Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wesleyans and the Sufficiency of Scripture

It seems, if the rumors I have heard are true, that there have been some discussions of late about the Nazarene Article of Faith on "The Holy Scriptures."  It seems that some are of the opinion that, perhaps, it is time to reword the Article.

In my opinion, a rewording of the Article would likely be unfortunate.  First, I do not think that we will be able to get away from "inerrancy" language.  That is, I think that there is a strong contingency that will insist on that language.  Of that group, there are some very vocal folks who would like to not only utilize that language, but do so in such a way that would move us firmly into the Fundamentalist camp.  (A place where we, as a Wesleyan denomination, do not belong.)  -  From my perspective, H. Orton Wiley (who is popularly credited with the wording of the article) did a fantastic job of utilizing the language of the day in a way that clearly maintained our Wesleyan understanding of Scripture.

For those unfamiliar with the wording of the Nazarene article, I will reproduce it toward the end of this post.  Before I do that, I would like to reproduce one of the "Wesleyan Core Terms" as found in The Wesley Study Bible.  I think that this particular "Core Term" should serve as a as a reminder to Wesleyans in general, and to Nazarenes in particular, of how Wesleyan Christians really approach and view the Scriptures.

Sufficiency of Scripture

As Methodism in the United States was becoming a formal church, John Wesley sent his adaption of the Articles of Religion to serve as doctrinal standards.  Article 6 related to the sufficiency of Scripture, and made clear that Scripture contains all that one needs to know for salvation.  Scripture is sufficient because it does not need to be supplemented with any other revelation.  This affirmation is rooted in the Protestant tradition that precedes Methodism, and it counters the idea that we have to depend on any other source or authority for salvation.  Holding this view does not mean that Scripture is our only source of knowledge for everything.  We can still learn new things about the world and about the historical situation in which the Bible was written, and this knowledge helps us interpret Scripture.  But we can trust that the Bible does not lack anything that we need in order to know and love God.

When talking about Scripture, the Wesleyan focus is salvation.  That does not mean that the Bible does not speak about anything else, but it does mean that we understand that salvation (faith issues; relationship with God and others) is the "point," the purpose of Scripture.  - "I want to know one thing, the way to heaven - how to land safe on that happy shore.  God himself has condescended to teach the way: for this very end he came from heaven.  he hath written it down in a book.  O give me that book!  At any price give me the Book of God!" (John Wesley, Preface to Sermons on Several Occasions.)  -  "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NRSV).

What a refreshing focus when compared to the typical focus of our sisters and brother in the "Fundamentalist camp."  To borrow from Rob Staples essay on "Inerrancy" in his book, Words of Faith, for the Fundamentalist, the basic theological question is What is the source of knowledge (or truth)?.  They hold to an "epistemological inerrancy," seeking to establish the truth and reliability of the Bible before they can move on to talk about matters such as salvation.  Thus, it must be shown that the Bible is inerrant in the original autographs, that Genesis 1-3 are scientifically literal, that archeology confirms biblical accounts, etc.  Only then (that is, once it is established that the Bible is true), can we trust the Bible for salvation, etc.

Wesleyans approach the Scriptures differently, says Staples.  The basic theological question for the Wesleyan Christian is What must I do to be saved?  Wesleyans hold to a "soteriological inerrancy," because in Wesleyan theology, salvation is truth.  The Bible cannot fail to lead us to God and to heaven if we obey its precepts; that is what it means to say it is inerrant.

While our Fundamentalist brothers and sisters in Christ must first prove the truthfulness of Scripture before they can trust its path to salvation, Wesleyan Christians say, "I trusted Christ for salvation, just as the Scriptures say, and God has proven Himself true to His Word.  Therefore, I can trust Scripture; I know the Bible is true."

We have sisters and brothers in Christ in the Church of the Nazarene (and other Wesleyan denominations) that urgently want to move us to the Fundamentalist camp and shift our focus.  However, Wesleyan Christians are more interested in getting on with the business to which Scripture calls us, viz., pointing people to God through Christ.

The United Methodist Church, in its Articles of Religion, has maintained this emphasis by retaining the Article bequeathed to it from Anglicanism by John Wesley alongside the Article from the former Evangelical United Brethren Church, which, too, focused on the primary issue of salvation.

True to the Wesleyan heritage, the Article of Faith for the Church of the Nazarene, also retains this emphasis.  It does so, as I mentioned above, while using "inerrancy" language in a very Wesleyan way.  The Article is as follows:

IV. The Holy Scriptures

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.

None of this, by the way, negates our Wesleyan understanding of what has popularly been called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  We do, indeed, look to reason, tradition and experience, along with Scripture, when expression our doctrines.  Those other three are vitally important to us as we faithfully seek to interpret Scripture.  But, as for the Bible, itself, we believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture.


Eric + said...

The only change I'd like to see to Article 4 is to remove "inerrantly" and add "faithfully."

This is not my unique idea. I heard it from a friend on Naznet. Perhaps there might be a resolution in the works?

Todd Stepp said...

As I understand, the General Board met during (before/after?) the M-11 Conference, last month. Talk of the article (as I understand it) was a part of that meeting. That sounds like a resolution may be in the works from leadership for the 2013 G.A.

As I said, I would be surprised if we will move away from "inerrancy" language.


John Meunier said...

Great discussion.

I've recently found William Abraham's discussion of Scripture as means of grace a great antidote to epistemological positioning of the Bible.

Eric + said...

Is that in Canon and Criterion or one of his other works?

Andrew said...

I also had Dr. Staples in class at NTS but found his "soteriological inerrancy" unsatisfying...since the Bible is not written as a book of propositions or as a systematic theology...rather it is filled with stories, typology, symbolism, my mind this idea of "soteriological inerrancy" creates more problems than it solves...for starters how does one determine if a passage is soteriological? What is the criteria and who decides?

Todd Stepp said...


Thank you for your comments.

I have to say, I found your comments to be surprising. That is, I have assumed, since you had Dr. Staples, that you are Nazarene (or some sort of Wesleyan Christian), and what I quoted from Staples is pretty well established as the Wesleyan approach to Scripture.

Of course, he is using inerrancy language in the specific Nazarene context over against Fundamentalism. Some Wesleyans (like the UMC and the African Methodist groups) may not use inerrancy language at all, but the soteriological approach is understood to be the Wesleyan aproach.

To say it another way, I don't know a Wesleyan professor or author who would disagree that it is the way Wesleyans go to the Scriptures.

Beyond that surprise, I'm surprised that you would some how link this approach to a propositional approach over against a narrative one.

All of the "narrative type" Wesleyans that I know (and I tend to be one) seem to believe that the Wesleyan approach is a very nice fit.

Let me give an example: During the liturgy for the Easter Vigil, we not only give the "Easter Proclaimation," but we ". . . hear the record of God's saving deeds in history . . ." as we read this story throughout the Scriptures (e.g., Creation, Covenant, Abraham, Red Sea, etc.)

If you are familiar with the service, I am sure you would agree that it is a powerful service (either done Sat. night, or just before sunrise on Easter). - That is exactly what Wesleyans see as the "point" of Scripture. It is the narrative of God's creating act, and God's reaching out to redeem God's people and all of God's creation, which culminates in the story of Christ.

Rather than focusing (propositionaly?) on issues of science and archaeology, etc.), Wesleyans focus on God, our relationship with God, with each other, with God's creation, which is another way of talking about the restoration of the image of God in us; i.e. holiness. - Wesleyans do read the Bible theologically (speaking of God and our relationship with God and others) rather than scientifically/historically, etc. (i.e., as a science book, etc.)

I think Scripture, itself, points us in this direction. In the article I mentioned the Timothy passage, but I just recently preached from gospel passage of John 20:19-31. Verse 30-31 says, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

This week's gospel reading is the Emmaus Road story. In it (as I'm sure you know), ". . . beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to [the two discipless] the things about himself in all the scriptures." - Which is what Staples is affirming is the Wesleyan way of approaching the Bible.

Maybe this has helped explain a bit more this Wesleyann approach. Maybe, you already understand that, but just disagree. - I would be interested in hearing more about how you would look at Scripture in a different way. Also, if you are willing, it might be helpful to know a bit about your church background if it is other than Nazarene.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Andrew said...


My grandfather was a Wesleyan Methodist pastor/missionary…my father worked in Newton Kansas where there was no Wesleyan church so my parents became members of the Church of the Nazarene…that is how I came to MidAmerica Nazarene College in 1987…I checked out a few area Nazarene churches until finding a home at Overland Park Nazarene with pastor Randall Davey…it was during my college days that I was exposed to Robert Webber…after graduation from college I attended NTS for one year (I think your photo is in my year book or directory) then finished my masters work at an Orthodox Presbyterian School…my first son was born during my first year at seminary and my work schedule made it difficult to continue at NTS…the OP seminary offered an apologetic track which I was interested so I made the change.

I just moved from Anchorage, Alaska where I was a pastor of a Nazarene church to Wichita Kansas to pastor my third Nazarene church in Kansas. I consider myself a Wesleyan but acknowledge I am no scholar. I must make you aware that I was a high school debate champion so I tend not to accept arguments without first trying to think them through my simple but hard head.

Here is the way my brain works and this is the way I have tried to communicate to my congregation. I am certainly open to being shown a better way.

Revelation is the starting point. We do not discover God through reason but rather God discloses Himself through revelation. Wesley’s statement was “God himself has condescended to teach the way; for that very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!”

I am a fan of Will Willimon and like what he says in his little book This We Believe except when he says Scripture is a product of the church. Historically most people have said Scripture was a product of the God that was confirmed by the church but I digress.

2 Peter 1:16-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16 seem to indicate clearly the Scriptures were inspired by God. If we accept the Bible as a product of inspiration by the Holy Spirit, the Bible must be trustworthy and reliable…thus it does not seem to be a stretch to say the Bible is “infallible” or “inerrant”…I like saying the Bible is without error in all it affirms…but this has not always been helpful for many people. I like what NT Wright says, “We must let scripture be itself, and that is a hard task. Scripture contains many things that I don’t know, and that you don’t know; many things we are waiting to discover; passages which are lying dormant waiting for us to dig them out.”

Andrew said...

Of course we can say, All scripture is God-breathed and profitable for:

Teaching – there is no restriction placed on the content such as salvation; it seems to include teaching math, science, history, politics, etc. This of course does not say Scripture is the only source of truth in any of these fields but anything must not contradict Scripture.

Reproof – divine truth will expose falsehood and sin, ungodly conduct, etc.

Correction – no restriction are place upon what the Bible may correct.

Instruction in righteousness – ethics, morality and holy living.

I cannot see how these four synonyms can be limited to soteriology. Every good work would of course include loving God and loving our neighbors but why not include social, political, and educational arenas as well?

Being a big fan of NT Wright, I like how he makes the point that resurrected Lord Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus is in the process of making all things new, redeeming all of creation, turning this world right side up once again. “Soteriological inerrancy” strikes me as a form of reductionism.

I did not intend to say soteriological inerrancy was a propositional approach…there are of course some truth propositions found in Scripture however most is not written in that form…I only wanted to raise a problem in determining what passage is inerrant and what passage may have errors because it is or is not “soteriological”…Is the book of Acts just history thus not inerrant…does Acts have certain passages which are soteriological so they are inerrant…who decides…how do you dissect the Bible in soteriological and non-soteriological?

As far as not knowing a Wesleyan professor or author who does not have a similar understanding or type of “soteriological inerrancy” let me offer a couple.

John Wesley at the beginning of a sermon on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 he declared that since we know God is the source of all Scripture, we know the Word therefore to be "true and right concerning all things."

You know Wesley letter where he stated, ”If there be any mistakes in the Bible there may be a thousand.”

Adam Clarke wrote the following in his article on "The Principles of the Christian Religion," he stated, "The Bible . . . is a revelation from God himself…men may err, but the Scriptures cannot; for it is the Word of God himself, who can neither mistake, deceive, nor be deceived" [Works, 12:132].

In his Commentary he categorically stated that "The apostles were assisted and preserved from error by the Spirit of God; and therefore were enabled to deliver to us an unerring rule of faith." The Holy Spirit did not permit them "to err in the delivery of what was thus indited in his name or which they had written as apostles of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ"[Commentary, 5:9, 11].

Andrew said...

Richard Watson who wrote the first systematic theology for the Methodist. Watson says, “that they were kept from all lapses of memory, or inadequate conceptions, even on these subjects; and on all others the degree of communication and influence, both as to doctrine, facts, and the terms in which they were to be recorded for the edification of the church, was proportioned to the necessity of the case, but so that the whole was authenticated or dictated by the Holy Spirit with so full an influence, that it became truth without mixture of error, expressed in such terms as he himself ruled or suggested [Works, 6:14].

Samuel Wakefield followed Watson and wrote the following: Some who advocate the doctrine of Divine inspiration limit it to the prophetical parts of Scripture; while others extend it to the doctrinal parts also, but not to the historical. There are many who maintain that the inspiration of the sacred writers was only occasional; that they were not always under that immediate and plenary [full] influence of the Holy Spirit which renders their writings the unerring word of God; and that consequently, as they were sometimes left to themselves, they then thought and reasoned like ordinary men. According to this notion, an intermixture of human infirmity and error is by no means excluded from the Sacred Scriptures. But if it is once granted that they are in the least degree alloyed with error, an opening is made for every imaginable corruption. And to admit that the sacred writers were only occasionally inspired, would involve us in the greatest perplexity; because, not knowing when they were or were not inspired, we could not determine what parts of their writings should be regarded as the infallible word of God. To tell us, therefore, that they were inspired only on certain occasions, while we have no means of ascertaining what those occasions were, is the same as to say that they were not inspired at all.

I suppose you are looking for a little more contemporary writer or professor. I would confess there are not many that I know but I remember Athanasius’ confession of contra mundum. I have read a couple papers written in the Wesleyan Theological Journal. One was written by Daryl McCarthy, “Early Wesleyan Views of Scripture,” Wesleyan Theological Journal. Another author is by Vic Reasoner.
I found the paper written by Mark Weeter John Wesley VS John Calvin: Is There a Wesleyan Hermeneutic? to be helpful.

I do love this week’s Gospel reading from Luke 24…I don’t see however how this necessitates a limited or soteriological inerrancy position…I like to imagine how wonderful it would have been to hear Jesus’ Bible study on the road…yet their eyes were not opened until they broke bread together at the table.

I apologize for the long response but appreciate your questions as well as your blog.


Andrew said...

Obviously I'm not willing to give up on inerrancy...Tom Oord says inerrancy dies a death of a thousand question to you, Staples and Oord has been and still is this - how is your view of limited inerrancy different? Staples says in his little book “Words of Faith”… “This does not mean that we can separate the Bible’s teaching about salvation from its statements about other matters and claim that the latter may contain errors, while those texts that speak of salvation do not. That would be a precarious position. Who is to decide how to separate the two kinds of texts? Who is to say whether a text does, or does not, relate to salvation?”

Staples has just nailed the weakness of his own position. Where is the answer?

Andrew said...

Todd you say, “While our Fundamentalist brothers and sisters in Christ must first prove the truthfulness of Scripture before they can trust its path to salvation, Wesleyan Christians say, "I trusted Christ for salvation, just as the Scriptures say, and God has proven Himself true to His Word. Therefore, I can trust Scripture; I know the Bible is true."”

This may be a true statement about some Fundamentalist but I don’t think you can say about all Fundamentalist...the second half of your reasoning says I come to Christ for salvation just as the Scriptures say there fore the scriptures have proven themselves true "Inerrant"…where is the limited inerrancy?

Andrew said...

Are you saying the Bible is only concerned with...How to get to heaven...I don’t see how you or anyone else can say this is all God was trying to communicate to us...the Bible is a written record of God's covenant with humanity and his covenant relationship/dealings with humanity.

If we say the Bible is a narrative or a story what kind of a story do we have? The liberal theologians have told us the narrative is mostly fantasy while I think it is possible to hold to a narrative theology and recognize the story is true. The Biblical narrative is a story of God’s covenant relationship with humanity. God created us to be a bride for His Son. God’s daughter first needs to grow up and mature to be a bride. This is why we have all the Daughter of Zion and Daughter of Jerusalem in the Old Testament. We are the Daughter of Zion, individually we are sons of God but corporately we are the daughter.

The Biblical narrative is a story of progressive glorification; transition from childhood to maturity; from nakedness to glory. This was God’s plan from the beginning even if we had never sinned this was His plan a heavenly marriage, a union with His Son. Sin was a detour to God’s plan. Otherwise we must say the only reason we are the bride of Christ is because of sin. The only reason we can be joined in union with Christ is because of the fall.

The original plan was maturity and glorification culminating in a marriage to Jesus. This is the narrative of the Bible. Salvation is not the only or the main point of Scripture. God wants a holy bride without spot or wrinkle who is fit for the marriage.

Todd Stepp said...

. . . Admittedly, the articles for The Wesleyan Church are the one anomaly, because they do take an inerrancy view. However, I have spoken to a Wesleyan Church N.T. prof., who quickly admitted that the position was taken in "the war to save the Bible," and is unfortunate.

I think most Wesleyans (who hold my position) would be happy to do away with the "inerrancy" term altogether. We would prefer the more historical terms of sufficiency and authority (the former of which is the historic Methodist and Anglican positions). However, we find ourselves faced with fundamentalism, which brought about Wiley's article for Nazarenes.

The historic articles also focus us on salvation and faith, rather than math and geography, as well.

Another thing, the dividing up of Scripture that you are looking for, between what books/verses speak of salvation (thus, inspired) and which ones speak of history (thus, not inspired) is not at all what those with the prevailing Wesleyan position desire to do. I think that is a misunderstanding of what we are saying (and what Staples was saying in your quote of him). Nor is he saying that all (or necessarily any) of the "historical claims" are in error. Rather, it is simply that when we go to the Scriptures, we are asking, what does this tell us about God and our relationship with God and God's creation?

Let me ask this question: At what point is the Bible inerrant? - Classical fundamentalists speak of the original autographs. This, of course raises the the question about the Bibles we use, today. Obviously, since different translations do differ at points (where one would have to logically be considered in error over against another), one must either go to the original autographs (which we don't have), or name the inerrant translation. Some have done the latter, and named the KJV.

Grider points out that even NT writers do not always quote the OT with exactness. This, at least, speaks against a pure dictation theory of inspiration, and would otherwise meet the standard for being considered in error by fundamentalists.

Such things do not overly concern those who hold the prevailing Wesleyan position. In fact, we are not overly concerned that other Christians espouse the position that you espouse. We are concerned, however, that our focus, as the Church, be on faith matters; relationship with God and others, holiness of heart and life, and living out the faith in our world.

To quote the Methodist/Anglican article, "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to Salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, or may be proved therey, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an Article of Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvaition . . ."

Believer, therefore, what you are convicted of, but, since the Bible, itself, makes not claims of inerrancy (though certainly of inspiration), it ought not be required of others as an "article of faith."

Another, quick thought: your interpretation of the 2 Timothy passage, seems unique. That is, I am not aware (of a lot of things, but in this regard) of anyone who makes those same broad applications. The context surely argues for the traditional interpretation. (Carefully read 2Tim. 3:10 - 4:4; especially the immediate context of 3:15 and 17). Your broadening of these passages seem to interject into this passage that which is not at all viewed in the context of Paul's charge to Timothy.

This does not address all of your concerns, but I hope it somewhat addresses some of them. I would point you to Grider's section (not as definative, but as a help).

Now, I hope this one actually posts!

Your Brother in Christ,


Todd Stepp said...

Disappointingly, I don't think I can devote that much time to trying to respond to everything. Perhaps that means that you "win the debate." - Still, I do have a few comments (though not a lot of arguments).

Before I get to that, let me say, I am sure I posted another comment at the end of last week that does not seem to have showed up! I commented in it on our both attending O.P under Davey and our connection with Robert Webber, etc. - I'm disappointed to discover that it doesn't seem to be on here! (I'm sure that is where I presented my very best arguments that would have completely silenced any opposition! - Joking!)

Anyway . . ., on your last post (that begins with, "Are you saying the Bible is only concerned with . . . How to get to heaven .. .") - No, that is not what I'm saying. In fact, I think my post made it clear in my previous post that "Wesleyans focus on God, our relationship with God, with each other, with God's creation, which is another way of talking about the restoration of the image of God in us; i.e. holiness. - Wesleyans do read the Bible theologically (speaking of God and our relationship with God and others)."

That is to say, I would pretty well agree with your last post. It is soteriology in the broad sense, not simply "Am I going to make it to heaven." It is relationship with God and God's creation. To say it in a more traditional way, it is about faith and practice.

Let me go back to the quoting of others who have endorsed the "inerrancey" idea, especially Wesley. (I think I talked about this in my "missing post"!) It is important to read such quotes within their context, without reading a modern fundamentalism back into them. I will address Wesley's quote in a moment, but let me say that Grider's section on this in his "A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology" (pages 73-84) may contain some helpful thoughts, if you have not yet read it. I would suggest it, though I'm sure you will find some of his points to be rather weak.

Interestingly, Grider is typically seen to be "over against" the "Trevecca Connection" folks (Dunning, Greathouse, Staples, etc.), but they are essentially in agreement on this point.

Anyway, the same Wesely whom you quoted in support of the inerrancy position, makes it clear elsewhere that he is not saying the same thing as fundamentalist do. He is connecting (as Grider says) "Falsehoods" and "mistakes," and dealing with "consequential matters" rather than matters of mathematics, geography, genealogical tables, etc. He allows that the genealogies in Matthew and Luke might be incorrect (cf. his notes on Matt. 1:1). He does not say there are mistakes there, but he certainly allows that there may be. What he says in his notes could not be said by a modern fundamentalist, who would see it as inconsistent with his "inerrancy quote." - Wesley does not view it as inconsistent.

Interestingly, Grider also quotes Adam Clarke (over against your quote) as one in support of the prevailing Wesleyan view of Scripture. He also looks at H. Orton Wiley, A. M. Hills, Richard Taylor, and Ray Dunning. . . .

Todd Stepp said...


I just found your church website.

I see that you have associated yourself with the Fundamental Wesleyan Society.

I would not argue against this society except to say that their position on Scripture, as you know is not the position of the Church of the Nazarene or historical Methodism/Anglicanism, as found in their articles of faith/religion. I think, however, it is fair to say that the articles of faith/religion are broad enough to include those who hold such views. That is to say, one can believe the articles and believe the position of the FWS, but one can also believe the articles and disagree with the FWS; the articles do not take the FWS position.

Would I be correct in assuming that you would prefer that the Nazarene article be changed to better fit the FWS position? (Just as I wish that our articles on the sacraments were more clearly and strongly reflective of a Wesleyan sacramental theology.)

Your Brother in Christ,


Todd Stepp said...

Andy, I've been reading Dan Boone's "A Charitable Discourse." I just read a section that, while not focusing on Scripture, nevertheless illustrates why (I think) the fundamentalist understanding of inerrancy not only arose from within Calvinism, but also fits so well within that theological camp.

Dan describes the two camps in what he admits is a broad brush approach, which, while largely true in general may not fit all particulars. - He says:

". . . Calvin was a lawyer whose precision with words, deas, and propositional constructs was quite "lawyerly." Doctrine proposition was important - getting it right.

"Calvin's understanding of God centered on God's sovereignty. God is the all-powerful ruler over all. what God wills is done. How God intended history to play out is settle. What God's book says is without error of any kind and true. Good Calvinists are apologists. Thye argue proposition toward truth as an act of faithfulness to God. Defending the truth is the core of their work. Authority and power, as rooted in the sovereignty of God, are the currency of their religious system, and truth is te goal for all believers. when they do buisness with each other over disagreements, the categories are truth, falsehood, heresy, and orthodoxy.

"The Wesleyan-Arminians . .. begin with the holiness of God and, in particular, the relationship that the holy God desires with his sinful creatures. The redemtive story of God's move in love to forgive and cleanse the creature and bring him or her into right relationship with him is the basis of the faith. Important to Wesleyans is covenantal theology, the relationship that God established with his people. The Hebrew word chesed denotes the behavior tha each has the right to expect of the other in light of the promises made. Love is the primary currency of this religious system, and right relationships are the goal (. . . between God and us, between each other, and with all creations). when we do business with each other over disagreements, our categories are love, respect, telling the truth, mercy, justice, the fruit of the Spirit exemplified, and Christlike behavior toward each other."

He goes on to say that many Wesleyans have begun to argue like good Calvinists. He also admits that there perhaps ought to be a balance between the two traditions.

Nevertheless, in general, perhaps in an over-simplified way, I do think it is easy to see that the two different positions concerning Scripture seem to . . . "fit" in their perspective "camps."


Andrew said...

The original intent of the FWS was to go back to Wesley…at first I was not extremely excited about the “Fundamental” name with the negative connotations but was told the two leading options were “Fundamental” and “Primitive.” The purpose was to get back to Wesley before we lost our way so I was more comfortable with the name. The FWS has attempted to raise awareness of Wesley and the departure from Wesley in the holiness circles. Many of the members are from Independent Holiness churches. There are a good number of folks from the Southern Methodist Church and a few Nazarenes like myself.

Like you are well aware people use Wesley to defend all kinds of issues/positions/beliefs both orthodox and heretical…as a Nazarene the whole rise of our church comes as bit of a reaction against our perceived Methodist failure…I suppose some in the FWS see their position on Scripture as a protection against the errors of the past.

I think it is hard to argue that the liberalism that brought the rise to the original Fundamentalist is off track and in one ditch…while I would say folks who hold to wooden, literal dictation theory of the Bible are in the other ditch…this issue seems to be a way Wesleyans can show the via media.

My observation is neither side is innocent of making the “straw man” arguments…my concern there seems to be no voice putting the brakes on the “Wesleyans” who running hard and fast to the ditch of liberalism…as a result we have pastors and laity turning to non-Wesleyans to make their case.

I have listened to a couple of your sermons “Nobody’s Perfect…Are They?” And “Can These Bones Live?” And read many of your blog post…read your paper “Authentic Christian Worship: Discovering Wesley’s Criteria”” and have not only enjoyed reading and hearing your work I find myself in near complete agreement (I’m not much of a Star Wars fan ☺). I speak as one who would love to see the articles on the sacraments change…however I know how slow change seems to come…in a former church I had help bring about a number of changes…we had weekly communion, understanding of the priority of worship, etc. but now I find myself starting all over again.

Thanks for the dialog!