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Wesleyan Theology


Wesleyan Theology Part One: Authority, Sin and Salvation Wesley s Concern for Theology While often quoted as stating, We think and let think , Wesley held ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Wesleyan Theology

Wesleyan Theology
  • Part One Authority, Sin and Salvation

Wesleys Concern for Theology
  • While often quoted as stating, We think and let
    think, Wesley held intense convictions
    concerning theology and doctrine
  • Believed that the spirit of unity to be the
    essence of the Church
  • Disunity destructive to the very mission of the

Wesleys Concern for Theology
  • Whatever is compatible with love to Christ and
    a work of grace I term an opinion,. . . (but)
    right opinions are a slender part of religion,
    if any part of it at all.
  • John Wesley, as quote in Hildebrandts
    Christianity according to the Wesleys, pp. 11-12

Wesleys Concern for Theology
  • Essential Doctrines to John Wesley
  • Original Sin
  • The Divinity of Christ
  • Atonement
  • Justification by Faith Alone
  • Work of the Holy Spirit
  • New Birth (Regeneration)
  • Trinity

Wesleys Concern for Theology
  • Other doctrines may be considered essential at
    some times, and less essential at others
  • While Wesley would seek for common witness with
    members of those traditions with whom he
    disagreed, he was never prepared to surrender his
    perceived truths for a theological relativism.

Wesleys Concern for Theology
  • Wesley never contended that a clear knowledge of
    doctrine necessary for salvation.
  • All persons who would teach and preach, however,
    must possess such knowledge
  • All persons who sought the life of holiness must
    possess such knowledge

Authority and Experience
  • As a classical Protestant, Wesley contended that
    Church Tradition and Experience be subjected to
    the Written Word of God
  • Written Word of God thought to be the only
    sufficient rule of both Christian faith and
    Christian practice
  • Homo unius libri

Authority and Experience
  • Wesley demanded that his preachers either
    contract a taste for extensive reading and
    study or else return to your original trade
  • All other writings, however, should be judged in
    light of Holy Scripture
  • Wesley assumed that God wrote the Bible

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • The literal sense is emphasized unless it
    implies an absurdity and if it be contrary to
    some other texts but in that case that obscure
    text is to be interpreted by those that speak
    more plainly.
  • All texts should be interpreted in its total

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • Scripture must be compared with Scripture.
    Therefore a thorough knowledge of the whole is
  • When possible, Scripture should be confirmed by
    the Experiences and Traditions of the Church
  • Reason should be employed to understand what
    Scripture declares and how Truth should be
    declared to humanity.

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • Plain Truth for Plain People
  • Free from all nice and philosophical
    speculations from all perplexed and intricate
    reasonings although such rational and
    philosophical investigations may have served the
    interpretative process well.

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • Knowledge of the Ante-Nicene Fathers
  • Knowledge of the Prayer Book
  • Knowledge of historic Creeds
  • Declarations of the Ecumenical Councils
  • Tradition used as a legitimate form of historical
    exegesis of text

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • Reason also used to check private exegesis It
    is a fundamental principle with us (the
    Methodists) that to renounce reason is to
    renounce religion, and that religion and reason
    go hand in hand, and that all irrational religion
    is false religiongt
  • Letters, V 364.

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • Yet Reason had nothing to say concerning the
    existence of God, since reason possesses no
    pre-established principles of Natural Theology.
  • On such matters, Revelation stood as sole
  • Reason can never reveal the Unknown God only
    Revelation can accomplish this task, according to

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • For Wesley, reason assists humans in giving order
    to the evidence of Revelation. In turn,
    tradition provides the necessary historical
    boundaries for Biblical interpretation so as to
    avoid heresy.

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • The individuals experience of the Holy Spirit
    also a means of interpreting Scripture, but must
    be held within Tradition (since the Holy Spirit
    has dwelt with the Church throughout the ages)
  • The individual's experience of the Holy Spirit
    must also be related to the Churchs historical
    witness to Christ

Wesleys Approach to Biblical Interpretation
  • The appeal to individual experience is ever
    checked and balanced by the appeal to collective
  • Workman, H. B. (1921) from The Place of
    Methodism in the Catholic Church, p. 306.

The Order of Salvation
  • Repentance (the porch of Religion)
  • Faith (the door of Religion)
  • Holiness (Religion itself)
  • Salvationis not what is frequently understood
    by that word, the going to heaven, eternal
    happiness. It is not the souls going to

The Order of Salvation
  • Salvation. . . might be extended to the entire
    work of God within the universe.
  • Sermon, I, p. 41
  • Hence, the individual can be in only most
    infinitesimal possession of salvation

Prevenient Grace On the Porch of Religion
  • Prevenient Grace was considered by Wesley the
    first dawning of God within the live of the
  • Humankind cannot move themselves toward God
  • Humankind still responsible before God for their
    own salvation
  • Humankind cannot manufacture its own salvation

Prevenient Grace On the Porch of Religion
  • Because of Original Sin, humankind is dead to
  • Prevenient Grace provides humankind the minimal
    power necessary to turn toward God while still
    within Original Sin.
  • This power only allows humankind to accept or
    refuse an initial relationship with God.

Prevenient Grace On the Porch of Religion
  • While other gifts of grace necessary to move the
    individual toward Justification, this initial
    gift provides the minimal power for the initial
  • Prevenient Grace often misidentified as
    conscience, or so claimed Wesley.

Prevenient Grace On the Porch of Religion
  • Prevenient Grace does not remove Original Sin
    from humankind. This sin Wesley consider
    absolute in naturethere is no cure for
    Original Sin while one remains human.
  • Prevenient Grace does, however, assist in the
    alleviation of relative sin (ones own distance
    from a relationship with God).

Original Sin
  • Humankind stands totally depraved before God
  • While humans may be capable of great deeds and
    acts of courage, in the presence of God they
    stand utterly helpless.
  • Adam designed with Original Righteousness that
    is, Adam was made for personal relationship with

Original Sin
  • In the act of the Fall, Adam loses Original
    Righteousness and thus distorts the nature of
    human existence.
  • In other words, Adam loses moral image
  • In its place, humankind places self-government
    and other human limitations on power

Original Sin
  • Yet, no matter how worthy such human endeavors
    appear, they can be no substitution for a
    relationship with the Divine One
  • For this reason, even moral acts performed by a
    sinner (human) is to be considered sinful.
  • Humankind confuses moral action with salvation,
    thus moving further away from God.

Original Sin
  • All human suffer from this basic condition
  • Yet humans natural ability to seek God not lost,
    only twisted and misdirected.
  • Ultimately, humanity can do nothing to change
    this situation and become worthy of standingonce
    againbefore God.
  • Humankind stands condemned before God.

Original Sin
  • It should be stated that Wesley understood that
    those persons who did not accept the gift of
    Gods grace would not understand themselves as
    totally corrupted and damned.
  • On these basis points, Wesley was of the same
    mind as the other Protestant Reformers.

Original Sin
  • Yet Wesley differed greatly with the Calvinists
    on the notion of Predestination.
  • From a Calvinist standpoint, if humankindbecause
    of free willcould willingly choose salvation,
    then human kind could not, by definition, be
    totally depraved (as demanded by Original Sin)

  • For Jesus Christs sake Mr. Wesley, consider
    how you dishonour God by denying election. You
    plainly make mans sic salvation depend not on
    Gods free grace but on mans free will.
  • Letter from George Whitefield to John Wesley

  • Calvin understood that God knew from the onset
    of creation all persons who would be born into
    the world (hence a predestination to life).
  • Further, because of the sovereignty of God,
    Calvin assumed Absolute Divine Will as an
    essential attribute.

  • Therefore, God knew from the beginning of time
    those persons who would accept the gift of grace
    (because they could not resist it, given the
    preordained order of the world)
  • Due to the depravity of human kind, humans (like
    Wesley) confuse Free Will with Divine Will (so
    say the Calvinists)

  • Yet Wesley rejected Predestination because of his
    understanding of Prevenient Grace.
  • From Wesleys perspective, all humans can either
    submit to Gods initial gift of grace or deny it.
  • Wesley contended that it was Gods desire to
    bestow grace on the wretched.

Back to Original Sin
  • So what is unique about Wesley?
  • Rejection of Predestination
  • Link of Prevenient Grace to Original Sin
  • Notion of God as source of unlimited love and
    unlimited justice
  • Humans live as First Adam until the Second
    Adam (Christ) delivers us from our fallen state.

Three Situations of Humanity
  • Natural Man
  • Man Under the Law
  • Man Under Grace
  • As recorded in Wesleys The Spirit of Bondage
    and Adoption (1739)

Situation of Natural Man
  • Natural man exists in a state of sleep, totally
    ignorant of God
  • Natural man stands on the edge of the pit that
    is, damnation
  • Natural man may find comfort in his own wisdom
    and goodness but is deceived by pride
  • Goodness and wisdom never replaces a relationship
    with the Divine

Situation of Natural Man
  • Through Prevenient Grace (conscience) Natural Man
    can be brought under the Law of God as reveal by
    Scripture and the Holy Spirit
  • For this reason, Wesley believed in preaching
    only the Law to the sinners and saving the Gospel
    for those who have experienced grace.

Situation of Natural Man
  • Repentance becomes the porch of the House of
  • Repentance occurs when the sinner accepts the
    gift of Prevenient grace and remains receptive to
    addition grace from God through the mediating
    presence of the Holy Spirit (that divine nature
    of Christ that remains active in the world)

Situation of Natural Man
  • To repent, one must accept themselves as a sinner
    who possesses no ability to save themselves from
  • Such acceptance may bring the fruits of
    repentance (changed behaviors and perception)
  • For Wesley, the fruits of repentance must emerge
    before faith.

Situation of Natural Man
  • Again, please note that Wesley places total
    emphasis on Prevenient Grace (and not the
    preaching of the Gospel) to bring the sinner into
    the state of repentance.
  • Believed that Natural Man at the point of
    repentance must be judged on the basis of his
    inward response to Gods gift of grace and not by
    any good works.

Moving Toward Justification
  • Justification can be defined as being relieved of
    the guilt (but not the condition) of Original Sin
    through allowing Christ to work within ones life.
  • Justification cannot be earned it stands as
    Divine Forgiveness of the guilt of Original Sin
    and the personal awareness of how far short one
    stands from the righteousness of Christ.

Moving Toward Justification
  • For Wesley, repentance considered a species of
    faith that emerges before faith itself
  • One who is repents
  • Consciously accepts Christ
  • Possesses a sense of forgiveness
  • Actions of leaving off from evil, doing good,
    and forgiving one another

Moving Toward Justification
  • But a theological problem emerges It appears
    that Wesley advocates a mix of Justification by
    Faith (by accepting unearned, unmerited Grace of
    God) and Justification by works (changed
    behaviors after repentance but prior to
  • At this point Wesley differs greatly from the
    other Protestant reforms

Moving Toward Justification
  • In an attempt to reconcile this tension, Wesley
    often described two types of faith that emerge in
    the life of the early Christian
  • Repentance Faith
  • Justifying Faith

Repentance Faith
  • The faith of a servant
  • Occurs before Justification
  • Prevenient Grace provides motivation to begin to
    amend ones ways and to look for God
  • Naturally some good works may result from such
  • These works differ from the good works of the

Repentance Faith
  • These works are only remotely necessary for
    justification since they serve as fruits of
  • Repentance faith (inward response plus fruits)
    stands as a humans free response to Gods
    initial gift of Prevenient Grace and a desire to
    receive additional grace.

Justifying Faith
  • Faith of a child in a parent
  • Repentance works does not gauge the readiness of
    a person to receive this type of faith
  • Instead, God gauges ones readiness to enter a
    new level of intimacy and relationship by
    allowing Christ to work through them

Justifying Faith
  • Wesley also maintained that one would need to be
    conscious of the fact that it was through faith
    (that is, the gift of grace from God) aloneand
    not the good works that occurs while engaged in
    repentance faiththat one was now ready to enter
    a deeper relationship with God through Christ.
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