Wesleyan Theology I - Lesson 1

Nature of Practical Theology (Part 1)

For the first 5 centuries after Christ, the theology of the Christian Church was ecumenical. Since then, you have differences in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, and then the Reformation with different Protestant traditions. The Church has a history of promoting and preserving knowledge in all fields of study. Ideological secularization is characterizing theological ideas as irrelevant and not academic. Structural secularization is the process of marginalizing the subject of theology in the academy. Both revelation and reason are both important elements in the discussion of philosophical and theological subjects. God is transcendant, which means that he is distinct from everything that has been made. God is immanent, which means that the Spirit of God can be communicated in time and space through media, but is not the media itself. 

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology I
Lesson 1
Watching Now
Nature of Practical Theology (Part 1)




A. Rise of the Universities in the 11th century

B. Secularization of the Academy


V. Definition of Theology

VI. God is Immanent and Transcendent

VII. Theology and Philosophy

A. Four major divisions of philosophy

B. Systematic Theology vs Dogmatic Theology

VIII. Questions and Answers

  • For the first 5 centuries after Christ, the theology of the Christian Church was ecumenical. Since then, you have differences in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology, and then the Reformation with different Protestant traditions. The Church has a history of promoting and preserving knowledge in all fields of study. Ideological secularization is characterizing theological ideas as irrelevant and not academic. Structural secularization is the process of marginalizing the subject of theology in the academy. Both revelation and reason are both important elements in the discussion of philosophical and theological subjects. God is transcendant, which means that he is distinct from everything that has been made. God is immanent, which means that the Spirit of God can be communicated in time and space through media, but is not the media itself. 

  • God can only be fully know by revelation. However, we can know some things about God by observation and reason. Thomas Aquinas gave 5 reasons that supports the idea of the existence of God. We can perceive motion and there must be something that caused the motion. Nothing can come from nothing, so something must exist at all times, which is God. Humans are contingent beings, but God’s essence is to exist. There are different degrees of goodness and complexity in organisms, so there must be a being of a highest form of good. Design and purpose must be at work because it’s not reasonable that the universe resulted from chance. Dembski also estimates that the mathematical odds for everything happening from a single cell at less than 1 in 10 to the 150th power. 

  • Humans are both material and spiritual and have the capacity to experience transcendence. Without God, you are describing a diminished view of humanity. John Calvin says that wisdom is the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. Revelation of God comes from Scripture (the most important), tradition, reason and experience. Theology should be participatory and result in transformation. …Wesley’s theology describe in two words would be, “holiness” and “grace.” Wesley’s theology is conjunctive. Holy love is a tension. Holiness results in separation and love results in community. Wesley’s view of grace includes both cooperant grace and free grace. 

  • Two sources for knowledge are revelation and reason. Empiricism teaches  that you get knowledge from your senses. Rationalism teaches that you get knowledge from the operation of your mind. Kant said that the mind makes a formal contribution to knowledge by organizing it.  All knowledge begins with experience but it does not all arise out of experience. Reason can only take us so far. Humans are the only species that worship God.

  • Scripture is unique, the word of God and inspired by God. Scripture is the source of truth and provides a norm for truth. Wesley gives four arguments for inspiration. They are miracles, prophecy, goodness of the doctrine and the moral character of the penmen. Characteristics of Scripture include the sufficiency, clarity and wholeness of Scripture. 

  • Univocal refers to a one-to-one correspondence between the language we use and the reality of God. Equivocal refers to the idea that human language does not correspond directly to describing God, so it acknowledges ambiguity and more than one interpretation. Analogical refers to language used to describe God using  analogy. “Via Negativa” is describing characteristics that God is “not.” “Via Positiva” is describing a characteristic that is true of God, using analogy. Aseity means that God’s essence  is to exist. Eternity means that God transcends the limitations of time-space. There is not a space where God is not. Omniscience of God means that God knows all things. Omnipotence of God means that God is all powerful. Once God creates, there is an order in creation, and God works within the framework he created.  Immutability means that God’s essence does not change. Leslie Weatherhead describes three aspects of the will of God as the intentional will of God, circumstantial will of God and the ultimate will of God. Wesley describes God’s holiness as purity and simplicity. The wrath of God can be described as God’s unending determined opposition to evil.

  • Triunity describe God’s nature. The concept of the Trinity was foreshadowed in the Old Testament and taught explicitly in the New Testament. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all active in creation, baptism of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus. The Trinity is three distinct persons with the same essence. The distinctiveness has to do, not with their nature or essence, but with the relations. Person is different than an individual. According to Wesley, the Trinity is an invitation to participate in the deeper life of God. The gospel is the universal love of God, manifested in the person of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness apart from love can result in legalism. Love apart from holiness can result in sentimentality and wishful thinking. 

  • God created humans in his image so we have both a physical and spiritual nature. Sometimes biologists make statements about evolution that are outside of what can be examined and verified by science. According to young earth creationism, creation took place in 6, 24 hour days and the earth is about 6,000 years old. According to theistic evolution, once the process of evolution began, no special supernatural intervention was required for it to continue. The opposite of a naturalistic explanation for life is not supernatural, but intelligent causes. Intelligent design makes information theory and mathematical probability integral to its overall approach. Irreducible complexity argues against gradualism in the evolutionary process. 

  • God freely created the world and chooses to govern within the framework of the created order. The moral law is consistent with the character of God. God uses the moral law to convict the world of sin, bring us to Christ and keep us alive. Natural law is a body of moral principles that can be discerned by reason. Natural law is the will of God expressed in a created order. Deep conscience refers to the interior witness to the foundational principles of the moral law. Four characteristics of our moral design that are evident at the level of the species are interdependence, complementarity, spontaneous order and subsidiarity. 

  • Adam and Eve were created, not just as physical beings, but also spiritual beings. The image of God includes relationality as well as the capacity for rational thought. Wesley describes it as a natural image, political image and moral image. Wesley says that the natural image of God means that we have physical bodies and also a spiritual nature. Humanity is the conduit for God’s blessing of the rest of creation. 

  • The characteristics that give a human personhood belong to another order of explanation than that explored by biology. Sartre, who is an existentialist, says that existence precedes essence. In other words, each person determines their own nature by the choices they make. Others would say that your choices determine your character but that’s separate from your nature. Postmodernism teaches that the self is only a social and linguistic construct. Some scientists have argued that humans do not have a soul, but that cannot be proved or disproved by the scientific method. If God is dead, humanity is dead. Human beings are more than the social groups in which they participate. Humans are animals, but not merely animals.

  • Lucifer brought sin into the world with his sin of pride. The sin of Adam and Eve was unbelief. Wesley describes  unbelief as the perversion of the relationship between God and humanity, a lack of faith in God, resulting in alienation. He distinguishes three types of death as physical death, spiritual death and eternal death. Satan was self-tempted when he sinned. Adam and Eve were tempted by something external to them, Satan.  Wesley sees Adam as a representative of all humans, so all humans inherit Adam’s sin nature. 

  • There are orders of creation and preservation, like family and marriage, that can mediate the grace of God. God sustains creation, and also relates to people as persons. The three-fold circle of divine providence is the outer ring of the whole race of humans, the second smaller circle is all that are called believers and those who profess to be believers, the innermost circle only the true disciples of Jesus who worship God in Spirit and in truth. Wesley doesn’t deny that bad things happen to good people, both from other people and from events in nature. If God eliminated all evil, it would require eliminating freedom, which would also eliminate love. 

  • Wesley describes total depravity as "a want of original righteousness," and also in terms of a "natural propensity to sin.” Luther, Calvin and George Croft Cell agree. Eastern Orthodox teaches that Adam and Eve were not so fallen as to be unable to respond to any subsequent proffered grace. Wesley teaches the total depravity of humans and the sovereign act of God in salvation. He uses prevenient grace in two distinct ways. The “narrow” sense refers to all those degrees of grace that come before justifying and sanctifying grace. The “broad” use views all grace as prevenient and emphasizes the prior activity of God because he is always ahead of us and takes the initiative. Prevenient grace can be understood as both cooperant and free grace. 

  • God acts preveniently to give humans revelation by communicating his divine attributes. God places in humans a moral law that is expressive of the image of God. The Holy Spirit restored to all humans a certain measure of free-will. Original sin makes it impossible for people to respond to God on their own without God restoring their personhood, which they need to be able to respond to God’s grace. God doesn’t do it in a way that overruns a person’s personality.

  • The incarnation is a foundational teaching of the Christian faith. Since Jesus claimed to be God, it’s not an option that he could be just a good person. Paul teaches that Jesus has the same nature as God and that Jesus created all things. Ebionites rejected the divinity and virgin birth of Jesus. Adoptionism taught that Christ was a good man that was penetrated by God’s nature at his baptism and becomes divine, which treats divinity as an acquired attribute. Arias taught that Christ was not coeternal with the Father. He was more than mere man but he was created so he wasn’t equal with God. The first ecumenical council of Nicea in 325 affirms the divinity of Christ in response to the teaching of Arias. Wesley affirmed that Jesus existed as one person with both a human and divine nature. To affirm the essential equality of Christ with God the Father, Wesley often used the terms, “the only-begotten Son of God,” and “the Word of God.” The Son of God is the creator and sustainer of all things and the redeemer of humanity. The difference in the Godhead is relations, not nature. 

  • 1 John 4:2 describes the incarnation as Jesus coming to earth in the flesh. Jesus is also referred to as the Son of David in the Gospels. Jesus was able to become the mediator between God and humanity because his divinity meant that he was not a part of the problem of sin and his humanity meant that he could fully identify with humans. This is a unique and distinct role that can only be accomplished by Jesus, the God-human. Jesus suffered physically and emotionally and then died and was resurrected to new life. This qualifies him to be priest, a mediator between man and God. The title, Son of Man also emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. Apolliniarism taught that Jesus had a human body and soul, but a divine mind rather than a human mind. Docetism taught that Christ is pure spirit and only seemed to have a body. Gnostics view the body as lowly and the mind is considered higher. Monophysitism taught that the divine and human nature of Jesus was mixed into one nature. Nestorianism teaches that the divine and human natures of Jesus were sharply separated. Wesley viewed Jesus as the expression of the God of holy love, maintaining divinity while becoming human.

  • As a prophet, Jesus proclaimed the coming kingdom of God. Messiah in Hebrew has the same meaning as Christ in Greek. It means, “the anointed one.” The baptism of Jesus was the beginning of his public ministry.  When Satan tempted Jesus, the temptation was real because of the humanity of Jesus. It was necessary for Jesus to experience temptation. Jesus as a preacher, went from place to place, proclaiming the kingdom of God. As a teacher, Jesus taught in the synagogues and the listeners described him as teaching with authority. Christ as a lawgiver is seeking to communicate wisdom to humanity. This moral law is connected to God’s character. Jesus performed miracles to heal the sick, bring people back from the dead and demonstrate his power over nature. Christ as priest, became the mediator to bridge the gap between God and humanity. At the cross, what the holiness of God required, the love of God provided. Theories of the atonement are the best attempts of thinking about how to express the atoning work of Jesus. 

  • Penal substitution asserts that atonement primarily involves Jesus’ taking the sinner’s place (‘substitution’) in bearing the penalty (hence ‘penal’) for his or her sin. That penalty was no less than God’s wrath and the sinner’s death. God’s wrath is his unswerving opposition to evil. The moral influence theory teaches that without the fall, that amazing instance of the love of God to humanity would have never existed. Penal substitution and moral influence theory complement each other. In the governmental view, the death of Christ illustrates the punishment which sin may attract and therefore serves good government by acting as a deterrent. Jesus raised from the dead into an immortal body. Only life can give meaning to human existence. Death destroys all meaning. The first time Christ came as a redeemer. As king, Christ is coming again to rule . Three roles of king are giving laws, restoring people to the image of God and reigning in all believing hearts.

  • The personhood of the Holy Spirit is revealed by the roles of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the disciples that he would send an advocate. The Holy Spirit is an advocate, teacher, proclaims truth, provides direction and assists in prayer. Four characteristics of the Holy Spirit that indicate his deity are eternity, omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. The Filioque controversy is a difference between how the Eastern Orthodox and Western Traditions describe the nature of the Holy Spirit.

  • At the beginning of creation, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible and brings understanding as people read it. The Holy Spirit makes effective the completed work of Christ and gives us the power to live out the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is personal, not an impersonal force. The believers received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after Christ ascended to heaven. The gifts of the Spirit are for the common good of building up the body of Christ. We should be cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives and his influence should be evident in how we interact corporately.

 John Wesley's beliefs understood from an historical and theological perspective

Dr. Ken Collins
Wesleyan Theology I
Nature of Practical Theology (Part 1)
Lesson Transcript


Our gracious Heavenly Father. We are always thankful and big and come before your holy throne in the name of Jesus Christ, who for us is a living redeemer. He is the resurrected one. Death could not hold him. The grave could not keep him. He was raised by the spirit of holiness. And if that same spirit of holiness is in us, then we too shall rise. And so we give you abundant thanks. And we speak out of a heart of rich gratitude that having a living savior, we are free from the guilt of sin. Our sins having been washed away by the blood of Christ. We're also grateful and thankful that you have sent the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We in the Spirit, the Spirit in us that we might be empowered, empowered to live the life, the distinct life towards which you have called us a life of holy love. I ask that you be with all who are within the range of my words. I pray that we will be a community of bodies and souls and spirits together seeking. Your goodness. Oh, Heavenly Father, seeking the truth of the Spirit and seeking the joy that is Jesus Christ. And it's in His name. We pray by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God, the Father. Amen. Okay. Just by way of introduction, the course is properly titled Introduction to Wesleyan Theology. Introduction to Wesleyan Theology. Now I'm going to make a little commentary about that title to give you a sense of orientation. You, of course, in the past have been familiar with many courses in theology. They simply say Introduction to Christian theology. Why didn't I do that here? Well, because I want to be very frank and honest, because that some of the theology as I read Introduction to Christian Theology, there are actually the theologies of distinct theological traditions in the church.


And so for the sake of truth in advertising, I think it's helpful to let you know of what out of what tradition I come to this entire theological enterprise. You, of course, realize that Christians from different traditions read the Bible differently. They read the Bible differently. They bring their interpretations to the text. I want to be fully aware of that and not in a critical way, but in a descriptive way. Just to realize that in the beauty that is the church today, the church is made up of many distinct traditions. No one of those distinct traditions can claim to be the center. Those are the facts of historical of church history. Those are the facts of church history. And so I have a little slide or overview, and let me just talk in a basic overview of the history of the church so you understand what I'm saying? I think if we look at the history of the church from the time of Christ and the apostolic witness from the first century through, let's say through the first five centuries, what we basically have is what I like to call the ancient ecumenical church, the ancient ecumenical church, and meaning that, you know, by and large there was unanimity. There were no great divisions, not of yet. But by the time we get to the sixth century. 589. Exactly. The third synod of Toledo, the Western tradition, distinguished itself and departed from the ancient ecumenical consensus by interpolating the words the Philly OC into the Creed, the ancient Nicene Constantinople and Creed. The early Creed said the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father, and the interpolation says the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. And so the feeling okay is the addition of the words and the son.


The West did this. The West eventually accepted this. But that breaks the ecumenical consensus. Eastern Orthodox, even today, do not accept the Philly OC clause. So what do we have here? Do we have a schism? Well, I don't think so. But what we do have, and this is important if you're going to think like a historian, we have two distinct traditions, both Christian, but two distinct tradition. One, a Latin writing thinking tradition, the other a Greek writing and thinking tradition. Okay, well, there are lots of tensions that are growing up between these distinct traditions East and west. And part of the problem now is being exacerbated by the papacy because the bishop of Rome is coming to preeminence and that takes time. That's a historical product. There is no pope. For example, in the first century, Peter was not a pope. Peter might have been many things, but he was not a pope. Because what we mean by a pope takes centuries to develop. You'd have to establish a monarchical episcopacy, you'd have to prefer the Roman episcopacy, etc., etc., etc.. But eventually the papacy comes to power and that issue between east and west is a chafing one. It's a chafing one until finally we get to 1054. And there are many elements involved in this split. And it is a schism. It is a schism. And what we mean by schism is there is a parting of the ways. There is a separation, there is an alienation of love and affection. That's what we mean by schism. I hear people use the word schism today in all sorts of contexts. Many of them are wrong. Schism means alienation of love and affection, a severing of communion where there should be communion. Okay, so by 1054, we definitely have distinct theological traditions.


Not only that, we have a schism between East and West. Then then in the 16th century, Western Christianity, what happens? It breaks up. It breaks up into all these distinct traditions. It breaks up into those who were willing to accept the reform and those who were not willing to accept the reform. So we have Lutheran Reformed, we have Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and of baptism, all these distinct traditions. And they're Christian, their Christian traditions. Okay. No one more Christian nor less Christian than the other. Sometimes I hear Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics criticize Protestants and they say, Oh, well, you only go back until the 16th century. False. Protestants go back to think of the image of a family tree now that's branching out. Protestants go back to the first century. We all go back to Jesus Christ. It's all our history. The model you want to have in your mind is a model of a family history, a tree that is branching and ever branching out. And we all go back to Christ and the apostles. So that's helpful for us to know. So what I'm saying then, when I say that this course is an introduction to Wesleyan theology. I'm basically arguing this is a course that comes out of the theological tradition of Wesleyan ism, which itself came out of the the Anglican Reformation, which itself was a part of the Roman Catholic Church, which itself was once a part of the ancient ecumenical church, which itself all the way all went all the way back to the time of Jesus. That's the most truthful, most accurate way to present what I'm doing. The fact that I call it an introduction to Wesleyan theology makes no judgment whatsoever on your theology if it be reformed or a Lutheran or Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.


I as a historian, and simply acknowledging the realities of what history has been and what the facts and artifacts of history have taught us, I must reflect that in my lecture. So that's the first thing I wanted to say about introduction to Western theology. The second thing I want to say by way of, you know, broader introduction to give us a sense of orientation is that in our very secular culture, and I'm thinking largely here of North America, but I could also be thinking of Germany or Estonia or Japan or elsewhere. We tend to be very secular in our orientation and religion. If we allow it, recognition is oftentimes put aside maybe at the children's table, at a Thanksgiving meal or something like that. That's I want to pick at that image. I want to challenge that image because in my understanding of theology and theology is going to entail two major things revelation which will come from God, something we could not tell ourselves. That's why it's called revelation. But then also reason to talk about the fruits of human wisdom with respect to reason. And the church historically has had a very large role to play in. A fostering and development of human knowledge. And that story needs to be told because I think given our secular age, it has been forgotten. And so I want to draw your attention, first of all, to the wisdom of the ancient Greeks and Romans, their attempts at organizing a study, and then to see the revival of that effort after the fall of Rome, when it was left to the church to basically midwife the knowledge that had existed earlier. And so we see in the 11th century universities developing a rising and by and there were over 75 universities by the time we get to 1400.


The important point to see here is that with the rise of the universities, we think of years that that is something that comes out of the western medieval situation. It comes out of the church. The church has very much to do with knowledge. It always has. It has very much to do with knowledge. The universities arise out of the context of the church, and there are several reasons for the rapid rise of the universities around 1200. First of all, earlier of course, Martinez Capella, around 4 to 5, adapted the Roman quads, Trivium and Trivium to the use of religion. The Trivium included such things as grammar, rhetoric and logic, and I wish our students today would study more grammar and rhetoric. Language very, very important. But then the Trivium of grammar, rhetoric and logic was also met with the quad Trivium that is geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and music. And so these were seven areas of studies that were celebrated. They are revived in the Middle Ages. The universities are arising. They are centering around a key teacher, a key leader. We think of one of the great medieval teachers as Abelard Abelard, who was at the University of Paris and attracted many students to come and to listen to him. But there were other important universities during this time as well. Oxford developed out of revolt of the University of Paris in 1167 or 1168. We're not exactly sure of the date here. Cambridge grew out of a student revolt and exodus from Oxford in 1209. Now, the university usually had four faculties. The arts were the general course for all for all students. But then you would have the higher level studies. What would you have? You'd have theology, law, What else? Theology, law and medicine, theology, law and medicine.


And by the way, theology was referred to as Does anyone know? The queen of the sciences. That's correct. Well, in our age, that queen has been dethroned. However, in this course, you will see the re enthronement of the queen and why that is important and why that is necessary. So, yes, education proceeded along a general course, what we might call the liberal arts. Then, after you studied in those areas, you'd move on to higher level learning. You'd study specifically in theology or law or medicine. Okay. And so the general curriculum of the arts, they would study the Trivium, which led to the bachelor's degree, further study in the quad. Trivium would lead to the master's degree. And in the Middle Ages, the master's degree was the basic teaching degree. If you got the master's degree, that was the degree you would use to teach. That shows a difference between that age and our age. You would get the doctorate when you would do advanced research, advanced research in either law, theology or medicine. Now, just to show you how secular our culture is, when U.S. News and World Report does its, you know, big report on graduate schools, they they have it in terms of medicine and law, but not theology, although they could easily do it for theology as well. There are great theology schools here today, some of them in this country, some of them in Europe, some of them elsewhere. But silence, silence from you know, the magazines are showing that in this country at least, it's not simply separation of church and state, which actually I would be in favor of, but it's actually separation of church and culture, which I'm opposed to very much opposed to that. But there's this sort of slipping over into the one without fully recognizing what's going on.


We should be talking about theological schools because these theological schools will make an important contribution, not capable of being made by medicine and law and important contribution to human knowledge. We will press the limits of human knowledge in various ways in theology that cannot be done through through law or through medicine. And so that's one of the reasons why I want to lift this up. If you're interested in a good book which can lay out which can chart this course that I've been talking about, this whole area of the secularization of education. Take a look at the American historian George Marsden's book. It's called The Secularization of the Academy. The Secularization of the Academy. And it's a fascinating book. And he basically argues that secularization at the university comes to us in two basic forms, two basic forms. One of these forms you're already familiar with, and you may have experienced this yourself, you know, sending some of your children, perhaps some of your grandchildren off to university. And it's what we call ideological secularization. In other words, the professor, the professor is either an atheist or an agnostic, and he or she is determined to dethrone the 18 year old Baptist god that's in the classroom. That that's that's their purpose. That's their intent, you know, on some level, because I do agree. Knowledge is power. It is power that I, as a well-educated person, must use knowledge appropriately. So, for example, if I were to hear the things that this professor is laying before the 18 year old mind, they wouldn't shake my faith. Why not? Well, because I can contextualize that against other things that I know. Okay. But this 18 year old doesn't know those other things and is oftentimes overwhelmed.


I call that intellectual bullying because knowledge must be given appropriately in terms of people what they are ready for, and then you can lead them to the next step. But I can I know of several stories, personal friends I have who experience this kind of intellectual bullying going on in the classroom, mocking, religion, mocking. In the Christian faith as if it were passé, as if it were not intellectually up to snuff. Although, don't tell that to Thomas Aquinas. Yeah. That sort of thing. But he doesn't leave it there. Marsden talks about another kind of secularism, and I think maybe this one is the more substantial movement of secularism because it's so pervasive. It's it's almost like fish being in water. You don't even realize you're swimming in it. What is it? What does he call it? He calls it structural secularization or something similar. Structural or. Yeah, I think structural is the term he uses. What does he mean by this? He means compare the medieval university. The medieval university. What was the capstone of education? What was the Queen of Sciences in the medieval university? Theology. So all of you are learning. All of your learning had a goal, a purpose, a telos. In other words, it was another way to know, love and enjoy God forever. Whether you're studying mathematics, whether you're studying earth science, whether you're studying rhetoric, whether you're studying literature. It was another way to give God glory because it was seen in a teleological way perspective. Okay. That's all gone. That's all gone. What you have in the university today is what for? Want a better language? Radical de secularization, one discipline after another, discipline after another, discipline after another discipline. You could hardly keep up going through the average university bulletin today.


The thickness of the pages, the menace of the disciplines, the lost ness of a center. You see, that's what he means by structural secularization. Okay. And so you can see, given the context that I'm working in, there is a challenge ahead for me. There's a challenge ahead for me because there is not only ideological secularization, which I believe the church must give a good and reasonable response to, I think we must. But then beyond that, there is also structural secularization, the very way we structure and configure university education today, where in filling out the many ness of the disciplines, there is no longer a center, there is no longer a center. And so that is a challenge. Do you know in the 19th century when many Christian colleges were established in the wake of the second Great Awakening, that the president of that college would teach the senior course as a kind of capstone, and it would be a course in moral philosophy, bringing all of the diversity of education to a very nice focus. And the president, he or she would offer the capstone course of moral philosophy. Those days are well gone. Those days are well gone. Okay, so this takes us to our journey, the beginning of our journey. Introduction to Wesleyan Theology. Let me say a few words about that title. When I say Wesleyan here, although you will hear quite a bit about John Wesley, this course is much more than John Wesley. John Wesley simply is the father of Methodism, hailing from the great revival in the 18th century. But. Wesleyan theology in a broader sense than that Wesleyan theology, in the sense of how Wesleyan, given their reading of scripture, how they interpret the Bible, how that affects their view of the world, how it affects their view of understanding of knowledge.


So in that sense, Wesleyan theology, so I'm using the term Wesleyan broadly conceived, not simply referring specifically to John Wesley, though I will say and talk about Wesley fairly often, but I'm also going to be talking about others, Wesleyan theologians after John Wesley, like Pope and Nutzen and and H. Horton, Wiley and others. And so we need to state that as well. So in the lecture that I'm offering this morning, I will consider the hope and promise of doing theology in the 21st century. I know where I am. I'm in the 21st century tackling and facing 21st century problems, and I'm going to offer a working definition of theology as we progress by exploring the relation between theology, the genius of the Christian faith on the one hand, and also philosophy on the other, representing the best of human knowledge and wisdom. And I will employ these two broad lenses which others have called revelation and reason, and demonstrate the importance of doing theology today that why everyone in the church, not just the preacher, not just the priest, not just the minister, but everyone in the church today has to be doing theology. We need to learn how to think theologically, because if we don't learn to think theologically in terms of our own narrative, our own story, which is the gospel, another kind of thinking will fill in the gaps and that becomes dangerous. We're going to see that doing theology is necessary today in order to tackle the very big questions of life. The very big questions of life. Does God exist? Does God exist? This God? Is God real? Is God meaningful? Does faith in God have value? And what about human finite ness? Human finitude? Whenever you ask the question of God, and I think for you got this right, you're also asking the question about humanity.


The two go hand in hand, and oftentimes a misunderstanding of one leads to a misunderstanding of the other. Those two are very well connected, which means today we are in very difficult, very difficult times. And I'll explain as we as we go on. So we're going to define our word theology. You realize, of course, it's made up of two key routes here, two Greek words. They are us. They are us, which means God and logos, which means word. So literally, the study of theology is the study of the Word of God or the word about God, if you will. It's going to have God as its object, although we have to be very clear here when we're thinking about God. And this is a necessary caution and counsel that some of the neo atheists should have taken into account, though they did not. God is not an object. God is not a thing in the world. God is not in time. Space like a chair is in time space. God is not the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as some of the neo atheists have said. That is all stupidity. Stupidity. Because when Christian theologians talk about God, we do not mean an object in time space. God is not a thing. God is not stuff. God is spirit, and it's going to take people some time to get used to to come home to. That's a better expression. Come home, too, because we too are spiritual beings to come home to the reality of spirit. The reality of spirit, because that is not only going to illuminate in one sense who God is, but control wise. It will illuminate who we are as as spiritual, as spiritual beings. And so God is not in time space the way a chair is in time space.


We do not discern God by the senses. One of the Russian astronauts, when he went up into space, he said, I don't see God here. I don't see God in space. Once again, as a theologian, I look upon that as an agent, as ignorance, as ignorance, because God does not correspond to the five senses. What I can see, what I can touch, what I can drink or taste or feel. That's not what we what we mean by God. God is not amenable to any sort of empirical proof, any sort of empirical proof. And this is where even top flight, top flight scientists have made great mistakes, profound mistakes in the area of theology, because knowledge of theology is so small in our culture. For example, the late Carl Sagan before he died, he said, The universe is all that is. All that ever was. All that will ever be. He said that at the opening of his series Cosmos. That's not science. You know, I was looking to learn something about astronomy when I was watching that program. That's his philosophy. The universe is all that is all that was or that will ever be. That's philosophy. You're doing ontology. You are telling me what is real and what is not real. And you are limited by scientific empiricism in terms of what you say. If you go outside of that, in terms of the realities of spirit, you have absolutely nothing to say. Because the reality of God can be affirmed. It can be denied. It can either be proved conclusively, nor could it be disproved conclusively, because God is not the kind of thing that is subject to objective proof by human beings. If it were, if it were, then we are in control.


And you will see here that when we talk about the reality of God, we are not in control. The reality of God will dissenter us. We will be addressed. We will be addressed. We are not control. Everything is an object to me. This is what I know. What I study, what I do. No, no, no, no. You will find yourself addressed called into question. You are very reasoning, called into question by a spirit that is playing on the keys of your conscience and on the basic knowledge that you already have of God. So there's so much misunderstanding that has to be cleared up in this area because we have heard so often from scientists, but we haven't heard very often from theologians and from philosophers. And just for the sake of the conversation, there should be more people at the table. There should be more people at the table. Well, it will be helpful at this point. Oh, I. A little aside. A little aside. You probably have heard the name of Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins, the famous neo atheist. And you may have also heard the name of the Christian apologist William Lane Craig. I think you've heard of that name as well, some of you. William Lane Craig has offered to debate Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins has refused. Every time. He's refused every time. And I'm not going to repeat the reasons he gave for refusing, but I would like to issue this challenge once more. Richard Dawkins I don't think you can defend what you've said against God and religion, and so I challenge you right now. Take up that debate with William Lane Craig. I don't think you will fare very well at all at the hands of William Lane. Craig, take it up.


Prove to the world that the best of atheism can go up against one of the best in theism. Love to see the dialog. And so I offer you that challenge. Richard Dawkins. When we speak of God, we speak of God as both eminent and as transcendent. Eminent and as transcendent. The thing that the neo atheists have forgotten is that they realize that God is transcendent, that God is distinct from all the things that have been made, that God is distinct from all the things that have been made. But we also argue that God is eminent. Now, how do we mean that God is eminent in that God, the Spirit of God can be communicated, be can be communicated in time space through media. But is never mistaken for the media itself. That would be idolatry. So, for example, we have you ever have you ever listened to a symphony? You've listened to a symphony like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, You're listening to the symphony, and then all of a sudden you're caught up. You have this sense of lost ness, of rapture, of self forgetfulness. You start to call it beauty. And then after the concert is over, the hard nosed empiricist comes to you and says, What do you mean? This is all nonsense. It's just words, beauty, rapture. There were sounds there. We can measure those sounds. There is an A sound, a B sound, a C sound. We can quantify those. We know what they are. What is this stuff you're talking about? Beauty. See that they don't realize it at all. That the whole watch says the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We can do this not only with music and sound, but we can do this through through language.


Language has this ability, and that's why language is so important to the Christian community. You hear proclamation in the pulpit, you hear preaching, okay, this is the words of men and women. They're in the pulpit, They're preaching. But then someone you know, Jessica starts saying, I heard the word of God. God was speaking to me, speaking to my heart. In a way that surprised me because I didn't realize God could speak to me there. And what is this once again, Eminence? That God is in the means of grace being communicated through the means of grace in this sense, preaching words such that the words once again. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. See, because once again, the hard nosed unbeliever comes and said, Why? I heard the same words. What are you talking about? Word of God? Those are words. You can look them up in the dictionary. There they are. The roll there. What are you talking about? You see. And so when we speak of God, we have to ever have before our eyes, ever that God is spirit and control wise we must have ever had before our eyes that we, as created in the image and likeness of God, are also spirit. So I'm going to say at the outset, I'm going to say at the outset, and this is what I tell my students at seminary. By the end of this course, you are going to come to realize that you are greater than you have imagined. You are. You have you are greater than you have imagined. And we are going to introduce you to what that greater looks like, what it looks like. And in order to do that, we must show you the knowledge and love of God.


Okay. Part of my own burden and struggle as a theologian in the 21st century, I look out at these cultures and I'm familiar with several different cultures, and they have very diminished views of what it means to be a human being. And the reason they have these very diminished views, guarded views of what it means to be a human being is because they have a diminished view of God. The two ever go hand in hand, the two ever go hand in hand. Now, there's another way to broach this topic by way of of of introduction, and that is to talk about theology in to Broadway's in too Broadway's. There's a whole school of thought out there that says practical theology is the only theology that the church should be doing. And John Wesley actually might be an important voice in that in that venue. In other words, what is theology, even systematic theology? It is theology done in the service of the church in mission. Okay. And so some will call that practical theology. Some want to call that systematic theology, because they're running the gamut from the doctrine of God all the way to eschatology and every stop along the way. Others, however, especially when they look at the theological fruit of other traditions, want to fully acknowledge the truth of the Christian faith in Revelation, but also want to bring in the resources and knowledge that we have from reason that we have from reason, in other words, to forge a conversation with those outside the walls of the church. And so the truth of theology is going to be not simply for believers, not simply for those in the church, but also for those beyond the church, because it all gets back to our basic humanity and it gets back to that basic humanity being created in nothing less than the image and likeness of God.


And so we think of theology as pertaining to all people, meaning that if you are missing out here, you're missing out something that you ought to have as a human being creating an image and likeness of God. So why I'm saying this in the beginning, I don't want to see Christian theology ghettoized. In other words, where in the church we talk to ourselves, we have this conversation and then that's it. And then beyond the church, well, there's just darkness. There's just those sinners. There's just those people who don't know Christ and what they're doing and what they're learning. Oh, that doesn't really concern us much. No, it does. It should. Because God is one and God has created all those people who are in his image. And that image is working and bringing increasing illumination that can bless the church as well. So I want to have what I would call a very generous understanding of systematic theology. Yes, I'm agreeing with the practical theologians theology in the service of the church and mission. Yes, the church is a verb. I want to be in mission. I want to be actively engaged. I want to do that. Yes. I also want to know what you all Harari, the atheist Israeli, is doing in his book Commodious, and how he's reconfiguring what it is to be a human being. I want in on that conversation because the church has an interest there. So it's for me, it's a matter of both and not either or. Again, you know, we're just getting started here, basic orientation, so we will understand the detail work much better. How do we understand theology in relation to philosophy, for example? Well, you know, Dewey made a judgment of that. Who's this Dewey I'm talking about? Well, it's the Dewey of the Dewey Decimal System.


You go to a library, you know, there are that numbered systems. You have 100 level, 200, level, 300 level. And I think history is like 800 level. I guess he thought after you did all that stuff, then you write the history of it. So you put history at 800. What's at the 100 level? Does anyone know here what's at the 100 level? No, you might think that, and I probably could make a case for that. But no. And misrepresents the judgment of duty as well. Philosophy. Philosophy is at the 100 level. Religion is at the 200 level. Say in Dewey's mind, he thought you would ask the basic philosophical questions first. You know what is what is not what's real and what is not what's good? What is not good. You'd be asking those questions, basic questions first. And then in answering those questions, you'd ask the questions of religion. But I imagine some would consider a different way of organizing the materials of a library where you had religion, as you just stated, at the one level. But Dewey, given his worldview and how he understood things. Philosophy comes first, then comes religion, and history is way out there in the 1800s, that sort of thing. I think it would be helpful to talk about philosophy just very basically because it will have consequence for religious questions. And the four major divisions of philosophy are as are as follows First, metaphysics. What is real? Second epistemology. What can I know? What can I know? What can I not know? Can I know that God is real? Archeology, archeology, X, ideologue Y, and that is the whole area of what is valuable, what is valuable. So under that, you'd have ethics. What is good? What is evil? And under archeology, again, you'd have esthetics.


AEC tactics. What is beauty? And then you'd have logic. How can one think clearly? Okay. And so according to Dewey, and he's he was a 20th century figure. Theology may arise out of prior philosophical questions. Okay. But if we look at one of the early church fathers, Tertullian. He has a much different take on things, he says. He argues this way What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? And he's saying this during the second, third century. What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem? And I am specifically rejecting Tertullian approach because his approach is of a dichotomy. In other words, you have the wisdom of the ancients, the Greeks. It's over here. And then you have the wisdom of Jerusalem. Know, let's say Judaism, the Hebrew Bible, and the Christian faith. And it's over here. And they remain separate. What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? Okay. And so I'm arguing for approach. That will be both and not either or. See, there's actually a theology out there, and it's represented in some traditions that how do we do Christian theology today? What we do? Well, I can say this because I've written this publicly. You take, for example, Tom, Odin's classical Christianity, which is well known. It's well known in lots of different circles. I just finished writing a piece on his theological method entitled Paleo Orthodoxy and the Diminishment of Theological Method, a critical examination of the work of Thomas Cohen. It's in the current issue of the Wesleyan Theological Journal, just came out a couple of weeks ago. I am presenting the fruits of this work at the upcoming American Academy of Religion this month in San Diego. Okay. But let me use Odin here to show you what I'm not going to do.


Odin is very much in line in lots of ways with Tertullian. I am not. I am not. I'm in line with Thomas Aquinas. I'm in line with Emma Bruner. I'm in line with other theologians who do theology, systematic theology in a both hands sort of way. If you look it out in this book, the one where he takes the three and brings it down to the one that's called classic classical Christianity, according to Odin. Here's how you do theology. You go back to the fathers. You go back to the period of the first millennium, first thousand years, go back to the fathers, grab what they have taught in terms of doctrine of God, Christology, doctrine of Holy Spirit, ecclesiology, you take that, bring it forward into the 21st century without any change, and then have a conversation. And so in that approach, Augustine gets to do theology. He gets to be influenced by his own social setting, his own social context, and he can address the problems of the fifth century. But 21st century people don't get that. Silence because the work of theology is simply to bring forward the past, the finished theological products of others. Okay. And that's what is being called systematic theology. To me, that's not systematic theology, it's dogmatic theology. In other words, it is bringing forward the public expressions of the institutional church at a particular period of time. The Holy Spirit has not stopped working in the year 1000, did not did not stop working. The revelation of Jesus Christ is so rich, so profound that the first thousand years did not fully express it. Okay. So that would be part of of of my commitment. Now, Roman Catholicism has a wonderful answer to the problem that Tom Oden has raised in terms of systematic theology.


Of course, Roman Catholicism will argue, yes, the fathers are important. Yes, the church councils are important. Yes, the first thousand years are important. But yes, the councils in the 12th century are important and the ecumenical council in the 14th century is important. And the Magisterium in the 18th century. And on and on it goes. I mean, this was the famous response of Cardinal Newman in the 19th century that the Roman Catholic Church has talked about the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in changing context, and that change is being properly mediated to the faithful through the Magisterium and through the Pope. So the Holy Spirit didn't stop working in Roman Catholic theology in the year 1000. The Holy Spirit is working today addressing the problems of today in the 21st century. And our problems are huge. Huge. But they have an answer. They have an answer in terms of their particular ecclesiology, in terms of the magisterium and the papacy. What do Protestants have? Well, you know, don't get me wrong, I like the fathers. I very much enjoy the church fathers. But we are in an age and dealing with problems that they never even imagined, never even imagined. And if you think simply bringing over the past theological products of others are going to solve the problem that Christians are facing from non-Christians in the 21st century. You're naive. You're naive. Really. And we need to offer a better way. We need to offer a better way. And so we need to offer a generous theology, a generous theology that is rich. With the knowledge and love of God, but is also rich. With human wisdom. Okay, let's stop there and take some questions. I didn't get as far as I thought I would, but, you know, we'll take some questions, comments you might have.


It's interesting that people refer to the time. In like after a thousand A.D. to the Reformation and Renaissance as the Dark Ages. But you were talking about how that was the rise of the university system and how there were a lot of people that were talking about theology and and learning and those kinds of things. So it's interesting that the people would refer to that as the Dark Ages. Yes, it's a very good observation. And Thomas Cahill has written a wonderful little book about that very issue that you raise, the fact that, you know, the error error from 500 to, let's say, up until the time of reformation has been called the Dark Ages. That represents a judgment by historians and may indicate more about those historians than the actual period itself. And that's, for example, what Cahill is arguing in his work. I would agree with you. There's lots of activity going on there during the dark Ages, especially in terms of some of the great debates that are taking place in the Middle Ages over the status of universals having to do with the questions of platonic forms and language. These are incredibly important debates because out of these debates will come, interestingly enough. Lots of people don't realize this the rise of science. And so I will make the case and in the course of the lectures, that the scientific way of viewing things, of focusing empirically, actually comes out of nominalism a nominalism that was richly in the church, while this great scholastic debate was happening during the Dark Ages. And so in my judgment as well, those ages were anything but dark. They helped to give us a window on who we are today and how we view our own world today.


Yeah. So great observation. Yeah. Yeah. And one other question I had is I've talked to a guy who's involved in science quite a bit and we'll talk about. Different ways of looking at reality and and how the world was made and those kinds of things. And he'll get to a point where he'll say, well, science can't answer that question. So I'm not interested in the discussion going any further. And it's like, because it's not something that's that can be framed in a scientific context. It's not worth having. Almost. Have you ever had that experience with people? Yes. Yes. And what this person has basically said to you and he may be very well focused in his learning, he's basically told you he only wants to study the field of science. Okay. And that's in a very important field. And I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm very much pro-science. I tend to think of various disciplines in terms of methodologies. In other words, what can you learn? In the whole gamut of human experience through a scientific methodology. And you can learn a lot, but it's not a totality that we're going to have to switch frameworks. We're going to have to switch methodologies in order to explore and explain what human beings know in other areas and areas in terms of purpose. For example, if you start asking the question, What's the purpose of my life, that's not a scientific question. If you start asking the question, what is the good? What is good? What is evil? Again, that's archeology. That's a philosophical question. That's not a scientific question, although scientists are trying to get into that area as well. I think confusingly so. I think it's a philosophical question. At root, here's here might be a good way to answer you.


I'll answer you in terms of the approach of Aristotle. Aristotle talked about for causes of explanation. When you are studying a reality, a phenomena, it might be a biological phenomenon, might be a human being, whatever. He talked about material causation. Instrumental causation. Formal causation and final causation. And basically what happened in the 16th and 17th centuries as again coming out of nominalism with the rise of science, the last two, the last two formal and final causes dropped out. Formal causes have to do with questions of design. That's why there's been this whole brouhaha between intelligent design and science, because, technically speaking, design questions are beyond the scientific method. Then there's also final causes that Aristotle talked about, and once that's the purpose or goal or end towards which something is, again, that's not a scientific question and that has been pushed aside. So in terms of methodology with science, you have material causation, you know, matter energy, instrumental causation. How is the matter energy arranged. That's basically what you have. If we were to run these four through an Aristotelian analysis of the brick in the wall over there, Aristotle would say, okay, the material causation there is the clay, the instrumental causation is the artifice, sir, who, you know, shapes it and arranges it so that it's a brick and not just a lump of clay, but its final cause, its purpose is beyond itself to be a part of that wall. Okay. And so if you think in terms of these four Aristotelian causes, you will recognize that in our age, the top two questions about design, questions about purpose are off the table. They're off the table. Okay. Now, when we take the scientific method, then and it's now been chopped down, you know, chop down a bit and we apply it to genuine human beings, which has been done.


B.F. Skinner In the 20th 20th century, for example, a human being is nothing but notice then nothing but language speaking right out of their method. A human being is nothing but chemical, a repertoire of behaviors. A human being is nothing but a repertoire of behaviors. Some biologists have said a human being is nothing but chemical physical operations. A human being is nothing but etc., etc.. These are diminishment. This is anthropological reductionism. And there's a lot of it out there in our culture. And it comes from the misuse of the scientific method where science is speaking into areas that it does not fully know because a human being one created in the image and likeness of God is far greater than any scientific analysis could ever pick up. You understand the point. So the question actually is one of methodology and the appropriateness in methodology. When we when we're examining various things in the world and human beings tend to be rather special. We're not like a lump of clay. A human being without a spirit is a corpse. Okay. Yeah. You mentioned Thomas Cahill as a book title. I didn't give it the book title because I forgot the book title. But it is by Cahill, I. What's that? Yeah, that might be it. I like his other one. Of course, with my heritage. How the Irish saved civilization. And that. That. That relates that relates to your question, Ed because in how the Irish saved civilization. He talks about how the Irish monks were copying the ancient manuscripts from Greek and Rome and preserving that knowledge for subsequent generations. So I think it actually might be how the Irish saved civilization, where he's picking at this whole dark Ages thing, because it really wasn't so dark because you had all these Irish monks and they are copying these ancient manuscripts and they are bringing them forward.


Bringing them forward? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I have a question. Great. On a more on a more practical level. When you say we need to bring discussions of the church outside of the wall, outside of the walls of the church. That's correct. How do you start those? Are you strictly talking about debates? And if so. Have you ever seen people come to Christ with these discussions? Well, how do you do it first? You can blog. Okay, so atheists are out there blogging. Agnostics are out there blogging. They're getting their views across. They're tweeting their Facebooking. I think Christians need to be involved in that conversation as well. Otherwise, you're just hearing one voice that's dominating. And that's not that's not education. That's not a good picture. I want to hear a diversity of voices and I can listen and make up my own judgment in terms of them. So Christians should be involved in that activity, although I must say no, I know these environments and Christians have to participate in them in a Christian way because the way that others are participating in them. And I'm thinking of what John Wesley would call evil speaking the hateful speech, the ad hominem attack, the the the tearing down another person's character that has no business in the church, has no business among Christians, and Christians cannot participate in that. Yeah, they cannot participate in that, but they can participate. But their words are going to be different. They're not going to immediately attack a person's character, a person they they know nothing about. They don't know that person's story. They don't know what private hell that person grew up out of as a child or any of that. Yeah, they they don't know that at all.


So yeah, which is True Confessions. Now, I participate in social media, I participate in Twitter, but I've never tweeted. So I just I follow people, which I need alternative sources because, well, now you've got me on it, Rebecca. And I'm going to be frank and honest and truthful with you or every step along the way. And I expect you to be so with me because that's the best way to go now. That way we learn stuff. There is so much lying going on in our culture today that I must be intentional and I must look at lots of different sources, some of them outside the country, some of them in Germany, some elsewhere, in order to understand what's going on here today, because so many people lie to me, I turn on the TV in the morning before I finish my cup of coffee. I've been lied to ten times. Really? This is the age we live in. This is the age we live in. How much more difficult for us who are in the church? Because what is the Holy Spirit called? The spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth in Scripture. Whoo! I take that seriously. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth. That means if I want to be conformed to God, restored in this glorious image in which I've been created, I've got to be a truth speaker. Not only do I have to be a truth speaker. I have to be in the truth. And so I'm glad you raised that, Rebecca. And it just raises the difficulty that we're in today. And times are difficult. You know, I talk to my brother. He says I was actually worse during the seventies. No, no.


I think I think it's never been is worse than it is today. Never been as bad as it is today. And there is there's a whole history behind that. I'll probably bring some of that history out through the lecture as well, because I taught philosophy before I came to Asbury. I keep up with intellectual history, intellectual currents. So I'm familiar with that and political philosophy, especially how we got to the place where we are today, politically speaking.