David Stark, B.A., M.A.(T.S.), M.Div., M.A.(O.L.), Ph.D

‘“The Peculiar Doctrine Committed to Our Trust”: Ideal and Identity in the First Wesleyan Holiness Revival, 1758-1763'

Dr David Stark, originally from Nashville, attended Trevecca Nazarene University from 2000-2004, where he studied philosophy and religion (B.A.) and was a four-year member of the Men’s basketball program, twice earning All-American Academic Scholar-Athlete honours from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (2002-2003, 2003-2004).

He was the 2004 recipient of both the “William M. Greathouse Scholarship” and the “Causey Scholarship of Distinction”—two full-tuition, three-year scholarships to attend Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, where he earned the graduate degrees of Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Simultaneously, he was awarded a graduate degree in organizational administration and leadership from Gonzaga University, a school in the Jesuit Catholic tradition in Spokane, WA—all with honours in 2007.

Curious and compelled to read early modern and early Methodist ideals of perfection through original primary source materials, David began the doctoral programme at The University of Manchester, UK/NTC on June 1, 2007. His work was supervised by Dr Geordan Hammond and Dr Herbert McGonigle and his thesis was defended and approved in 2011 with A level recognition.

David’s study has received the following reviews:

Dr RT Kendall—Senior Minister at Westminster Chapel in London from 1977-2002 and prolific author of over fifty books—gave this commendation:

‘Dr David Stark's thesis is a historic milestone in understanding John Wesley's doctrine of Christian perfection. He has produced an unbiased, scholarly and amazing clarification regarding the Wesleyan enigma as to what the founder of Methodism truly believed. Everyone who is a part of the Holiness Movement—or who is interested in how it has developed—should read this book. I personally was enthralled with it and could not put it down.’

Dr Henry Rack—Emeritus Bishop Fraser Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History in The University of Manchester and author of Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism—described David’s thesis as providing:

‘a distinctly new view . . . and fresh picture of the development of early Methodism’ by demonstrating ‘with excellent critical judgment, that Wesley’s views on perfection changed over the years and that the events of the period 1758 to 1763 did indeed, as claimed, decisively shape Methodist identity. . . . In addition, it is shown that teachings commonly ascribed to 19th century developments already occur in Wesley’s writings.’

Dr Randy Maddox—William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School—offered the following summary of David’s study:

‘Stark focuses on the heightened attention to a “second blessing” of Christian perfection (and for many, a“third blessing” of a sanctified mind) among Wesleyan Methodists in the period 1758–63. He identifies a crucial stimulus in this emergence as John Wesley’s reversal (about 1757) of his earlier view that entire sanctification could not be lost. He draws on a range of manuscript items in capturing lay voices on this topic. He highlights the different reactions of John and Charles Wesley to this revival and its implications for the distinct development of early Methodist identity, showing John’s greater support.’

To read a two-page version of Dr. Stark’s abstract, click here

David, who regards himself as a ‘humanist and recovering perfectionist’, has published an article titled ‘Beyond Perfection: A Redemptive Reading of John Walsh to Charles Wesley, 15 August 1762’ in the Spring 2013 edition of Wesley and Methodist Studies.

David is a high school History teacher and coach in Cincinnati. He can be reached at davidstarkphd@gmail.com