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Wesley's Theological Method

This presentation is a broad introduction to John Wesley's approach to theology. This was originally designed for the course "Introduction to Christian Theology," taught at Trevecca Nazarene University in spring of 2011. The author and professor was Cha

chad maxson

on 25 May 2011

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Transcript of Wesley's Theological Method

John Wesley's Theological Method What are your sources of theological authority?
On what basis do you make theological decisions?
What theological issues get priority? Why?
Is there a way to do this faithfully? cell phones on vibrate please 1 John 2:1-11 2My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

3Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked. 7Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. 11But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness. You see in these verses W's reasons for focusing on laws and regulations.

You see why sanctification has become associated primiarily in our traditions with "not sinning." Tension! The passage switches seamlessely from heavy legal emphasis to talk about loving one another. Interpretive Decisions The Church unquestioningly accepted the doctrine of predestination for 1500 years. It’s biblical. It has the weight of tradition behind it. It is based on the theological commitment to God’s sovereignty and humanity’s absolute inability to save itself. Jacob Arminius comes along in the late 1500’s and says, “No, this doctrine is wrong. There’s another way to interpret the Bible. We’re not predestined. We get to choose.” Now, Arminius was a good modern Western man. Choice and freedom were making their way into the popular consciousness at this time. It’s likely his interpretation of the Bible is based at least as much on the popular sentiments of Western culture as anything else. Is this okay? Priorities What’s more central to God, justice or mercy? What’s more central to human salvation: grace or cooperation? Is the best metaphor for sin the courtroom or the operating room? Theology is a messy business and we have to make vital decisions about which theological issue gets priority in our sermons, our ministries, and our spirituality. Decisions and priorities radically shape the way we connect with God and with one another. Is there a way to do this faithfully? JW's Approach to theology Heavily influenced by 1 John simple & focused on Christian community
don't get the complex arguments of Paul
plain, common-sense language for common folk
very Main Street
spoke to W's situation Folk Theologian coined by Albert Outler in 1977 article in Theology Today
Calvin wrote highly systematic theology
Luther wrote primarily for gentry
W wrote for common people William Cannon wrote that “His audience would have been the television audience, if there had been television in the 18th century…” (Outler 1975, vii). Folk Theologian? Theology normally done in conversation with other theologians
W's theology is done in coversation with ordinary people, not other theologians Significance means he's primarily concerned with what's going on in their lives
adequacy of theology measured by how persuasive it is in daily life
Does it connect people with God and with one another? Holiness Theology Incarnational Method "The Word must always become flesh and dwell with [people]" (Wynkoop 41).
Holiness theology is to become incarnate in history. Connecting Theology to Life Tempting to discuss theology in abstract, academic manner
Holiness theology can't be done this way w/o destroying Christian confidence
These aren't "ideal" connections to God
Messy, material connections in concrete, daily life "project 1"
by sanja gjenero E-Sign
by Erkin Sahin public domain image public domain image "Walking"
by Raphael Castello Select Bibliography Dunning, H. Ray. Grace, Faith, and Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1988.

Maddox, Randy L. Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology. Nashville: Kingswood Books, 1994.

Outler, Albert. "John Wesley: Folk-Theologian." Theology Today. Vol. 34, No. 2 (July 1977): 150-160.

-----. Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1975.

Runyon, Theodore. The New Creation: John Wesley's Theology Today. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.

Wesley, John. John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology. Edited by Albert C. Outler and Richard P. Heitzenrater. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991.

Wynkoop, Mildred Bangs. A Theology of Love: The Dynamic of Wesleyanism. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1972. Leave comments, questions, or feedback at http://profchad.wordpress.com or email me at camaxson@trevecca.edu.
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