Social Justice Through the Eyes of Wesley (Brendlinger)

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Joshua Press

European enslavement of Africans and the development of the slave trade began in the sixteenth century. As the New World opened up, the slave trade thrived and slave labour became a significant economic force. Slavery itself was seldom challenged on humanitarian or religious grounds — in fact, evangelical leaders often used the Bible to justify slavery. In the late eighteenth century a notable exception emerged: John Wesley. Though little has been written about this dimension of Wesley’s life, he was the first Christian leader of world renown to take a decisive stand against slavery.

With wide-ranging analysis and depth, Dr. Brendlinger has brought to light the strength of Wesley’s convictions about slavery and demonstrates how his theology compelled him to work to abolish it. From the writing of Thoughts Upon Slavery to his interactions with key players such as Wilberforce, Clarkson, Sharp and Benezet, Wesley utilized all means available to him to support the cause. The breadth of his authority and respect enabled him to influence Methodists (in England and America) to use their collective power to bring about radical societal change. Wesley’s legacy to Methodism is extensive, but his contribution to the antislavery movement is singularly significant in bringing down the institution of slavery. This is his story. 

Table of Contents: 

  1. John Wesley in Context: His Century, relationships and spiritual journey 
  2. John Wesley’s Antislavery Journey 
  3. A Brief Excursion into Wesley’s Position on Slavery 
  4. The Relationship between Wesley’s Theology and his Position on Slavery   
  5. The Larger Context: Wesley’s Social Ethic and Philosophy of Social Change 
  6. The Significance of John Wesley’s Antislavery Influence



Irv A. Brendlinger is Professor of Church History and Theology at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Edinburgh.



"I'm impressed. This book gives us some much needed information thus far neglected, primarily the theological justification for Wesley’s views on the subject. Brendlinger's research is thorough enough to give us some detail on matters previously quoted out of context or misunderstood. This book will be useful in the courses I teach on the life and theology of John Wesley." - Robert G. Tuttle, Jr., Professor, Asbury Theological Seminary

"For too long John Wesley has been pigeon-holed as a social and political conservative, though an ecclesiastical radical. Irv Brendlinger's book challenges us to think again. he challenges us to put Wesley’s attack on slavery into a central place in any attempt to understand his thought as it has not been hitherto." - Andre C. Ross, Honorary Fellow, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh