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John Wesley: A Biography

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  116 ratings  ·  21 reviews
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 resear ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (first published 2003)
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3.54  · 
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 ·  116 ratings  ·  21 reviews

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Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, nonfiction
This is the best biography on Wesley out there. It's clear and concise, and fairly easy to read.
Jeff Bettger
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book has great insight into John Wesleys personal, spiritual, and missional life. It shows him as the paradoxical genius he probably was. I love how this book showcases these extremes and reconciles them pretty well. It left me in awe, and wonder about this man who may be the greatest thing to happen to the western Christian Church, or quite possibly the absolute worst thing. You decide if you can. I'm torn.
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
A short but scholarly account of the personal life of John Wesley, this book is well-written, witty, and objective. Neither a hagiography nor an iconoclastic attack, it is, in fact, surprisingly secular. Tomkins seems to have little interest in his subject's spiritual development, theological thought, or religious legacy. His main emphasis is on Wesley as a human being, on the man that is revealed by the details of his life, by his relationships with others. And that man is not particularly attr ...more
Sep 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a disturbing book. I've been hearing about Wesley for most of my life (4 decades). I heard he was a spiritual giant, great theologian and evangelist. Now I think he's just a nutjob who ran on poor theology and insecure emotions.

It seems that the author (Stephen Tomkins) thinks highly of John Wesley. Yet i find all the biographical information embarrassing and damaging. The notes from Wesley's own writings are horrifying and cruel. He seems to have almost no compassion or empathy for anyone
K.P.B. Stevens
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a lively and engaging read, although some of the members of the Church History Book Club thought that it was a hard slog. Tomkins isn't entirely sympathetic to Wesley, and I was left wondering whether I really liked Wesley or approved of his actions. I'm becoming increasingly suspicious of attempts at holiness. Regardless, as a way of understanding the roots and ongoing ethos of the evangelical movement, it's a terrific book.
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Good review of Wesley's life. Learned a lot about him and the origins of the Methodist Church that I did not know.
Bruce Fogerty
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Good biography of the man, passions, strengths, and warts.

This book could have been improved by having a few recap and analysis sections to put the man in an historical context, both within the UK and internationally. While author does do some of this, I feel this aspect of this work was not as developed as it might have been. The book does do a good job describing Wesley's life in a "blow-by-blow" manner. Tomkins is also unflinching in how he describes Wesley's very significant personality flaw
Isabella Marin
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Reading this book, i came to the realization that this author picked up every weakness at John Wesley had. I found very few good traits that the author exposed and a lot of scandal. I am not sure if this was true information or false
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
The life of any human being is rather complicated, and the life of as great a man as John Wesley can only be greatly complicated. The task of the biographer is also difficult: to describe the achievements of such a man without writing a hagiography, while also describing his contradictions and faults without discrediting the breakthroughs and triumphs. This task Stephen Tomkins pulls off very well.

John Wesley's achievements and breakthroughs are incredible. He preached the Gospel of justificatio
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I grew up with John Wesley's philosophy, "earn all you can, be as frugal as you can, give all you can...", but it was nice to meet the man who had so influenced my parents. He had a horse, 2 changes of clothes, and ate rice and beans cooked by his own hand over an open fire, even when he reached the zenith of his popularity and could easily have afforded a comfortable road house, easier lifestyle, and rich food. The most important thing to him was his relationship to Jesus Christ and bringing th ...more
J. Alfred
May 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fantastically readable bio of a fantastically interesting and divisive guy. So much about his life, ministry, and theology seems wiggly ('wiggly'; of or pertaining to wiggliness, as in a tooth that needs to come out) but, to quote from my favorite hymn writer who does not happen to be Wesley's brother (Charles was also a strange one, apparently) "God moves in a mysterious way."
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a John Wesley novice, I found this to be pretty much the ideal introduction to his life and work. Concise (200 pp.) and somewhat breezily written, it nonetheless seems to have a firm grasp of both the history and the religious/theological issues at stake. Wesley comes across as a very impressive, but flawed, figure. This is neither a hagiography nor a debunking.
Dec 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Well, John Wesley was an interesting fellow. He had some very strange ideas, but on the other hand, he did a lot of cool stuff as well.

Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan of the way this book was written. It mostly left me with a lot of questions or just left me feeling unconvinced about several of the facts.
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing read and an even more extraordinary life. A true testament to commitment and perseverance. The man had many faults (as I do..and all) but his undying work ethic, vision, passion, and dedication gives us a blueprint of something we should all aspire to.
Garland Vance
Feb 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies, kindle
I enjoyed this biography of Wesley. I had to stop reading the book for several months because our family had a new baby. So I am not sure whether it was a 3-star biography or whether I was a 3-star reader. Sorry to not be much help!
Royce Ratterman
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Overall, a good book for the researcher and enthusiast.
Read for personal research
- found this book's contents helpful and inspiring - number rating relates to the book's contribution to my needs.
Shawn Thrasher
John Wesley's life did not engage me a wholly as I wanted it to. Or the author's writing did not. Either way, I put this aside about half way through.
Seth Pierce
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very accessible and full of great anecdotes.
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a well researched, well written book. If looking for information about Wesley the man, it is honest and sticks to the facts. However, it seemed a little one dimensional at times.
Benjamin Kittleson
Oct 04, 2008 is currently reading it
Also just picked this one up...
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Stephen Tomkins is the author of several books, including biographies of John Wesley and William Wilberforce. He is the deputy editor of Third Way magazine.