Essentials of Wesleyan Theology - Lesson 1
Purpose of Theology
In this lesson, you delve into the Essentials of Wesleyan theology, exploring its historical and cultural context, and discovering the key principles that define this theological perspective. You learn about John Wesley and the Methodist movement, and how they shaped a theology that emphasizes grace, holiness, and Christian perfection. Through the study of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, you gain a deeper understanding of the role of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience in the formation of this theology. You also explore the impact of Wesleyan theology on the Church and its influence on social reform.
Purpose of Theology
I. Background and Context of Wesleyan Theology
B. Historical and Cultural Context
C. John Wesley and the Methodist Movement
II. Key Elements of Wesleyan Theology
1. Prevenient Grace
2. Justifying Grace
3. Sanctifying Grace
C. Christian Perfection
III. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
IV. The Impact of Wesleyan Theology
A. Contributions to the Church
B. Influence on Social Reform
- By studying the Essentials of Wesleyan theology, you learn about its historical roots, key principles, and the importance of grace, holiness, and Christian perfection in this theological perspective.
- Through this lesson, you gain a thorough understanding of Wesleyan theology, its tasks, key theological perspectives, and distinctives, providing you with a solid foundation for further exploration of the Wesleyan tradition.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into Wesleyan theology's goal of pursuing holiness through sanctification, understanding the three stages and the practical implications for discipleship, spiritual growth, and the church's role.
- In this lesson, you explore the doctrine of God in Wesleyan theology, learning about His attributes, the Trinity, and His relationship with creation.
- Through this lesson, you gain a deep understanding of the Trinity from a Wesleyan perspective, exploring its scriptural basis, historical development, and practical implications for Christian living.
- This lesson deepens your understanding of the Trinity from a Wesleyan perspective, emphasizing its historical development, implications for Christian faith, and the significance of love and relationship within the Godhead.
- Gain insight into Wesleyan theology's Doctrine of Creation, its biblical basis, and the practical implications it has on understanding God's sovereignty, human responsibility, and stewardship of creation.
- Through this lesson, you gain insights into Wesleyan theology's understanding of Christ's person and work, exploring key concepts like the Incarnation, Atonement, and Second Coming.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into the incarnation of Jesus Christ, its dual nature, and its implications in revealing God's nature, redemption, atonement, and modeling holiness.
- In this lesson, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the Cross of Christ in Wesleyan theology, exploring atonement theories, the scope and application of atonement, and its impact on the believer's life.
- By studying the Cross of Christ Part 2, you gain insights into the theological concepts of the cross and the unique features of Wesleyan theology, ultimately learning how to apply these principles in your daily Christian life.
- By examining the significance of the resurrection in Wesleyan theology, you gain insight into its foundational role in Christian faith, its connection to justification and sanctification, and its far-reaching theological implications for believers.
In this class on the Essentials of Wesleyan Theology, you explore the historical background and development of Methodism, its key doctrines, and the unique approach to Scripture that John Wesley promoted. You gain a deeper understanding of prevenient grace, justification, assurance, sanctification, and the concept of Christian perfection. Furthermore, you learn about Wesley's quadrilateral of authority, his emphasis on holiness, and the impact of Wesleyan theology on social reform, evangelism, and contemporary Christian thought and practice.
Dr. Steve Seamands
Essentials of Wesleyan Theology
Purpose of Theology
[00:00:22] At True University, where I did my doctoral work. This is a school in Madison, New Jersey. This window was in the original library that Drew University was originally a seminary that was started to train Methodist pastors back in about the 1860s or seventies, and eventually it became a university. And now it's now the seminary is just a little part of this big school. But this was in the original library of the school back in the 1880s when I was there. They had a new library, but they had put this it's a beautiful stained glass window. The name of this window is theology, the queen of the sciences. I want us to just look at this because it takes us back to this view that was prominent a thousand years ago. Here you see theology, the queen. And I'm going to read a little bit from the description of it here. And the center is seat of theology, knowledge of God as the focus of all knowledge, focus of all knowledge. The globe upon which she is seated symbolizes her domain, and the nimbus around her head indicates her spiritual character. The dove in the panel that rests on her shoulder. Symbolizes the voice of God, and the two sheriff's angels symbolize wisdom that kneel before her now at the feet of theology. Schultz, another female figure. Humility. Leading a child towards theology. The model for this panel is taken from Psalm 25 nine. He shall teach the lowly his ways. It's interesting that they understood that the way you come to knowledge of God is through humility. Unless one becomes a little child, they cannot see the kingdom right above the figure of theology. Are the three cardinal virtues. Faith. Well, a lot more. There you can see.
[00:02:43] You can read it there. Feeds faith. And then we usually say faith, Hope Hope's over on the right there. You see the anchor that hope is holding? Isn't there a passage in Hebrews that speaks about hope? As an anchor? We have this hope as an anchor for our faith. And then, of course, love at the top there. Faith, hope and love. So it's interesting. They understood that the the goal. Of theology. Well, it was not to make you an egghead or a Bible answer. Man or woman. But so that you would grow in faith, hope and love. That is to say that they understood this as having moral consequences in a person's life and and that this was something that enhanced virtue in a person's life. Now we come down to these side panels in the bottom. Two panels. The one on the left is composed of philosophy. Reflective with her foot. On a pile of books symbolizing knowledge and history. Lifts a veil to symbolize her. Retrospective search. So philosophy and history are down here. And then on the other side. Sincere. Symbolizing the study of the structure of God's universe. I represent her interests by a globe, earth science, a telescope, astronomy. Flowers, Botany. And a book. Theoretical Sciences. And then finally, Art. RS rs accompanies science because she symbolizes the beauty of the ordered universe. So there you see theology. The queen of the sciences. As I would walk in and out of that library. In Madison, New Jersey, and I would walk right underneath that window. I thought, you know, it's interesting that this window is still there. And they of course, they it's a beautiful stained glass window. But it's sort of it's sort of an indictment on this modern university.
[00:05:15] That would totally reject this whole thing, pretty much. And I think it's interesting what we've done in the modern world. First of all, we basically taken the center completely out. We. And we've assumed that we can have knowledge of everything else without our knowledge of God. So we've taken that out. The other thing that that I think. Yeah, you've got, you've got your you've got your philosophy and you've got your history and you've got science and art over here. But we've taken the center out that holds it all together. You know, I think, Dan, you were when I asked that question a well, you made a comment that was basically saying you kind of need to start with a view of a of of of God and how everything fits together on the basis of that, too. Well, what I asked the question, what determines what a science is and how you get. And the nature of a science is depending on the object, you know. But we've taken God out completely. And then I think we've tended oftentimes in the church and in Christian circles, not to see that that the purpose of theology, actually. As this says, is faith, hope and love. It's kind of has become an end in itself. There are a lot of people. The Enlightenment period, which basically. Ripped all this apart, really alienated us from ourselves, didn't it? Because it put it put faith and reason. You know, put this divide between the two. And we've been struggling with that ever since, I think. This is a much more integrated picture. And I like that emphasis on humility, don't you? As in a sense, that's the gateway. So here's a question for you. Why a queen and not a king? Theology, the queen of the sciences.
[00:07:34] Not the king. What do you think? And there's an emphasis on on art as the study the study of beauty is one of the, you know, gods. Yeah. Okay. Well, actually, the stained glass was done in the 1880s. But it was an attempt to kind of depict what you would have kind of gotten into, let's just say. Aye. Aye, aye, aye aye. European University in about the year 1200. Wisdom is personified as female in Proverbs Chapter eight. I think it might be, Mary, in the sense that Mary represents. You remember her words to the angel? Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. Bear unto me, according to your word, that that kind of willingness to to be obedient and receptive. I think that's part of the key here. Rather than one that initiates and kind of speaks. The word theology is more a receiving of the word, isn't it? God is this. So I think that there's there would be a tendency not to want to put a king there because that would represent, you might say what God would need, God needs to do. And theology is not as I said we said earlier, it's not faith. It's not you know, it's not revelation itself. It's not God speaking. It's reflecting on that. But we've got. A queen here and not a king. I'll let you figure that out. Um, I don't really have a I don't really have a definitive answer on why, but, you know. Let's go on then to think about the two major tasks of theology, the first being a critical task, and sometimes when I use that word, critical. That word critical kind of has a negative. Ring or connotation don't mix. Don't be so critical, you know. But critical here, if you look up that word in a dictionary, one of the meanings, the major meanings, is characterized by careful analysis and judgment.
[00:10:00] So that's what we mean here at a task. Being careful to analyze and to judge. And that really has two parts to it. The first has to do with kind of answering the question, is it valid? Examining and evaluating Christian beliefs. Is it is it a valid is that a valid Christian belief? Or is it not? Why is that an important task that needs to be done? Well, think of yourself as a pastor who is supposed to shepherd a flock. You want to take your flock to green pastures? But what if they are? The brain in that pasture is some kind of poisonous way. Do you want all the sheep going there and eating that? So don't you have to be able to discern. Just like a botanist would discern and say, No, no, you don't want to eat that leaf. It's poisonous or. No, no. That money that you hold in your hand, although it looks pretty genuine, it's really counterfeit. One of the tasks that we are, we have to engage in and theologians have to engage in and people in Christian ministry is just simply, you know, sometimes. Is that a valid belief or not? How do we figure that out? How do we determine if it is or is it or it isn't? That's when these four things, it seems to me, come into play. Actually, Scripture is the primary source and chief criterion, isn't it, for us as Christians as to whether something is valid or not, whether something's true or not? We seek to measure that against the the plumb line of the Bible. And we use these other three sources. Tradition, reason and experience in helping us interpret the Bible. And that's, in a sense, the conversation we were having about your friend really has to do with kind of their understanding of maybe the role of some of these other things and in interpreting the Bible and whether this is tradition helpful at all.
[00:12:39] In interpreting and useful at all. To us as Christians are. Should we just say, forget it? Is it wise to leapfrog from the New Testament to. Let's just say the vineyard movement and. Starting in the eighties or late seventies or when was it then? Exactly right in there. Do you want to leapfrog and say, well, you know. Is there things that the church has learned, you know, along the way that you don't have to reinvent? That's asking what is the role of tradition, isn't it? Christians don't all exactly have the same answer, or they don't emphasize tradition quite the same way. And what is the role of reason? How does our Christian experience help us understand things that we read in the Bible? All this kind of comes into play. Doesn't that lead us to think that that maybe there is a work that's still going on where the Holy Spirit continues to help the church, actually, not to give us new revelation and a sense that, you know, that supersedes and goes beyond scripture but helps us actually just to understand what's what the meaning of Scripture really is. We all read scripture with glasses on. We bring our culture, we bring our gender. We bring we bring our religious traditions to the table when we read the Bible, don't we? So there's a lot of this sorting out. And so it has been interesting over 2000 years to see how sometimes things do get revealed. And usually it takes some sort of crisis and time and a lot of sifting. And then maybe the church comes to a kind of a new understanding of on that particular issue. I mean, think about the issue of slavery, for example, and where the church is on that as opposed to where some of our ancestors were just a little over 100 years ago.
[00:14:50] You know, it's pretty much that there's a pretty much consensus now on that issue in the Christian church. And now we're wrestling, you know, with the whole question of women in ministry and what that means. And and we've got a lot of different. Answers on a continuum. And maybe a lot of this will shake out in another 100 years or so. I don't know. One of the interesting things to in this in this process is how sometimes God has actually used false doctrine. As an instrument. He can take all things and work them for good, right? Someone has said that. Heresy. Something that the church does deemed to be false sometimes has provided a pathway for a clearer definition of orthodoxy. And we see that like particularly in the early in the first two or three centuries over the person of Christ and who Jesus was. And you've got a guy like Arius that comes along and what he says, and it forces the church to have to think this through. And it does become a pathway then for a clearer definition of orthodoxy. It's interesting how this how this works. Could you elaborate on that a little more? An example of the example you were talking about. You just talk about a little more. I get it, but I'd just like to know a little bit more. You get a guy like just using the example I'm using, which you kind of get a little bit about. You'll read some more about that in the second block of material. And when you get to the word of life, he'll talk about that. But areas comes along and he he's in Alexandria. He's in the. We're talking about the around the year 300 or so in that end.
[00:16:49] And he begins to say some things about Jesus, you know, where he says, well, no, he was a he was a creature. He wasn't he wasn't eternally with the father. He was he was the highest of all beings, kind of like a demigod, somewhere between, but not fully God. And the church begins to wrestle with that and have to think that through. And they call a council the Council of Nicaea. He had scriptures, by the way, that he could quote. Doesn't Jesus say the Father is greater than I? For example, he was pretty charismatic in the sense that he was very persuasive. He was a nice guy. But the church said, Wait a minute, if Jesus isn't fully God, then when Jesus says to someone, your sins are forgiven. How can we be sure that's God saying that as opposed to some well-meaning person saying. That, you know, I could say your cell and your friends are forgiven. And you'd say, Well, that's sweet of him, you know. I think he means well, but. But who can forgive sense. But God alone, if you say or if he says he who has seen me, has seen the father. How do we know that that's really true? You know. So the church began to realize and to say, wait a minute, if Jesus isn't fully God, then our whole understanding of salvation. Changes. So they came up with this word. Homozygous, the Greek one, in essence, with the fire, and they put that in the Nicene Creed. And that became a kind of clearer definition of orthodoxy. And ever since then, pretty much. And what I would and will show you in that section is this is what Roman Catholics believe. This is what Protestants believe.
[00:18:42] I just I just spent two weeks in Russia, and the Orthodox Church is there when it comes to who Jesus says, we're pretty much all on the same page. And some of that got hammered out. What appeared to be an obstacle became stepping. Right. It's kind of like iron sharpening iron. And I'm sure you've had that kind of experience to someone that challenged you, made you back up and think about your faith or think about things. And the next time maybe when you encounter that question, you kind of had had it worked out better. And so I see that as happening. You know, that's kind of what I meant by that. And that's what they said. What we're really just trying to do is clarify what Paul meant, what John meant, what you know, what's what the New Testament meant. Now we have people today like Dan Brown and who basically says this was a big political power play and it was an attempt to squash voices that didn't want, you know, and all that kind of stuff. I'm not going to go there. But the historical evidence just does not bear that out. Any skull that really knows that stuff. If you think about those four councils. From 325 to 451. You've got four major councils where they're hammering this out. Nicaea and then I think Constantinople. 381 And then you got Ephesus and finally Charles Chow sedan. 451 it some 125 years to kind of hammer this out definitively in a way. And the interesting thing is when you when you get all done. You can summarize it in one sentence. That Jesus Christ is fully divine, fully human, and fully one. You have the simplicity. That's been arrived at on the far side of complexity.
[00:20:39] Because, believe me, they. They hammered that thing out and dealt with every objection and, you know, all the thing, you know. And and and from that point on, most of the major theologians in the church have said, well, I don't want to reinvent the wheel. I'm going to accept this as settled and I'm going to maybe build on this a little bit or explore this, but I'm going to accept the parameters that they drew for us as definitive, you know. The second part of the critical task is, you might say, categorizing valid Christian beliefs. The issue here is not whether they're not valid or not. As, you know, dogma, doctrine or opinion. I'm going to tell you what these words mean in just a minute or two. Try to define them here. But not all doctrine, not all theology rises to the same level of importance. So the question now is not is it valid, but how important is it? Well, things that we use this word dogma for are beliefs that are just absolutely essential to the gospel. In other words, if you don't believe these things, you cannot really call yourself a Christian anymore. So these things are absolutely essential. Then doctrine. These are important beliefs. But they may not be considered essential beliefs. Absolutely essential. Kind of person be a Christian. And maybe say, I'm not sure. I believe that even though that's something, it may be pretty important. You say? Well, I'm not sure that's going to keep them out of heaven. And then this word opinion. These are things that are interesting, but maybe relatively unimportant to the to the faith of the church. Sometimes our controversies with one another as Christians depend on where we put things. And how we understand them and what level of importance.
[00:23:04] So here's a little exercise for you. Take a minute while you're sitting there and just. Categorize these beliefs as dogmas. Maybe I need to give you this. These definitions again, a belief which is essential, absolutely essential to the gospel doctrines. A belief that's considered important without being essential. And then opinion. Maybe interesting, but relatively unimportant to the faith of the church. So here are just a list of things. Beliefs, you might say. Everybody know what we mean by that word transubstantiation? That's the belief that. In the Lord's Supper. The. Elements. The bread and the wine that when they're consecrated and during that act, they become the body and blood of Christ. And there's a literal when Jesus says, this is is my body. Even though outwardly they don't change, they're still bright. And I think inwardly there's an actual change of substance here. That's that's the Roman Catholic understanding since about the year 1215. Yeah, I think we're probably most most of us on. Opinion, we were pretty much I think we probably be in agreement, I might say, on infant. I'd say baptism is a doctrine, but infant baptism. Versus, say, witches versus believers, baptism of form. Now, you know, that might be more of an opinion issue for me. But the Trinity and the deity of Christ everyone had as a dogma. But. The inspiration of Scripture and the virgin birth. Couple of us weren't sure that that necessarily belongs at that level. We've had some folks speak on our campus, some major theologians over there, and I studied some theologians who believed very strongly in the deity of Christ. And the Trinity and yet did not affirm the doctrine of the virgin birth. And you say, Well, how's that possible? But they did.
[00:25:37] For them. The virgin birth. How often is it mentioned in the New Testament? Well, it shows up, of course, and I think Matthew and Luke's account, the Christmas story. But you don't find direct reference to it, do you, in the Epistles. Anywhere. Now born of a woman born under the law. There's some there's some verses here and there that seem to refer to it. You could say, well, maybe that's an allusion. But their point was, well, it never shows up as a as something that the apostles used to, in a sense, prove the deity of Christ to when they wanted to prove the duty of Christ. What did they always point to? Point to the resurrection. These were some theologians who who had an understanding of scripture had bought into certain a certain amount of biblical, higher criticism. They weren't trying to trash the Bible by any means. They took the Bible very seriously. But they said, Well, it's only mentioned in a couple of places. And we think that these are occasions where the early church is reading back in. And trying to say the right things about Jesus. They're trying to say he's folate, who's divine, that his birth was not an ordinary human birth. That he didn't just come out of history. He came into history. And we agree with the intent. But we just don't think that those truth, those stories are. Historically solid enough. And yet they're very strong on the Theory of Christ and the Trinity. Kind of interesting. So they're kind of picking and choosing there a little, you know, you might say, of course, all of the creeds, major Christian creeds, do affirm the the virgin birth, don't they? They they include the virgin birth in there.
[00:27:39] Isn't that partly the basis for the seriousness of Christ? He was without sins by being born of the Virgin, therefore, he was thought, well, contaminated or whatever. And. Something that that has been in some streams of Christian doctrine, a part of the basis of the senselessness of Christ, because he doesn't inherit this human nature. But actually, there is a number of theologians have said, and that the question then becomes, what kind of flesh did Jesus take on when he became fully human? Was it sort of like the kind Adam had before the fall? In other words, there was no sense yet, right? It was flesh, but fallen flesh. Or does Jesus take on fallen human flesh? The key text on this one is Romans eight three, which says that I can't quote it exactly, but I think it says he was born in the likeness of human flesh. There are those that say, no, It's very important that he was born with fallen human flesh. Because if he's going to redeem human flesh. That's the kind of flesh you and I've got, right? The fallen kind. And so the idea is that Jesus takes on fallen human flesh, but he redeems it and he puts within that a power of purification. So he does live a sinless life. But it's not because he had a flush. That's that's different than the kind you and I have. He redeems it from within. Each step of the way. And he undoes. And so therefore, the redemption that he brings to you and me is is a real redemption, because it's. The fathers often said this that the UN assumed as the unhealed. And if he doesn't really assume human fallen human flesh, he can't heal it. You got to go where the problem is.
[00:29:44] But you're raising a point here for me because then that challenges the impasses, Craig. In what sense? Don't we say that in the Apostles Creed for the Virgin Mary? Well, no, I mean the Virgin, but the of the church. This, you know, I mean, that's a hearsay. What kind of question? Oh, yeah. No, the virgin birth is still the virgin birth, but it's just you would raise the question whether if you didn't believe in the virgin birth, you were denying the senselessness of Christ. Both of those have been believed. Actually Odin. We'll talk about that in the second part of this of the book. So there are different differences, opinions on that. So then when you put that virgin birth and the doctrine in the doctrine category, So were you putting it? Well, you know, I think I would put it in the doctrine category. And it's not that I don't believe it. With all my heart. But I just think I've known people like that who some folks just have a hard time with the science of it. You know, there's been that part of it. I'm not sure if that if they're not believing, that will keep them out of heaven. I think that understanding who Jesus says as a as fully divine will, that I think that's a critical piece. Now, I do also agree, Carl Bart, who in the 20th century was a great staunch defender of the doctrine of the virgin birth and said that when people start nibbling away at that and start wanting to deny that it isn't very long before that's not the central miracle. The central miracle of Christianity is the incarnation. Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That's the miracle. Now, the virgin birth, in a sense, is a kind of a miracle that goes with that, and it's part and parcel of that.
[00:31:47] But he's saying if if you're never going away at that, it probably means you want to go to the main Mary and Miracle. And the other part is, if you can believe that God became fully human, why can't you believe in the virgin birth? You know, if you can't if you can believe this big miracle. Then the kind of the how that. Is much smaller. Why can't you believe that one? So he he was very strong and, you know. Let me say this, that I think it's legitimate for an expression of the body of Christ, the Vineyard. Church, for example. The Southern Baptist. Roman Catholics, Assemblies of God. Most groups tend to have some things that most of us would probably put at the level of opinion. But they end up making something that for them is is almost a part of their core identity. So if you're going to be, for example, an assembly of God, Pastor. Then you're going to be asked questions by the the ordaining body, you know, about your belief in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the evidence of speaking in tongues as evidence that a person is baptized in the Holy Spirit. That's that's part of some way of God doctrine, isn't it? I would say that's really opinion level one You. Well, is it wrong for them to do that? I don't think it's necessarily wrong for a group to say that for us. This is something that's a part of who we are. I think what when it becomes wrong is when they hoist that and insist that the whole body of Christ. Has to elevate it to the level of that they've elevated to. I think it's legitimate for us to suffer. And a church that has integrity to say, you know, if you're going to be a part of this particular group, then.
[00:33:50] That's an issue. And if you can't affirm that, then probably you need to find an expression in the body of Christ where you can affirm fully what they believe. But don't expect everybody in the body of Christ to come to end up with that same belief. You see, I think that's when it becomes problematic. Conservative Christians tend to. Want to push things upwards. That is to say, make more things. Dogma. Liberal Christians. This is just kind of a generalization here. Want to push everything more down to the level of opinion, make a lot of things, opinions and sometimes things that aren't that we would say, wait a minute. What you believe about Jesus is pretty important. You can't just put that down there, you know, as if it doesn't matter. I find this in these three categories, though, kind of helpful sometimes as I as I think about conversations I've had with people and why we differ. And while we're having a disagreement here, it's because we're doing different things with these things. And then once I can understand that, it helps me to figure out what's going on and helpful. I would say if I was going to just sort of boil it down into the bare minimum here. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, incarnation, Atonement and Trinity. And actually, Trinity kind of the church kind of backs into it, don't they? Once you affirm that Jesus Christ is fully God, then you've got to figure out how to make it, you know? Those three things to me are the central absolutely essential. Atonement for me. Which is what captures that. Yeah. The incarnation. The atonement and the death and resurrection are, you know, kind of event.
[00:35:59] Yeah. So really, this Christ event really is really the the life, death and resurrection of Christ captures it, you know, in essence. And when you start. Really wanting to water that down or do away with the centrality of that, then everything else starts coming apart to. When you're obviously working in different cultural contexts and you're working with people, one of the things that that does for you is it makes you realize that some of your the things you thought were really important and core beliefs were maybe more cultural than anything, you know. It has a way of kind of helping you. Sort things out quickly and you know, what is it that you really have to talk about? That's absolutely. So that question who to put a man say that I am. Is still the. The question, isn't it? And it's interesting how in every generation. I think The Da Vinci Code maybe is just the last score, the most recent go around on on that one. There's always an attempt made to try to undercut who Jesus really is and just to kind of reduce him to a human figure or whatever, you know. Well, the other major task. Well, we might call a constructive task. This, too, has two different sort of parts to it. The first is, you might say, constructing unified models of diverse biblical teachings. You think about what you have in Scripture. All this data. Books written over a long period of history. Sometimes saying different things written by different people. How do you bring this together? It's almost like seeing a group of numbers, right? You remember learning about common denominators? And how if you can find the common denominator, you can kind of put this together. One of the tasks I think that theologians engage in and that we engage in in a work is helping people, helping even the average Christian begin to make sense out of it all.
[00:38:24] And it seems like. The doctrine of the Trinity is a good example of something. That's helpful and enabling me now to read the various parts of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, and to figure out what seems to be diverse and different actually is a part of a greater whole. The Trinity is like that. I think it's implicit in the raw materials of the Bible, but it has to be it needs to be drawn out. Or distinctions that sometimes theologians make. Somebody says to you. Condemnation of homosexuality. That's found in the Book of Leviticus. You don't accept all those food laws and the Book of Leviticus, do you? If you throw out those food laws. I mean, I noticed you had a ham sandwich the other day. If you can throw those out, why can't you throw out that verse that says it's a sin for a man to lie with another man? That is an abomination. What are you doing? You're just picking and choosing. So how would you respond to someone that says that to you? Maybe you haven't had a conversation like that with anybody, but you sometimes hear things like that today, you know, Well, okay, how do we make sense out of the fact that there's lots of things in the Book of Leviticus? That we don't feel like we're obligated to do. Yet other things that we are we do feel like we're obligated to do. A guy like John Calvin comes along and I'm reading his institutes and he says, Well, it's actually pretty simple. I mean, you know, there are different kinds of law. But we find. In the Old Testament and particularly in the books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy. You know, he says there's there's the civil law.
[00:40:34] What do you do? You know, if some something falls on somebody or somebody gets killed by somebody or whatever. What do you what do you do in these legal. Then there's the ceremonial law. The proper way to to do a peace offering and a guilt offering and what to do after you've had a baby and what kind of sex. You know, there's the ceremonial law and then there's the moral law. As Christians, we're not obligated to the ceremonial and the civil law. That's in the Old Testament, are we? We don't even think twice about that. But we would say, well, wait a minute. We think that passage there actually is touching on what we would call the moral law. And that is the law that's unchanging. And that we are obligated to. That's a nice distinction, isn't it, between those three types of. Laws. Maybe it's not as neat and tidy as that in every case, but the point is it helps us. Do this very kind of thing. It helps us to make the distinction that. Oh, yeah. That sheds a lot of light on that. That's one of the one of the things that. Theologians do and the Christian teachers have to do in helping people understand the scripture. And then relating biblical models to contemporary culture. So I went on the Vineyard's website. I got to meet Burt Waggoner and Gary Best when they were down at Aspen this past fall and enjoyed getting to talk to them. And they were talking about these five core values. And one of the core values of the vineyard, not necessarily the Columbus Vineyard. You may have some. Core value kinds of things you've done around here that are, you know, but one of them has to do with relevant engagement of culture as one of the core values.
[00:42:39] That's one of the tasks of theology. Why do we have to do that anyway? Why can't we just read the Bible? We can't love our neighbor in West. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Give me an example of Paul doing it. This sort of missionary during his run in different cultures or in Rome or. You ever noticed how he preaches differently when he when he's on Mars Hill? Preaching to a bunch of Gentile Greeks as opposed to a sermon that you might get him preaching in a Jewish synagogue. He doesn't quote the Old Testament when he's with on Mars. Hell does he? He starts in a different place. He. He's being contextual, isn't he? Well, I guess we need to do it this way because God did it this way. Isn't that part of the message of the incarnation? The word became flesh, right? And that meant that he became a Galilean peasant particular, very particular. He you know, I mean, he would not have spoken Aramaic with a hint. He would have had what we would have probably called a kind of a hillbilly backwoods accent, wouldn't he? Because that's the way Galilean spoke it. You know. The point is that God himself moved into our neighborhood. And part of the reason we have to do it according to. Helmut Taylor a. Great, actually. World War Two German pastor Preacher says the gospel must be continually forwarded to a new address because the recipients are constantly changing their place of residence. When I think about what I did when I graduated from school seminary, you know, 35 years or so ago and went into youth ministry. And the way you do that now, You couldn't get me to go near youth ministry with a ten foot pole.
[00:44:54] You wouldn't want me to. There was a time when I was. I could be contextual. But men talk about the recipients changing their place of residence. A lot of things you need to know now to be able to relate to youth that we didn't even have to. There were no video games back then. So they keep changing their place. So what that means is if I say the same thing that I said ten years ago. It might not be understood exactly the same way. So if I'm going to say the same thing, I may have to say something different to say the same thing because my hair won't hear the same thing because they've shifted. I was reading an op ed by Kathleen Parker a couple of years ago, and she was just kind of describing kind of the shift in American culture away from a Judeo-Christian America. And this was her description. It's a little maybe extreme, but it kind of made me sit up and think and take notice. So she says this in post Judeo-Christian America, the sports club is the new church. Global warming is the new religion. Vegetarianism is the new sacrament. Hooking up the new prayer talk therapy, the new witnessing tattooing and piercing the new sacred symbols and rituals. It's a different world than what some of us grew up in, right? How do I preach the gospel and live out the gospel in a changing kind of context? You guys know this guy at all? Yeah. Rob Bell. He wrote a book a few years ago called Velvet Elvis. Repainting the Christian faith. So how did he learn how to preach? He was in a band, wasn't he? I forget the name of that band. Yeah, he was in a punk band.
[00:46:55] But basically his childhood, his childhood hero was David Letterman. And he grew up listening to David Letterman. When he went to Fuller Seminary. He didn't do that well in preaching classes. Because they didn't know quite what to do with him. But he has a way of knowing how to connect Disney. Yeah, there was an article about him. Letterman isn't a bad example for pastors since he's been on television every night for 20 years engaging the culture. And Velvet. Elvis, you know this book. He describes what that's about. Somewhere in my basement sits a velvet Elvis, a painting of the king himself, airbrushed on to black velvet and a wooden frame. What if the painter of my Velvet Elvis announced there was no more need to paint? But he had painted the ultimate painting. The Christian faith will never be complete. We will always be exploring and discovering what it means to live in harmony with God and each other. If we don't, our faith may end up in the basement. Velvet Elvis is about the endless need to keep painting. He's being a good theologian. And this desire to try to engage the culture, isn't he? Obviously, if you if you go too far with an attempt to engage the culture, the culture will end up defining what the gospel is, right? Missy Allergists in the field of Ms.. Theology. They make a distinction between contextualization, which is what you're aiming for, really putting the gospel in. A cultural form that's really indigenous. As opposed to syncretism. Where the norms of the culture and the forms of the culture basically end up squeezing the gospel up to such to such a degree that there's no more gospel. So there's so there's obviously a danger here, isn't there? And there's some Christians that decide, well, you just you don't want to go down that road.
[00:49:07] Because it's dangerous, you might end up. Losing the gospel or compromising the gospel. So they don't want to do it at all. Can you afford not to take the risk? I think we have to do this, but we also have to recognize and and part of the reason why I think it's wise to read a book like Thomas Oden Classic Christianity is that helps you. It gives you boundaries. This, the scripture and tradition are helpful so that you can know that can norm and help you do this well. We had a guy on campus a couple of years ago, Damian Boyd, who pastors a church in metro Atlanta. His sermon. Basically, he was talking about the hip hop culture. And he was saying, you know how the church has basically seen the hip hop culture as something basically evil? A negative. And yet this particular culture has radically influenced our culture in terms of the music. And you know, what his plea was is, you know. Let's try to reach these folks with the gospel. How do you reach them? These were some of the things that he said you've got to understand about what he called the hip hop head. And these are some of the things that. Folks that are a part of this culture, how how they think and what they you know. Well, he's just being a theologian as he trying to connect with the culture. Got a lot of us to thinking. Or I think about Blake and Tracy State, and they graduated. From seminary in the in the mid 1990s and they've been working over in northern Laos trying to bring the gospel to an unreached people group. The cool people. They've been over there a while, actually ministering among another similar group of people.
[00:51:16] Who are these people's cousins? These folks actually originally came down from Tibet. And they came to Blake and asked him to help them because they feel like they're losing some of their own culture. And they wanted him to come in. And so he kind of got an invitation to kind of function like an anthropologist would and helping them. But he's he does a fantastic job. And trying to indigenization and work with them within their own culture. You see him here? Actually, at a funeral. Of one of the leaders, one of the tribal leaders. I love getting his newsletter that he sends me because he's just so perceptive and seeks to try to follow the leading of the spirit and trying to really reach these folks as to where they are. And he writes this in this newsletter called The Jesus DNA. It was a long ten day funeral. Squealing animals resounded daily as many were sacrificed. Their blood spilled in honor of the deceased. Cure Village's eldest spirit priest. Overwhelming darkness ensued as the light has not yet dawned upon the achool. I wept in prayer one morning on the porch of the village head men's house for God to open their eyes to the good news and to release his glory among this village, said Blake. Later in the village common area, the prized sacrifice a large water buffalo was spared in preparation for him to carry the deceased's soul to the place of the creator and the ancestors. That's what the grandfathers explained to me. The Buffalo's head was then put under a handmade mannequin of the deceased and placed at the head of the grave. And he writes This true story seems strange to the Western mind. As we approach the end of the first decade of the 20th century.
[00:53:22] However, if we peer in deeper, as with a spiritual microscope, there is a context. One that contains divine evidence of the pre incarnate Jesus among a people in preparation for the good news. The quote. Legend says that when God the Creator called all of the people groups before him, the Kuo were given God's word written on a buffalo skin. For other peoples. His word was written in a book and other various forms. The actual ancestor who received God's word on the buffalo skin got hungry and ate the skin while walking home. So they are cool to this day. Believe they carry God's word in their hearts or stomachs. He says if Jesus is presented to the achool as the buffalo from heaven. Then it really is good news. Spared Jesus. God's word in human form became our final blood sacrifice and our divine carriers to the place of our Creator, our heavenly home. So he's trying to take some of their own cultural norms and stories and and help. To see the gospel. It's already there and use that as a bridge as he seeks to, to bring this tribe, these folks, to come to know Christ. He's done some amazing things over there. And all of these examples, whether it's Rob Bell, whether it's Damien Boyd, these are all just examples, aren't they, of. Being good theologians carrying out this task of bringing things relating to contemporary culture.