would allow it to rest.
Stephen Tomkins has written a highly engaging and thoroughly informative book that shines a shimmering spotlight on the man who was the founder of Methodism and one of the greatest religious reformers in Western history. Linear, concise, and lively, Tomkins's book takes the reader from Wesley's fiery near-death as a child through his formulation of a stringent code of self-discipline (which, strict as it was, failed to protect Wesley from a string of unfortunate romances) and tireless days and nights of hard riding and preaching through his death and far-reaching influence. The Wesley who emerges is a fascinating individual, flawed as all men inevitably are but one who answered the unique call God had upon his life with an admirable resolve. Tomkins has a clear command of the facts and his analysis is uniformly logical and not without humor. Highly recommended not only to Methodists but to any student of Christian history.

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