Serving the Church, Engaging the Academy: Thomas Kidd on Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield

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Dr. Thomas Kidd of Baylor University is one of the most respected and prolific Christian historians teaching and writing today. He gave a series of lectures at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary on October 5, 2017.

Thomas Kidd lectures on George Whitefield

At a luncheon attended by faculty and Ph.D. students, Dr. Kidd provided an overview of the life and ministry of the famed evangelist George Whitefield. Other biographers of Whitefield have attributed Whitefield’s fame to his use of innovative methods of promoting and communicating his message, or they have sought to credit him with setting the foundations for the American Revolution. Dr. Kidd instead focused on his role as an evangelist, arguing that Whitefield should be remembered primarily for inaugurating the American evangelical movement, an informal, non-denominational association of Bible-believing Christians that has continued into the present day.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Kidd, who has published nearly a dozen well-respected and popular books, as well as numerous articles, book reviews and blog posts, spoke with Dr. Keith Harper in an event in the SEBTS Library explaining how he balances being a prolific author with his teaching, family and ministry responsibilities.

Thomas Kidd on the Enigma of Ben Franklin's Faith

Finally, that evening Dr. Kidd delivered a lecture that was open to the public on Benjamin Franklin, the subject of Dr. Kidd’s most-recently published biography. Dr. Franklin is frequently upheld by advocates of a secular American founding as a quintessential Founding Father (along with Thomas Jefferson), whose actions were guided almost exclusively by Enlightenment thinking. Dr. Kidd acknowledged the influence of the Enlightenment on Franklin, but convincingly argued that one cannot truly understand Franklin without seeing how his Christian upbringing and his evangelical friends and family members influenced his thinking throughout the entirety of his adult life.

Dr. Kidd’s lunch and evening presentations were engaging and entertaining, but more importantly provided necessary correctives to the historical scholarship of two important American religious and political figures, George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin. In both his writings and his presentations, Dr. Kidd is showing young, budding Christian scholars how to serve the church while also engaging the American academy professionally and with integrity.

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Brent Aucoin

Dr. Aucoin is a Professor of History at Southeastern Seminary. He also serves as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College at Southeastern.

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