Wesleyan Theology I - Lesson 3

Revelation, Inspiration and Authority

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. 

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology I
Lesson 3
Watching Now
Revelation, Inspiration and Authority

I. What Kind of Beings are Human Beings?

A. Science

B. Theologian

1. Reinhold Niebuhr

2. Jon Macquarrie

3. Theodore Feuerbach

II. Doing Practical Theology in a 21st Century World

A. John Calvin

B. Theological Method [Etienne Gilson]

C. Shift to Practical Theology (17:27)

1. John Wesley 22;47

2. Theology is participatory [Jacob Needleman]

3. Wesley's theology is a practical theology

4. Wesley's theology is a conjunctive theology

5. The meaning of holiness and love

6. Grace

a. cooperant grace

b. free grace

III. 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


Revelation, Inspiration and Authority

Lesson Transcript

Yes. So as we've been saying already, our larger topic, of course, is theology, the doctrine of God. But that will have consequence for how we understand a human being. And so we can raise the question at this point, and we're going to raise it in a cursory fashion. We're going to develop it later on. More seriously when anthropology anthropology is front and center. But I do at least want to raise it at this point for us to get a feel of how these subjects and disciplines are inter penetrated. We already discussed how science would view a human being in a number of ways as chemical and physical operations as a complex arrangement of matter. To use the words of B.F. Skinner as a repertoire of behaviors. And you will notice that in many scientific accounts, and even some that I've read recently in social scientists social sciences like emotional intelligence and social intelligence, they have an ongoing determinism that's a part of their narrative, which I have always found rather interesting, and one that raises for me very important philosophical, philosophical questions, a contrast to this way of viewing a human being. And our culture is awash with this understanding would be a theologian like Reinhold Niebuhr, like Reinhold Niebuhr, who in his Gifford lectures, he was invited to give the Gifford lectures there, and the title of his work was called The Nature and Destiny of Man The Nature and Destiny of Man. And what I love about his Gifford lectures, which I've read, is that he realizes that human beings are complex. Term, I'm going to use multidimensional multivalent that you have to work with a number of different frameworks in order to understand the totality of a human being. That's what I liked about his lectures on that.


He argued. We have to understand human beings in terms of nature. So he's certainly not anti-scientific. You know, raise the test tube and look through the microscope. Use every test imaginable. But that's not going to complete the job. It's not going to complete the job because human beings are more than bodies. They're more than bodies. They're multidimensional, multivalent. How do we get at that otherness? He did so through a simple word, and we've been using it before, and that word is spirit. And so in the Gifford lectures, you have a very strong thematic development in terms of nature and spirit, nature and spirit that human beings are complex beings, material and spiritual. We participate in transcendence. This is very important to a definition, any definition of spirituality. It will involve transcendence. How do I transcend my own limited perspective to participate and appreciate something more? Well, we can do this in terms of even esthetic experience. I love to go to art galleries. My wife and I were just in an art gallery both in Portland and back in Europe, in Germany. And one of the things I appreciate about esthetic experience is you transcend, you get caught up in something other than yourself, and you can experience that art and have a sense of beauty. And we we talk about the esthetic experience as one of transcendence, getting out of our workaday world to realize something, something new. Or we can experience spiritual experience through worship, through hearing proclamation, through hearing, preaching. We hear preaching. And as Carl Bart said in the 20th century, that preaching has the possibility to be the word of God. It's one of the form of the word of God. And so here we have these very human words, very human words spoken by a man or woman in the pulpit, but yet we hear something more.


We hear the very word of God through the medium of those very spoken human words. Or we can experience trans transcendence, which is a part of our spiritual nature through participating in a moral realm that all of us participate in the moral realm. We make judgments, assessments in terms of value. Are they good or no? Are they evil or no? We participate in that whole realm. That's a very human way of living, and that bespeaks of us as spiritual, spiritual beings. So in these three areas, in terms of the moral dimension, the esthetic dimension, the spiritual dimension, we show very clearly that we are not simply bodies, we're not simply chemical physical operations, though those things are very important to be sure that a human being is best understood in a multi dimensional sense. Along these lines, we can take a look at the work of John MCCORRY, who in his book Spirit and Spirituality, underscored the importance of the transcendent nature of a human being. And to use his language, he talks about the kind of open ness that a person has, the kind of openness a person has and self-transcendence that they have. And he's coined a word to describe that reality. He calls it. I guess I can put this up on the screen X since he calls it axioms. Now, this is a word he's made up. He's coined it accents. And what he means by it is existing out of standing outside of, you know, human beings or spiritual beings in the sense that they transcend themselves. They can go beyond themselves to appreciate a value, a good that transcends themselves, whether that be God, beauty, the good, etc., etc.. And so these are some important voices out there that are showing the sophisticated nature of what it is to be a human being.


Now, this takes us back to the discussion. In the 19th century, Theodore, for a Bach, was famous for his statement that all theology is anthropology. In other words, a word about God. According to For you, Bach was actually a word about a human being. And so, you know, you think of the projection theory, take very human ingredients like goodness or courage or kindness, and then project them on to a screen, maximize them, make them perfect. And then we have the reality of God. This is what for you? Bach was arguing in a sense that in his essence of Christianity, theology is anthropology. A word about God is actually a word about humanity. This is what he argued. Now, interestingly enough, when we look at some of the early atheists of the 19th and 20th century, they their common source is actually for you. So if you can critique for Bach, you have Karl Marx who read for you Bach, and you also have Sigmund Freud as well. So you get two birds with one stone if you can successfully critique for Bach. You've got Marx and Freud. I think I would argue, of course, as a theologian, as a theist, that although for you, Bach was on to something, he was on to something, at least in the sense there is a connection and relation between God and humanity. I would argue that as you consider seriously. The anthropological question. When you think through clearly, what does it mean to be a human being? What venues, what dimensions, what valence is do we participate in? Take it all in, Bring it all in? I think you are pointing in the direction of theology. So, yes, I think anthropology in some sense is theology or points to it.


But I would express that better by by saying it this way. That with the death of God. And you've heard of, of course, the death of God theologians in the 20th century, Robinson and others with the death of God. You have. The death of man. The death of humanity. You have the death of humanity to go hand in hand. So when Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century had the Mad Men cry, they know that God is dead. God is dead. Well, he should have finished it off. He should have also been crying out. Humanity is dead. Humanity is dead. Because, yes, for a block the two are related. And if God is dead, humanity is dead as well. How so? Because what it means to be a human being. Cannot fully be understood without an appeal to God. And if the attempt is made to do so, I'm going to come back at you and say you are describing a very diminished human existence, a very diminished human existence and friend come up higher, that there are dimensions, aspects of your being that are in a state of atrophy in which you are created and need to be quickened, need to be enlivened, and we can point you in a direction we can't bring it about. That's beyond our power. But we can at least point you in the direction to that more so, yes, I do want to say that the theological question and the anthropological question are connected and in a way that for your back had not imagined, in a way that Nietzsche had not imagined, nor Marx, nor Freud, where flipping it in a different way, we're flipping it in a different way. So theology is going to be a very important discipline, not only because it's going to raise some of the most important questions in life, whether or not God exists, whether or not good is real.


But it's also going to raise for us the important anthropological question of what does it mean to be a human being? What does it mean to be a human being? How can I live into the fullness of that? Okay. Let me take a look at what John Calvin's wrote on this whole theme of theology and doing theology well. And so here I'm quoting from the Institutes of Calvin, and he writes at the very beginning of those institutes. Quote our wisdom in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom consists almost entirely of two parts the knowledge of God and of ourselves. See, I think Calvin got that right. Calvin got that right. And he says that at the very beginning of the institute. And that's where it belongs. Because the question about God is also going to be a question about us, about human beings. Those created in nothing less than the image and likeness of God. And so for us, we have to raise the question, how can we do? Systematic theology. How can we also do practical theology in an increasingly complex world, one that is pluralistic, scientifically and technologically challenging and at times threatening? And in a world that is becoming increasingly deeply secular, almost expected that every one shall be so everyone shall be of a secular outlook again. Is there room in the 21st century for God and the things of God? Can that be a part of the conversation? If we're thinking about the amassing of human knowledge, what humans know and what they aspire to? Or have we edged out? Questions pertaining to the divine, through our philosophy, through our science, or even in some cases, through our politics. Simply put, is doing theology.


Both systematic and practical theology. Is it a live option today? I'm going to make the case that it is that it's a very live option today to do theology. So then let's talk about theological method. Let's begin a discussion about how we shall proceed in this discipline of theology in terms of theological method. And I'm going to put a number of things on the table just so you get a feel for what some others have said in the past. Eaton Gilson, who was a largely 20th century figure, once likened the great systems of scholastic theology to cathedrals of the mind, to cathedrals of the mind. We must realize, however, that any Christian theology, whether contemporary or ancient, is a. Wait for it. Human construction. That's what theology is. It's a human construction. It's a human construction in the sense that theologians work with a number of materials in order to bring forth in an intelligible and in a systematic way the fruit of God's revelation. The fruit of God's revelation present in Scripture manifested in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God. And so what I'm suggesting here at the outset is that theological activity, the doing of theology, is a very human activity. And I'm saying that the great theologies of the day, you know, you take a look. Well, I'm going to talk about the past because it's easier than ongoing theology to talk about the great theologies of someone like a call barn or a John Calvin or a Thomas Aquinas. These are great theologies, but they're also, in a sense, human constructions. They are the best attempts of these theologians to look at the genius of the Christian faith, specifically in terms of revelation.


Revelation in the sense of what we could not have told ourselves. It must be revealed to us. And then the fruit of of reason of human knowledge as it advances over the course of time. Now, all of those names I've mentioned have done a wonderful job at that enterprise. But their theologies in and of themselves are human constructs, human creations. It's the best of their own thinking and reflection. Given what revelation says, given where human knowledge was at the time. And I just want to get you to see that the human constructed ness of of theology is okay. And when we move in the area of Wesleyan theology, and I know there are discussions about proper method, and so I'm not going to get into all of those discussions. What's the proper method in terms of Wesleyan theology? But simply come down where many people have come down before. So I'm certainly not idiosyncratic when I'm going to argue that many Wesleyan theologians would appeal to what is called a quadrilateral a quadrilateral in terms of doing theology, constructing theology as a human construct, they're going to appeal to a number of resources. And I can actually put them up on the screen for you here. We, first of all, put Scripture as revelation scripture. Okay. And I have to start out by saying. We've talked about a quadrilateral and I will mention three other things, but you should realize that scripture is distinct. It's not one among four because it is the normative Normans. It is the norming norm. It is the norming norm. So it has special rank because this this alone is revelation. This alone is a revelation. Because after this, we're also going to talk about tradition. Tradition. Okay. And we can speak about tradition in a number of ways.


We could speak. I'm thinking of the great Reformation scholar Heiko Oberman. His distinctions between tradition zero and tradition one and tradition two. And we can speak about tradition one in the sense of how do various Christian traditions interpret scripture, interpret revelation. And that's going to be different depending upon the tradition of which you are a part. So, for example, if you are a Presbyterian, you are likely to interpret Romans six through eight in a certain way, and that's a part of your interpretive tradition. So we're calling that tradition. If you're a Wesleyan, you will likely interpret Roman six through eight in a different way than the Presbyterian. And I'm just simply acknowledging tradition, I think even plural traditions, that at the first level, this is an interpretive tradition. How do we make sense of scripture? How do we make sense of revelation, which is the norming norm, Which is the norm and norm? So Scripture, tradition, what else? Reason. Reason. And you've heard me talk about that a lot. And that's very much a part of my own theology. That reason plays a very important role. And then experience. Experience. And we can understand experience in in many different ways. We can understand experience. Some would like it to be understood simply in terms of Christian sanctified experience. In other words, a God informed holy experience. And so they'll understand experience that way. Others will say, Well, experience here, that's a part of the theological mix that's going to be a part of constructive theology, has to be broader than that. And that is going to be the experience that opens us up to contextualization. The contemporary contextualization 21st century in Latin America, 21st century in Asia. What's the experience of Asian Christians right now, and how does that relate to the construction of theology in the mix of scripture, tradition, reason? And so I'm just laying this out there for you.


This is a method which is often used in Wesleyan theology. It has its critics. No doubt it has its critics. I'm not going to spend the time to get into the criticisms of this method and what alternative method is methods are being offered. But simply to say that this would describe the work of many Wesleyan theologians, both past and also and also present. Okay. Now. When we talk about introduction to Western theology, I do want to resonate, on the one hand with the challenge of systematic theology, the kind of challenge that was expressed in John Paul, the second encyclical Feed Rothko. In other words, faith and reason, or that was expressed in the 20th century in terms of Emil Bruno's work, revelation and reason. In other words, this rich, broad conversation that takes place, but because it's Wesleyan theology, because it's Wesleyan theology, it's many, many times going to have a very practical focus because John Wesley himself, he was not a systematic theologian. I think that's clear from what all has been written. And Albert Alma, the great Wesleyan scholar, got that conversation going. Wesley was more focused and he's been referred to as a folk theologian. That's what Alma called him, a practical theologian. I call him a theologian of the auto salute is because he's so focused on discipleship and the order of salvation and and becoming a real, true, proper scriptural Christian. And so when we talk about Wesley, John Wesley himself, his theological concerns are going to be more focused because he wants to aim at doing theology in service of the church, service of the church and mission. And he certainly wants to see the transformation of being in the fruits of serious Christian discipleship. He wants to see that that transformation of being in the lives in the lives of people.


And so in that enterprise, Wesley is going to put a great emphasis on scripture, and he wants to communicate the genius of Scripture to as many people as possible. And so in his writings, he writes, for example, quote, I designed plain truth for plain people. And so he doesn't want to speak with with jargon. He doesn't want to speak with language that's not going to communicate to the average person. And so in order to do that, he wrote sermons. Now, he wrote sermons, some of which were never preached. He wrote it as a literary form to communicate the basic truths of the Christian faith. So, for example, I have published, along with Jason Vickers, a new edition of John Wesley Sermons, which includes the usual, quote unquote, 52 standard as well as eight more to bring the collection to 60. And our version is arranged in accordance with the order of salvation. In other words, we begin with creation, the full repentance, the new birth, and every step along the way till you get to glory so that students can read it with understanding. They get a sense of the flow and development over time. When when John Wesley sat down to write these sermons, he and when he published them, he brought forth a preface. And I want to read you Wesley's words in his preface so you get a feel for this quote. I have accordingly sat down in the following sermons. What I find in the Bible concerning the way to Heaven with a view to distinguish this way of God from all those which are the inventions of men, He writes. And so here is Wesley. He is producing this literature, this volume of sermons, in order to show the way to heaven, in order to lead other people into the kind of serious Christian discipleship that will result in the transformation of being, the transformation of being that is, knowing Jesus Christ.


Now, let me focus on this issue. That theology in this sense is participatory. It's participatory. It's not a head game. It's not a head game. In other words, you know, come to class, bring your cogitating intellect. Anyone can play. Okay. It's not that as. Matter of fact, Jacob Needleman wrote an essay one time, which I read. Very fascinating essay. Why? Philosophy is Easy. Well, from your backgrounds, what you've studied, you may not think philosophy is easy, but Needleman says the way we teach philosophy today is easy. Why? Because we've made it a head game. Come to class on Tuesday and Thursday. Bring your cogitating intellect, beat around a couple of ideas. Anybody can play. Philosophy is an easy game. Well, we've done that with theology too, and we need to make a shift. And so Needleman is going to say in his own essay, That's not how the ancients did philosophy. That's not how Plato and how Socrates and Plato and Aristotle did did philosophy. For them. Philosophy was what? It was a participatory activity. And guess what? You had to be open to change because you are not going to learn certain things. Unless you change because they can't be received unless you're changed. And so the way philosophy was done in the past with the Ancients, it was a very participatory activity that included, of course, the mind, but the heart and the will and the person as well, such that the entire activity is transformational. You become a different person on the other side of the learning. Okay? And in the same way, theology, especially the kind of practical theology that we find in John Wesley is participatory. It's transformational that we have to be open, open to learning, open to the transformation of being that will come about by God's grace.


It will be God's grace that will bring this transformation of being such that we will become new. We will become new. And so what we see then in Wesley's theology, it's not a systematic theology, although other Wesley and theologians will be systematic. But it's a practical theologically, it's a practical theology. The range of Wesley's theology will run the whole gamut from creation to glory. Okay? And the flow many times will be orderly and coherent. But he made no attempt to synthesize the whole thing. In other words, to hold a conversation between revelation, the genius of the Christian faith and the leading knowledge of his own 18th century. He did not engage in that, that kind of grand conversation. He was far more focused on that theology in service to the mission of the church. And a good way of expressing it would be to say, theology for the inculcation of Holy Love, the inculcation of Holy love. That would be a very apt expression to describe Wesley's theological enterprise and its more practical aspects. I remember one time my provost at the time, he since has gone to another institution. Joel Green asked me to summarize Wesley's theology in two words. In two words or a few words, he said, I said, I can do it in two. I can summarize all of Wesley's writings in two words, but I'm going to bracket out those two words and some more words. But here we go. I said, yes. Wesley's theology can be summarized in terms of holiness. And the second word, Grace. Holiness and grace. I'm going to put that up here now just and we'll talk more about it later. But it's you might as well get acquainted with the basic summary, the helicopter view of Wesley's theology Holiness.


And Grace. Okay. Now, I agree with Albert out there that Wesley's theology is a conjunctive theology. What do I mean by conjunctive theology? We were having this conversation earlier this morning before I began. Wesley is a both and sort of person. Not either or. He avoids extremes. He's a both and sort of guy. You're going to see that in his theology. So what I'm. What I'm suggesting here, holiness actually represents the gathering up of a very tight tension here, a conjunction of holy. Love, Holy love. And Wesley uses this language. Matter of fact, there are a dozen times where he specifically refers to Holy Love. And you have to understand here, or you'll miss Wesley's theology. Holy love is a tension. Do you understand why? Because holiness, which emphasizes simplicity and purity, will lead to separation. Whereas love seeking communion will be outgoing and will embrace communion. So that's a kind of tension going on there. The church, literally, you know, ecclesia is called out of the world. But yes, the church is also called back into the world for the sake of mission. It's those two simultaneously and not leaning too heavily, too heavily on one side or the other. Holy love. Okay. And then, you know, maybe later on, I'll pick this apart. We need to understand what this means, Holiness. And we also need to understand what this means. Love. Because there are many people in the church today using the word love. And they do not mean what the New Testament means by love. They do not mean what the Old Testament means by love. They have filled it in with themselves, with their own content. Okay, I'll say at least this much. Now, what is meant by Holy Love is most greatly, magnificently revealed in the most unexpected of places.


In darkness, in the midst of mocking and torture and shame that the greatest emblem of Holy Love, if you will, is manifested at Golgotha. At Golgotha. That's what we mean by love. Humble. Humble. Yes. Humble. Not. Not self-serving. It's me, me, me. The I, the me, the mind, the self, the life. No, no, no. That's sin. We're talking about humble. Loli. Forsaking. Kenosis. Going down. Going down. Further. Further. Further to having conversation. As he's dealing with common criminals. That's love. That's in. And it's marvelous. Nails cannot destroy it. Taunting cannot weaken it. Hatred. Cannot overcome it. That's the kind of love we're talking about. So the church in some sense has lost its way today. They have talking about love, but they're filling it in with themselves, their own content. Okay. So we have to be careful here. We need to be clear and we will be clear. We'll be very clear in this course. We will speak truth to one another in Holy Land. Then secondly, grace. For Wesley. Again, this is going to be a conjunction. This is going to be both. And this is not going to be an either or world. It's going to be, on the one hand, cooperative Grace. Cope and grace and the traditions of Roman Catholicism and Eastern orthodoxy will and Anglicanism. I can read Anglicanism there as well. That would be appropriate too. Would greatly appreciate that and understand that. Co-op and Grace. In other words, we work, we cooperate with God. So, for example, Wesley wrote a sermon on working out our own salvation. God works. Therefore you can work. He writes, God works. Therefore, you must work. So emphasizing ability and obligation. Now. This is the very Catholic Wesley. I call this the Catholic Wesley.


This part of grace. They're very Catholic, Wesley. Okay. And this is the most popular reading of Wesley's understanding of grace today, though I differ from it. I differ from it. Not not that I don't agree that Wesley has this as a part of his theology. I just think it's not the whole thing. Because Wesley has a reformation Calvinist Lutheran side to him that is currently being neglected in Wesley studies today. And that's a shame because I can document again and again. And again. And again. And then again. How free grace. The work of God alone is very much a part of John Wesley's theology. And so not simply co-opting grace or what some call responsible grace, but also free grace. Free grace. What is free Grace? Free grace is the work of God alone. This is not divine human cooperation. This is not God working. Therefore, we can work God working. Therefore we must work. This is the work that only God can do. You read Wesley's sermon? His first sermon, Salvation by Faith, which is published in his collections of sermons. He talks about creation. How could he not creation as a species of free grace? Of course, creation is free grace. Well, we didn't get ourselves involved and inform God. Yeah, let's. Let's do creation and let's create us. No God sovereignly brings into being humanity as a sheer, utter gift. Wesley acknowledges that calls it free grace. Second area where Wesley has free grace needs to be more greatly acknowledged by those doing less than theology is in terms of the new birth. We cannot bring about the new birth by ourselves. The new birth is a human impossibility. No, you can't be wise enough, repentant enough, educated enough to bring about the miracle.


And it is a miracle. It's a supernatural miracle because it's the Holy Spirit raining in our hearts, tabernacle ing in us that is sheer, utter gift, a species of free grace. And this is what Wesley learned from Luther in Calvin. Wesley said, I don't differ a hair's breath on justification by grace through faith in terms of John Calvin. And he did it. And he didn't differ in this area in terms of Luther. So Lofty Day. That's a part of Wesley's theology. Now, some people in Wesley studies today. They don't want to know that. Oh, no, You know, but I can bring out text after text after text after text that you can't explain in your human construct in your very all to human theology. I can bring the text out. So you're going to have to find a way to incorporate them in a better and more accurate vision of Wesley theology. Now, I like this because it makes Wesley a dialog partner with Presbyterians, with Baptists, with Roman Catholics, with Eastern Orthodox. And it's we can become a wonderful dialog part. And we have a basis for conversation because we have elements of our theology that we view in the same way. If you think this giftedness piece of Wesley isn't really serious, then listen to this. I'm going to quote to you an exact quote from Wesley. It comes from his sermon, The Scripture Way of Salvation, which he produced in 1725. And he's thinking about a person who's already justified and born of God. In other words, they've experienced the miracle of conversion. All things have been made new. They know they're holy, they know they're love. They know that Christ died for them. They know their sins are forgiven and they are looking forward to receiving further grace.


And this is what is is Wesley's counsel to them. They're thinking of, you know, what would a pure heart look like? And here's how he counsels that. If you think you must be or do something else first, then you are expecting it by works even on to this day. But if it is by the grace of God, free grace of God, if it is by the grace of God, expect it as you are and expect it now. Okay. So the narrowness there shows I don't have to be or do something. It's a sheer, utter gift. Who's the principal actor here? Not you. God. God is sovereign. God will sovereignly give the gift. And it is a gift. And because it's a gift, you don't have to be or do something else first. Well, lots of people in Wesley's studies said they just don't want to acknowledge this. They just pretend it's not there. But it is there. And your theologies, if you're going to be faithful to Wesley, you're going to have to incorporate it into your constructed theology. Because I can cite chapter and verse from Wesley's writings ad infinitum, almost in terms of the importance of free grace. This means Wesley Ends should be having a greater conversation than they are currently having with the Reformed, with Lutherans, with Anabaptists, and with people of these traditions who understand the importance of so law be dead. Okay, let me stop there and let's take some questions. I'm going to grab this drink. Why do you think this part of Wesley's village theology has been overlooked or ignored? Yes. Well, I can get myself in lots of trouble here. I'm just trying to think how much trouble I want to get myself into. Let me put it this way.


I think some of the leaders who have argued simply cooperate responsible grace that they were trying to solve theological problems coming out of the heritage heritages of which they were a part. My perspective has not been fully appreciated because others in that tradition couldn't understand my coming out of Roman Catholicism and how that made a difference in terms of how I viewed this issue. So I really do think that in terms of the major differences, the major readings here of Wesley's theology are a function of the different traditions out of which we we have come. I think that's one way and I think actually a helpful way to express it. Let me express it another way, just in terms of trends, theological trends. There was a trend in Wesley Studies, and I think some of this comes out of the influence of Albert Ayler. Eleanor had an ecumenical concern. He wanted to see Situate Methodism within the broader church, especially with Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, etc., and he was something of a patristic scholar and did lots of work in terms of the early church fathers and of course wanted that kind of conversation to take place in terms of his own Methodist tradition and this great deposit and that that took off. And that played out a while in Wesley's studies. And we read many treatises, books, articles on John Wesley in Eastern orthodoxy. And much of this was very, very helpful in order to get insight into Wesley's theological posture. But then I started to read some crazy things that people were writing as if Wesley were an Eastern, you know, theologian or something in his basic theological method. He was not. And the reason he was not is John Wesley was quintessentially a Western theologian.


How so? Because, like Calvin, like Luther. John Wesley had an Augustinian understanding of original sin. Okay. And if you have an Augustinian understanding of original sin in a way similar to Luther and Calvin, do you realize that Wesley used the language? Utterly fallen, totally corrupted? You know, I cite that language in peoples, and I say, Who am I talking about? They say, John Calvin. I said, No, I'm talking about John Wesley. John. John Wesley was a quintessential Western theologian because of his understanding of sin. And then. And then his understanding of grace. Okay. Now what'll happen is John Wesley and you'll see this in this course, John Wesley will bring in an understanding of privilege and grace, which will make his theology ultimately different than Calvin and Luther. Okay. But at the beginning, when they're talking about sin, it's Augustinian and it's total depravity. And if you have total depravity, you're going to have to have sovereignty somewhere along the line or you're confused. And I see Methodist theologians today. You know, they just balk at that. They just balk at that. Oh, no, it's all cooperative. Oh, it can't be cooperative. And so I will argue, as you'll see down the road, that. What I'm calling the faculty is a privilege. And grace. I know we're not there yet. This language may be unintelligible to you are given by God sovereignly. They have to. They're a species of free grace. They have to. Because if you have an Augustinian understanding of sin and people are utterly corrupted, utterly fallen, utterly depraved, if God does not move. Nothing happens. Nothing. Nothing happens. Okay? And so my age has not been sufficiently aware, although I'm hoping the up and coming generation will do so, has not been sufficiently aware of the conjunctive nature of John Wesley's theology.


Yes. Cooperate. Responsible grace, but yes, also free grace. Free grace. The work of God alone where salvation in the form of justification, regeneration, or at its highest levels in terms of entire sanctification, is understood as a sheer, utter gift. Therefore, to be received Tao by grace through faith alone. Yeah. Yeah. Alone. Okay. And so this piece here is important as well. We can describe Wesley's theology in two words holiness and grace. But we have to break out each of those two words into a tight conjunction. And it's a tension. You know, people don't like to live in tensions. They like flat footed answers. They're easy. They're easy to flat footed answers. You know, let's just focus on love. Let's let's forget about holiness. Yeah, let's just talk about love. Well, we can't do that. Well, let's just talk about cooperate, Grace. And do we really need free grace? Yeah, you do. You do. And if you don't think you need free grace, you don't understand the depth of the problem. You don't. You don't.