The Theology of John Woolman

John Woolman 2


The Theology of John Woolman:  

         One Quaker’s Vision of a World Remade

Lecture Series by Jon R. Kershner, Ph.D.

Additional information (including the lecture notes) is available below the video


This six week series examines the life of colonial New Jersey Quaker tailor John Woolman (1720-1772). Woolman is best known to historians for his antislavery activities, and he is best known to scholars of early American literature and spiritual writings for his autobiographical Journal.  This series augments existing interpretations of Woolman by asserting that he is best considered from the perspective of theology, as a coherent thinker whose religious beliefs were inextricably intertwined with every aspect of his life. Moreover, this research contends that Woolman’s theology was apocalyptic, and that his various social reforms were united in a comprehensive vision he called “the Government of Christ.”  Living under Christ’s direct leadership, the individual and society would be transformed so that the Kingdom of God would be realizing on earth. There will be time for questions and discussion. Suggested readings from Woolman’s published works will be given each week. All sessions will be held on Saturday mornings from 10am – 11:00am in the Conference Room at North Seattle Friends Church.

Following each class, the class title will be linked to Jon Kershner’s lecture notes.

April 25:  The Life and Times of John Woolman (1720-1772) 

May 2:  The “Principle that Proceeds from God”: Revelation, Conversion and Resignation

May 9: The Colonial American Jeremiah: Woolman’s Prophetic Witness

May 16: “On Earth as it is in Heaven”: John Woolman’s Apocalyptic-Eschatology

May 30:  The Emergence of the “Government of Christ”: This-Worldly Perfection and Judgment

June 6:  Woolman’s Books and his Peers:  Constructing Theology, Maintaining Tradition


Jon R. Kershner, Ph.D., is interested in the way theology impacts social witness. He has published numerous articles and chapters on John Woolman, and continues to find Woolman to be a challenging figure whose life still speaks to us today. Jon enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, exercising and envisioning a world remade.