In his book Taking Heaven by Storm, John H. Wiggers argues that Methodism has played a vital role in shaping current day American society by developing an innovative method of blending Methodist pious ideals with American values (191). A History Professor at University of Missouri, Wiggers adequately supports his thesis with three main arguments of Methodist innovation in America and their effects evangelism, community, and equality. Wiggers argues these points through a combination of personal stories of “early Methodists, particularly the itinerant preachers” (7) and impartial evidence. Wiggers also connects his main arguments smoothly through this book. This argumentative structure is effective because it not only holds the interest of the average college student, but also is convincing enough to persuade a scholar.
The first argument Wiggers made was that innovation was a large part of Methodism’s success in gaining membership. One aspect of innovation Wiggers discussed was Methodism’s system of evangelism. Methodism was both mobile and effective. While most churches were expecting people to come to them, Methodists sent out itinerant preachers to come to the people. Not only did Methodism spread its message, it also established local preachers to foster community. It was this combination of iterant and local preachers who recognized the values of Americans ( =26), Wiggers argued, that was a large part of Methodism’s success in America. Wiggers supported this argument with a well-balanced combination of impartial evidence and personal accounts.
Wiggers fluidly transitions from this argument described in his chapters Methodist Connection and the Methodist Itinerant to his next chapter The Social Principle, which stressed the importance of community. Community, Wiggers argued, was one of the most disarming and effective method for Methodism to present itself to Americans. Wiggers uses a very efficient structure to discuss this point, as well as many others throughout the book. Since the idea of a general community is too broad, Wiggers delved into four sub-components of the Methodist community; class meeting, love feast, quarterly meetings, and camp meetings. These component’s effectiveness were then supported individually and tied back to one main sub-argument that the reason for Methodist’s community’s effectiveness was an underlining emphasis on discipline.
One way Wiggers supported this claim was with an observation from Francis Asbury that, “ Tis order, ‘tis system-under God- that hath kept us [Methodists] from schism, and heresy, and division…”( 99). Wiggers concluded from this quote that Methodism relied heavily on discipline to keep it from fragmenting. Since Francis Asbury is a relatively well-known figure, he is a seemingly good choice of evidence; however his belief is primarily based on perspective and thus is not strong enough to support an argument alone. Although Asbury’s account was not supported by impartial evidence,...