Wesleyan Theology II - Lesson 15

The Church as the Body of Christ (Part 2)

It’s not possible to for people to be holy without the Holy Spirit. The Church should live in an attitude of humility and be open to repentance and reform when there is sin and evil discovered. There institutional church should have disciplinary mechanisms to deal with sin and evil. Ecclesiastical synonyms for catholic are universal, global, ecumenical and extensive. The apostolic testimony is passed down through the centuries. Apostolic succession divides the Church because of the view of the sacraments, especially the Lord’s Supper. The creeds in the reformation era articulated Protestant theology. The church is where the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly administered. Methodism is a reforming movement with the theme of real Christianity vs. people who lived by displaying the form of Christianity but lacked the power. Methodist bands and select societies were modeled after Moravian small groups. The soul and the body make a man, the spirit and discipline make a Christian. The general rules of the United Societies were agree to avoid evil, do good to your neighbor and employ the means of grace. The goal was to foster a spirit of repentance. They emphasized Scriptural Christianity. Wesley’s purpose was that Methodism become a reforming order within the church, not a separate denomination.

Kenneth J. Collins
Wesleyan Theology II
Lesson 15
Watching Now
The Church as the Body of Christ (Part 2)


2. Conversation with Jesus and Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit

3. The Church is holy but not utterly so

C. The Church is catholic

D. The Church is Apostolic

1. Apostolic succession is a myth

2. Apostolic succession divides the Church

E. Reformation definition of the Church

F. Methodism as the reform of the Church

1. Real Christianity vs. nominal Christianity

2. Moravian model of small, disciplined groups

3. United Society

4. Open to all people, not just Anglicans

  • John Wesley did theology in service to the church in mission. Brunner and Tillich are theologians that lived recently that developed a systematic approach. Wesley refers to his study of theology as practical divinity. He views it as participatory so that the truths of Scripture are actualized in practice and in community, not just an individual intellectual exercise. Wesley emphasized the doctrines of sin and salvation in his study and preaching by addressing how you become a Christian and how you remain a Christian. Wesley is described as being a, “conjunctive” theologian, which means he has a, “both-and” approach  as compared to an, “either-or” approach to theological ideas. He is looking for balance. Free grace is the work of God alone. Wesley describes cooperant grace as, “God works, therefore you can work; God works, therefore you must work.” Grace is the normative context of the moral law of God. Wesley teaches that we relate to God by both free grace and cooperant grace.

  • Repentance before justification. Because of who God is, he wills the salvation of all humanity. Grace is free for all. In his sermon, “Free Grace,” Wesley argues against limited atonement but affirms election and God’s foreknowledge. To Wesley, “Awakening” refers to a person receiving grace so they begin to discern the things of God. This is the transition from the natural state where people where a person is dead to things of God, to being awakened to God and fearing him. Moving from a state of “sleep” to being “awakened” to an awareness of God. Wesley makes a distinction between the, “natural person,” a “person under the law,” and a “person under grace.” Wesley describes conviction the holy spirit and the moral law working together, resulting in convincing grace. Sovereignty is a relational attribute because it’s how he relates to nature. Love is an essential attribute of God. Humans still have freedom as part of the way they are created in the image of God. Wesley teaches that all the elect are born of God but not all who are born of God are elect. Some who are born of God, fall away. If we live a life of Christian discipleship, it will change us.

  • The Holy Spirit begins to give the awakened conscience an inward “check” using the moral law. God uses the word and the Spirit to shed increasing light on the conscience to reveal shafts of the righteousness and justice of God. Repentance means a change of mind or change of direction. Wesley described repentance as the “porch” of religion. Wesley said that the only requirement to be part of a Methodist society was a desire to flee the wrath to come. He would then encourage you to leave off evil, do good and use the means of grace, which he equated with repentance. The three principal aspects of repentance are conviction, poverty of spirit and rejection of self-righteousness and self-justification. Repentance occurs prior to justification. Repentance will result in outward expressions of inward contrition and grace. The general means of grace are prayer, searching the Scripture, communicating, the Lord’s Supper and fasting. Prudential means of grace are practices that foster the love of God. They may differ from one person to another. It requires reason, reflection and honesty.

  • Focus on the insights of John Wesley on practical theology. Wesley teaches that people are justified by faith alone and that conviction of sin and repentance comes before justification. Conviction and repentance are important in the salvation process but not in the same sense or the same degree as faith. Wesley refers to the grace from which salvation comes as being, “free in all,” meaning that it does not depend on human power or merit. A person can be redeemed if he will, but not when he will. Wesley views the process of salvation as the conjunction of cooperant and free grace. The faith that justifies goes beyond believing that God exists and the knowledge of God’s character. It is also more than the faith of a devil. It is more than the faith of the apostles while Jesus was on earth. The nature of faith is a spiritual sense by which we understand spiritual things. Faith requires both, “belief that” and “belief in”

  • Justification is the work God does for us, sanctification is the work God does in us. Justification makes us children of God, and sanctification is the process of becoming saints. Justification is based on the atoning work of Christ and entails the forgiveness of sin and freedom from guilt. Wesley teaches that when you are justified, you are forgiven of past sins. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers because of what Jesus did. He applied imputation to justification only, not sanctification because he was concerned about people taking this as a license to sin. Sola Fide is the teaching that faith is not only the necessary condition of justification, but it is also a sufficient condition. Wesley teaches that justification and regeneration occur simultaneously, never one without the other. Wesley held not one but two aspects of his doctrine of salvation in tension: both process and instantaneousness, divine and human cooperation as well as the work of God alone.

  • Wesley teaches that justifying grace is imputed by God and regenerating grace is imparted by God. When Wesley refers to, “divine empowerment,” he means that the Holy Spirit gives believers the power to live in obedience to God. Wesley describes regeneration as the great work which God does in us, in renewing our fallen nature and the beginning of sanctification. Regeneration itself is a result of free grace. Only God can make a soul holy and fill it with the Holy Spirit. He also emphasizes the importance of holy living. “Faith alone, working by love, aimed at holy living.” Wesley linked regeneration with the doctrine of original sin. Since we were born in sin, we must be born again. Wesley describes the new birth as a vast change from darkness to light. Orthodoxy is important, but it’s crucial that regeneration also leads to life transformation.

  • Regeneration is an instantaneous supernatural change that begins the process of sanctification. It is God alone who forgives sin and makes a person holy. The first “liberty” of the gospel is freedom from the guilt of sin. The second “liberty” of the gospel is the deliverance from the power and dominion of sin. The marks of the new birth are faith, hope and love. Wesley defines sin as a willful transgression of a known law of God. Wesley is not saying that one who is regenerated will never sin again, but open, willful sin and rejecting God should be the exception rather than the rule. Obedience of faith refers to the power of someone who is regenerated to obey the commandments of God. The greatest freedom of all is the freedom to love God and love our neighbor.

  • Assurance is an essential part of the conversion experience. Our sins are forgiven and we are children of God. Biblical texts that teach assurance are Romans 8:15-16, Galatians 4:5-8 and 1 John 2:12-14. According to Roman Catholic theology articulated at the council of Trent, assurance is not a normative component of God’s promise of salvation. The Roman Catholic church teaches that assurance is corporate and focuses on apostolic succession and the sacraments. Wesley describes the direct witness of assurance as an inward impression on the soul of believers by the Holy Spirit, who testifies to the spirit of the person that they are a child of God. The realization of the direct witness of the spirit will be different for each individual and will be memorable but may not be dramatic. Wesley considers conscience as a supernatural faculty that God has restored.

  • Indirect witnesses to our new birth are the keeping of the commandments of God and fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are diverse but they are all given by the Holy Spirit. Wesley emphasizes the importance of both direct and indirect witness.

  • Wesley describes salvation and sanctification by writing, “God worketh in you; therefore you can work…God worketh in you, therefore you must work.” In the process of sanctification, we are becoming increasingly holy. The process of sanctification involves changes in degree. The process begins when we are justified. The believer is gradually dying to the carnal nature. The Christian life is a journey of holiness. The goal is holy love. As believers experience the love of God, they will love God and show love to their neighbor. Wesley teaches that when you believe in God, you have a disposition toward God, which is a sure trust and confidence in God which causes changes in your life. Dispositions are more consistent than emotions. Practicing sin makes you less free. Holiness leads to freedom and happiness.

  • Self-denial involves being willing to follow grace, to follow God’s will rather than yours, recognizing that your nature is corrupt and to deny ourselves is to deny our will where it contradicts God’s will. Taking up your cross includes being willing to endure suffering. Wesley teaches that repentance is important in terms of individual sins at salvation and also of the sin nature. Evangelical repentance is repentance of the sin nature. Wesley urged people to minister to both peoples’ bodies and souls.

  • In this lesson, John Wesley's theology on entire sanctification emphasizes the distinction between gradual sanctification as a process and instantaneous entire sanctification, with a focus on the idea that entire sanctification is an utter gift of God received by faith alone, demonstrating a balanced view of cooperative and free grace.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Collins reviews John Wesley's doctrine on entire sanctification. He explains that it is not sinless perfection but a state of love where believers are free from the power and being of sin, emphasizing the need for continual growth in grace.
  • Wesley wanted to reform the church of England, not begin a new denomination. The fundamental nature of the Church is a community of people-centered on Christ. The Greek word in the New Testament that refers to the Church is ekklesia. The Church was born at Pentecost. The relation of the church to Israel and the inclusion of Gentiles in the church were two foundational questions in the early Church. The Church is composed of all believers throughout the world as well as believers meeting in local communities. There is one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. The importance of unity in the Church is stressed in the Gospel of John and in other writings in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit animates individuals and also the body of Christ corporately.

  • It’s not possible to for people to be holy without the Holy Spirit. The Church should live in an attitude of humility and be open to repentance and reform when there is sin and evil discovered. There institutional church should have disciplinary mechanisms to deal with sin and evil. Ecclesiastical synonyms for catholic are universal, global, ecumenical and extensive. The apostolic testimony is passed down through the centuries. Apostolic succession divides the Church because of the view of the sacraments, especially the Lord’s Supper. The creeds in the reformation era articulated Protestant theology. The church is where the pure Word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly administered. Methodism is a reforming movement with the theme of real Christianity vs. people who lived by displaying the form of Christianity but lacked the power. Methodist bands and select societies were modeled after Moravian small groups. The soul and the body make a man, the spirit and discipline make a Christian. The general rules of the United Societies were agree to avoid evil, do good to your neighbor and employ the means of grace. The goal was to foster a spirit of repentance. They emphasized Scriptural Christianity. Wesley’s purpose was that Methodism become a reforming order within the church, not a separate denomination.

  • Worship is a response to God because God has already acted. Gathering together is important for the faith community to fellowship together. The minister welcomes everyone to invite them to worship God. In worship, we encounter the Word of God as it is read and declared, by response in prayer and in the creeds and confessions. In communion, we are responding to the gift that God has given us. When we go out from a worship service, we are salt and light to the world. Worship is essentially responding in acknowledgment of what God has done. A sacrament is an outward expression of an inward grace that is received by faith. Luther described a sacrament as containing the three elements of a sign, signification, and promise. For baptism, the sign is the water, the signification is dying and rising with Christ and the promise is forgiveness of sin and renewal of your nature. Wesley considered baptism to be associated but distinct from the new birth. Baptism is an outward sign of the inward work of the new birth.

  • Wesley’s view of baptism is both sacramental and “evangelical.” Wesley considers the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace because it is, “food for the journey. In the early church, believers were required to be baptized before they could receive the Lord’s Supper. The sign is the bread and wine, the signification is the body and blood of Jesus and the promise is the forgiveness of sins and renewal of our nature. Luther describe’s the Lord’s Supper as a testament. Wesley says that there is a spiritual presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice, but it does bring the meanings of the death of Jesus into the community of faith in a tangible way. Wesley thought that each person should receive the Lord’s Supper as often as possible.

  • Eschatology comes from a Greek word meaning, “last things.” Aristotle describes physical death is when the body is separated from the soul. Spiritual death is when the soul is separated from the sanctifying presence of God. Eternal death is the eternal separation of the soul from God. Some people teach that the term “sleep” in Scripture to describe death, means cessation of consciousness and is not used metaphorically of the dead body. A belief in the unending existence of the soul raises the question of its habitat and activities in the state between death and the resurrection, generally referred to as the intermediate state. It seems then that there is a particular judgment at death that will be consummated later on in a general judgment. Jesus promised that he would come again to earth and it will be personal, visible, physical and literal.

  • The second coming of Christ will take some people by surprise, but the faithful will be prepared. It will be visible and obvious to everyone. Believers will be raised from the dead to be with Christ. Postmillennialism teaches that things keep getting better and the second coming of Christ will come after the millennium. Premillennialism teaches that things get worse and Christ comes before the millennium. Amillennialism sees the thousand-year reign as a symbol and not a reality. There will be a final judgment that will display the attributes of God, where Jesus will be seen as the king of kings. The final judgment will bring justice and reveal the character of each person. Heaven is where the glory of God is expressed. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Holy Love is an overarching theme of John Wesley's preaching and theology. Join Dr. Kenneth Collins as he explores topics ranging from grace, repentance, justification, regeneration, assurance, sanctification, the church and sacraments, and eschatology, by using Scripture, historical context, and the writings and the sermons of John Wesley. 

Wesleyan Theology II
Dr. Ken Collins<
The Church as the Body of Christ (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript


Yes, we've been talking about the marks of the church, one holy Catholic and apostolic, and we've been talking the last time about the holiness of the church. And I remember we were discussing Jesus's dialog with Nicodemus and showing the importance of regeneration, the importance of the new birth becoming holy. We also talked about the mystery involved in this supernatural work of grace that the wind blows where it pleases. And so I wanted to just fill this out a bit more because I think there's more here and the observations that Jesus is making in this context of a dialog with Nicodemus, he is underscoring the precious truth that holiness, apart from the person and work of the Holy Spirit, is not a human possibility. It's not a human possibility. That is it's not a human work or achievement. It's not something that people could ever bring about by themselves through their own resources, but rather it is indicative of a dependent relationship whereby believers receive the gift of the Lordship of Christ with the accompanying Holy Spirit that marks all of the children of God, those who have been born of God. And so, again, holiness and this is important, is not a human prerogative in the sense that neither by undertaking serious studies nor by taking up some moral reform program, will that necessarily result in being born again or becoming holy. And so the new birth, then that's being referred to here, holiness and holiness, which is a mark of the church, makes the church dependent upon the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is the source of all holiness, both in the church and personally. And so the apostle John declares, But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power.


And it is a power to become the children of God who were born not of blood. In other words, not in a natural way, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man. In other words, our will doesn't bring it about, but of God. And this is what John writes in chapter one verses 12 through 13. In addition, this spirit most assuredly cannot be controlled. It cannot be manipulated. It cannot be bought. Remember Simon Magnus in Acts chapter eight, verses nine through 24. And so here there is mystery. There is the freedom of God. There is the sovereignty of God. It is the spirit who makes the church wholly as a distinct community. And it is that same spirit who makes particular people wholly in the depths of their hearts, such that they can cry out above other father testifying to that Jesus Christ is Lord, He is Lord. And so Martin Luther expressed this same sort of dependance of the believer upon God whereby believers become holy. And I like how he expressed this dependent relationship. He basically wrote that the believer lives in Christ through faith and in their neighbor, through love. And so by faith, believers are caught up by the spirit to worship a God of holy love. And so the new birth here, which underscores the holiness of the church, shows that the very creation of the church is a supernatural work, because we're not talking about a natural resource here. We're talking about a supernatural being, the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in our lives. Now, though, we can make a distinction of the church, the church militant, the church on Earth, right? Now struggling, bearing witness to Christ, then the church triumphant. In other words, those who have died and are in the presence of Christ right now.


So the church militant and the church triumphant. And with that distinction, we can note in terms of this second, you know, Major Mark of the church, the church is holy, but it is not utterly so. It is not other utterly so that we see, even in the early church, sin evil and failure, at least in part, are characteristics of the church on earth, are in contrast, of course, to the church triumphant that which reigns with Christ in heaven. And so, yes, indeed, holiness is a mark of the church, but the church on Earth, and though it is holy, it is not entirely so. The frank recognition of such means that the church should ever be in a spirit of humility and therefore open, open to ongoing repentance, ongoing repentance and reform. To be sure, if an institutional church and and we need institutions in terms of the church, because institution will be that mechanism whereby the life of the church will be passed on from generation to generation. Sometimes I hear people say, Well, I'm in the spirit of the church, is the body of Christ, which is all true. And they somehow want to diminish the importance of the institutional church. But think about this You need the institution to pass on the deposit of faith, if you will, to the next generation. You need traditional structures to pass on that because the church is going through time, the church is going through time, and it has to bear a faithful witness from age to age, from age to age. And so if an institutional church does not have the proper mechanisms in place to come to terms with its own evil in all its various forms, then this will be a significant deficit.


So in other words, the church and especially the institutional church, should have some disciplinary mechanisms in place to deal with the reality of evil that will emerge from time to time within the church. We see examples of this, of course, in the first century church with an entire sense of fire. And we see, you know, the discipline that took place in terms of of their own life. And then, as I was quoting earlier, in another context, Paul talks about discipline in the church as well. Cast out the wicked one from among you. So he's talking about making a judgment there and protecting the church so that it can bear witness to the truth that is Jesus Christ over time. Now, the third mark of the church, it is one wholly. It is Catholic. And so now we focus on the catholicity of the church. This third mark that is the catholicity is oftentimes confused with the first mark. That is the oneness of the body of Christ. But the two terms, however, they're not the same. They're not the same are in fact, the proper synonyms for the word Catholic, especially in ecclesiastical context, would include all of the following. So listen to the synonyms here. Universal, comprehensive, ecumenical, global and extensive. Okay, so here we are speaking of the breadth of the church, its comprehensiveness, its global dimension, that is throughout. Pervasive. Comprehensive. Universal. Extensive. This is what we mean by Catholicity. Catholicity. And that, of course, is a is a great gift. The fact that the church is is Catholic. All Christians can affirm the affirmation of the Apostles Creed. I believe in the Holy Catholic Church. And so when we recite that creed and we affirm the catholicity of the church, we're not referring to a particular theological tradition like the Roman Catholic Church.


We're thinking more broadly here in terms of the universality of the church, wherever Christ is worshiped and adored throughout the world. Okay. Now, the church is also apostolic, but is apostolic. The Apostle Paul points out in his letter to the Ephesians that the church is built upon the apostolic witness with Christ being the foundation, he writes. This is what he writes in Ephesians chapter two, verses 19 through 20. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone. The chief cornerstone. Now, that's interesting because we're looking at the foundation of the church. What is the foundation of the church? It's the apostles and prophets. Here we think of the apostolic testimony. We think of the apostolic testimony to Jesus Christ. Think of Peter's confession. I think of Peter's confession. You are the Christ, the Son of God. Okay. There is the church. There is the apostolic profession, the apostolic testimony and witness to Jesus Christ. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Paul is saying here in Ephesians that Christ himself is the cornerstone is the cornerstone. The apostles in profits are the foundation. And we speak about the importance of apostolic testimony, Christ being the chief, the chief cornerstone. And so what's important here and what is being passed down through the ages is, I would argue, a good Protestant that I am. Is the apostolic testimony. The apostolic testimony is being passed down from generation to generation. And so the same apostolic testimony that was heard in the first century is heard by us today in preaching in the proclamation and teaching life of the church.


Now, some church traditions will focus on not the apostolic testimony, although they will stress that, but they'll also focus on Apostolic Office. Apostolic office and the way that usually works out and we see this in terms of Roman Catholicism and Eastern orthodoxy, that they will develop a particular ecclesiology that will be focused on the apostolic succession of bishops that supposedly goes back to, you know, all the way back to to Peter. However, I as a historian, especially as I and Jerry was prepared the book Roman, but not Catholic. What remains at stake 500 years after the Reformation, which we published in 2017 to commemorate the great anniversary of the Reformation. I looked at this issue very carefully in terms of apostolic succession and like Wesley, because he also doubted the apostolic succession. I couldn't find it. I couldn't find it in the sense that we can trace the current bishops all the way back in a succession that would go back to Peter. The problem that we would have, first of all, is that Peter was not a bishop but an apostle. That what we mean by Bishop today, we actually call that the monarchical episcopacy. In other words, the bishop who is distinct. West from the Presbyter or elder in the church. So in other words, you have a kind of three tier understanding of the church deacons, presbyters and then bishops. But the problem is there are no monarchical bishops in the first century church. Because if you look at the pages of the New Testament in terms of the pastoral epistles, for example, first and second Timothy Titus, we see that Presbyterians, elder and Episcopacy are used interchangeably. They're used interchangeably. However, it is not until the second century, the beginning of the second century, with Ignatius, where you see the rise of the what we call the monarchical episcopacy.


In other words, the bishop is above the elder and the deacon. So we see that. We begin to see that in in the beginning of the second century. But there were no monarchical bishops in the first century. So if your understanding of the church is that your, your bishops are a part of an apostolic succession that goes all the way back to Peter, a monarchical episcopacy that goes all the way back to Peter, you've made a fundamental historical error. It's the era of anachronism. You are reading later historical realities back into the past where they simply don't belong because in the early church, Bishop and Presbyter were used interchangeably and the monarchical episcopacy did not rise until the second century, the second century with Ignatius Ignatius of Antioch. We see it first in Antioch and then later on. Now, this is actually rather interesting because Rome often times makes an appeal to apostolic succession. But there has been an important book by a scholar named LAMP recently, and he has argued in his fractionalization thesis that the monarchical episcopacy did not exist in Rome until the latter part of the second century. And so prior to that time, you see a kind of decentralization of ecclesiastical authority in Rome. And we don't see a monarchical episcopacy that would be necessary for the apostolic succession. And so Rome has a particular problem in that, although the monarchical episcopacy is evident in Antioch in the early second century, it's not present in Rome until the latter part of the second century. And if people if scholars appeal to the work of any of Irenaeus and his writings and what he says in this area and I've looked at this material very carefully, it appears that Irenaeus is understanding, excuse me, underscoring a succession of testimony, not of office, a succession of testimony and not of office.


Now, when John Wesley looked at this, how some churches were understanding their own Apostolic City in terms of apostolic succession. Wesley came to a very similar judgment to what I've just given you. He did this after reading the writings of Edward Stilling Fleet and also Lord Peter King. And in reading those writings from both of those men, he was convinced to use his own words that apostolic succession is a myth. It is a myth. Apostolic succession is a particular ecclesiology that is used by some traditions in the church today, Roman Catholicism, Eastern orthodoxy being two examples of it. But there also is a downside to the appeal of apostolic succession, as we were indicating earlier. And and it plays out in this way. It plays out in this way because Rome and Eastern orthodoxy would view Protestants as not a part of this apostolic succession, then their clergy are not properly ordained. And as a consequence, they do not properly offer valid, valid sacraments. Valid sacraments. If you will, because they are not a part of this succession. And so this actually divides the church today such that there is not inter communion between Roman Catholics and Protestants and Protestants in Eastern Orthodox. So it's actually dividing the church. And I might add, in light of our previous discussions, it therefore is move moves the church in a tribal direction exactly the opposite of oneness, because it's moving in a tribal direction where there is ongoing division precisely at the Lord's table, where there should be unity, but there is division and there is division because of a particular and it is particular a particular ecclesiology which is being affirmed. Now, watch this. Watch this in the early church. Okay. And I think, you know, certainly in the second century and into the third century, apostolic succession is appealed to.


And the bishop is focused upon as the center of unity in the church to the distinguishing of heretics. Yes, heretics. So, in other words, apostolic succession and the focus on the unity of the church in the bishop was a way that the early church separated the Orthodox from the heterodox. And but now this very same ecclesiology is being used to divide and separate those who are not heretics, because Protestants are not heretics, not by any stretch of the imagination. Protestants are orthodox. They affirm scripture. Many Protestants would affirm the creeds and the great ecumenical councils, although some would not. And so you have the misuse of this particular ecclesiology, which does not take into account the later developments of the church, whereby the church broke up into different theological traditions. But. None of those traditions more Christian than the other. Okay. Lutherans are no less Christian for being Lutheran than the Eastern Orthodox. Presbyterians are, no less Christian for being Presbyterian than are Roman Catholics. And so we have to apply proper ecclesiology again. I would say if you're using this ecclesiology of Apostolic Succession to cast doubt on the ordained ministry of Protestants or to divide the Lord's table, then you're using your ecclesiology to separate one Christian from another, and you're turning the gospel on its head, because as we suggested already, and I'm serious about this, the Gospel is the universal love of God manifested in Christ Jesus, our Lord, neither male nor female. Well, neither do you know Gentile slave nor free, male or female. And so how is it then, that we can bring in distinctions and not go to that transcendent unity and actually divide what should be common? And that is the Lord's Supper? Because when Jesus celebrated the Lord's Supper, he said, My body broken for you.


And he distributed among his disciples my blood shed for you, it's for you and the First Lord's Supper if we want to understand it properly. And there are many ways and many lenses we can use here, It was very clearly a fellowship meal. It was fellowship, a unity, a unity among the disciples in in Christ. And so we do have to make that observation. Now, when we think about church governance and polity, there are some who will argue that there is a sacred polity, just as there is a sacred scripture. So in other words, the Holy Spirit not only sanctified writings, infuse them, inspired them, etc., but that the Holy Spirit offered the church a sanctified polity or governance of the church. There are some who argue that even today, and that is Episcopacy, they would argue that Episcopacy is the way that had been revealed by the Holy Spirit, that the church should be governed. And but others would argue no, that there is no revealed polity, that one could have a congregational understanding of the polity of the church or a Presbyterian understanding of the polity of the church or an Episcopal, that that a church tradition is free to choose what manner of governance is best as it lives its life. And so there's this issue that relates to this whole whole matter as well, in terms of the Apostolic city of the church. Now, of course, when we think of the appeal to apostolic succession as being an engine of Christians, an engine of division among Christians, I should say, I think our burden today in the 21st century is for all of us, both Protestant and Catholic and Eastern Orthodox alike, to bear witness to the world in unity. You saw earlier all the ways I Wesley spoke about the unity of the church one Lord, one faith, one baptism.


And somehow or other and I know this will be difficult, but we need to show that unity to the world, because in doing that, that will glorify Jesus Christ. Now, when we think of the great creedal epochs of the church, we don't simply think of the fourth and fifth centuries, although that was very important. To be sure, that was a great creedal epoch when the Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity was being worked out, you know, proper teaching. And we think of, you know, the Nicene Constantinople and Creed, for example, which comes to us in the. What century we think of that creed as an important moment in the history of the church. But there's also another great creedal epoch, and that is the time of the Reformation during the 16th century. A number of creeds were promulgated in order to pass along the genius of the faith in terms of its reform, which was necessary to subsequent to subsequent generations. And so creeds are necessary, especially in terms of the creeds from hailing from the 16th century, for the sake of reform, so that the Protestant traditions could rightly, under the power of the Holy Spirit, put aside the corruptions of the church that had worked their way into the church, especially during the Middle Ages. And so we see the importance of reform, and therefore that will entail the recognition of two great, great creedal epochs in the church, not simply one, the fourth and fifth centuries, to be sure, but also the time of the Reformation. Now, it's interesting when you look at the understanding of the church in the 16th century among the reformers like Lutheran, Calvin and even Cranmer, they they tend to focus on two principal elements of the church.


The church is where the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly administered. You'll run across that again and again. The church is that place where the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments are duly administered, the sacraments are duly administered. So here we find yet another definition of the church, this one informed by reforming sensibilities, by the reformers, the pure word of God. Sacraments duly administered. You see in that very language some of the elements of reform caught up in it. Now, John Wesley, although he was not a part of obviously not a part of the 16th century reformation, but nevertheless, he saw Methodism as very much a part of reform, very much as a reforming movement in the life of the church. And we see this in some respects, in Wesley's preoccupation with the theme of real Christianity, real Christianity, as opposed to what? As opposed to nominal Christianity. Because Wesley grew up in an age in which he was surrounded by many examples of what we would call nominal Christianity today. And another way of expressing that is to say that they had the form of religion, they had all the trappings of religion, but they lacked the power. They lacked the power thereof. And so John Wesley read an important work by Johann Arndt, which was entitled True Christianity. And in reading this work are where Wesley was greatly impressed. All the German pieties. You know, people like Spader and Frank Franca, they read aren't they read aren't true Christianity. And they were greatly, greatly impressed. They were greatly impressed by it. Okay. And Wesley, also in reading it, begins to develop this motif, this theme of real Christianity. So what does Wesley want? He wants to be a real, true, proper scriptural Christian.


He even at one point says real, true, proper, rational, rational Christian. Because Wesley has a very positive and high valuation of reason, reason rightly informed by the grace of God. And so we're going to see this theme play out in Wesley. The importance of being a real as opposed to a nominal Christian. That is going to mean then that Methodism is going to be a reforming impulse within the larger context of the church and not simply understood in terms of the Church of England that is Anglicanism. But also in terms of the other communions of faith that Methodism, God has raised up Methodism to remind the church that the church is holy, the church is holy. And so when Wesley read Virus Christian tome true Christianity, he saw fit to include it in his first volume of a Christian library, which he produced in 1749. Now, Johann Arndt had highlighted the themes of personal reform, the repudiation of stale intellectual ism, criticism of doctrinal provincialism, and the importance of sanctification, the importance of holiness. A whole century prior to John Wesley. Moreover, during his middle years in a way characteristic of continental piety ism, Wesley linked the motif of real Christianity to both inward religion and then also to reform to those dispositions and tempers of the heart that mark the regenerate believer and that constitute the proper Christian faith. In other words, real, true, proper Christianity. So for example, if we take a look at one of Wesley's sermons upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount discourse, the six Wesley underscores that Christ, quote has laid before us those dispositions of soul which constitute real Christianity. The inward tempers contained in that holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. And so during the latter part of his career, Wesley continued to highlight the distinction between a nominal Christian on the one hand and a real Christian on the other.


As pointed out in his sermon, The new Creation. The New creation. And by that, he had employed a very familiar rhetoric by now that the former have the form of godliness that is the nominal Christians without the power. And from whence comes the power? Where comes the power from the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit in us? And so clues, by the way, as to when Wesley himself determined in his own mind to be a real Christian, are found in a late sermon. In what sense? We are to leave the world where he indicates once again the significance of the year. 1730 1725 Excuse me. And this is what he writes, quote, When it please God to give me a settled resolution to be not a nominal but a real Christian being about 22 years of age. My acquaintance were as ignorant of God as myself. And so here's Wesley. He's reflecting back upon an earlier time when he was a young man, you know, 22 years old, and he had the desire at that time to be not a nominal Christian, but to be a real Christian. And so when Wesley once again reflected back upon the Oxford Methodists in a letter that he wrote later in life to Henry Brooke in 1786, he avowed that the design of the Methodists was nothing less than to be, quote, Bible Christians, Bible Christians. And then the following year, in his sermon of former times, Wesley revealed that the goal of the Holy Club was, above all, to help each other, to help each other be want to help each other be real Christians, real Christians. And so the goal of Methodism, in other words, was not to form any new sect, but rather to reform the nation, particularly the church, and to spread scriptural holiness across the land.


Well, impressed by the success of the Pieties model of the church and the piety has developed a particular understanding of the church and small groups. As they relate to the broader church, and they call that ecclesial lay in ecclesia, the ecclesial lay in ecclesia model. And John Wesley took this up also into the life of Methodism, whereby you use small groups, small cell groups within the life of the broader church. And so Wesley developed the Methodist infrastructure, and there is a methodist infrastructure in terms of its class meetings, its bands and its select societies. So, for example, if you were to hear John Wesley preach in the 18th century and let's say you responded to his preaching, you wanted to take the next step. You would be invited to participate in a class meeting. And so you become a part of a small group of a accountable, face to face relationship that met regularly over time. Okay. And if you were in the bands, which would be a more serious coming together of folk, you would be asked the question each week, What known sins have you committed? And so each was looking over the other's soul, taking care of one soul in these various groups. And then, of course, there were the select societies. And so there are a number of things actually to bring out here that are important. First of all, you could not be a methodist in the 18th century by simply going to church on Sunday morning. It just that wouldn't be enough. That wouldn't do it. Wesley expected that you would be in church on Sunday morning, and for many, that would be the Anglican Church. But he also expected that you would be meeting with your class. You would be meeting with your class on a weekly basis, on a weekly basis for accountable for an accountable, disciplined relationship.


And so these cell groups became the practical expression of the priesthood of believers in that all members, as well as the class leaders, looked out for the spiritual welfare of one another. Discipline was exercised not only by such oversight, but also by restricting admittance to the love feasts which always required a ticket. Okay. And so there is this pithy phrase that comes from Wesley. He said he writes The soul and a body make a man. The spirit and discipline make a Christian the soul and the body make a man, Wesley quipped. The spirit and discipline make a Christian. And so Wesley wanted to make sure that structures of discipline were in place beyond the local church, beyond what Anglicanism had to offer by creating these class meetings, these bands, these select societies in which the Christian life, in which the Christian life would be lived out. Now, Wesley also engaged in another level of discipline, and we see this in the journals, we see this in the journals that he talks about going to the class, the classes, and he pruned them. He pruned them. He pruned the class meetings. What does that mean? It means that those who were recalcitrant, they were recalcitrant or stubborn in their sin. And there are cases, for example, of drunkenness or of wife beating. Yes, even wife beating. And those folk were removed from the bands excuse me, from the class meetings. They were removed from the class meetings. Now, they were obviously disfellowshipped. This is an instance of being disfellowshipped here. Those folk, if they were repentant, they could be brought back into the life and the good graces of the church. And think of of the gift to be enjoyed. There you have the fellowship of love.


You have the graces of communion. That is a precious thing to enjoy and to be removed from. That is serious loss. And so Wesley didn't take it lightly in terms of how one comes back into the class meeting. If you were disciplined and if you were removed, because he also established a group called the Penitence. The penitence. And so let's say you did fall you. Let's say someone beat their wife and repeatedly and they are removed from the class meeting. And let's say they amended their lives and they repented and they're giving evidence of that. Well, they wouldn't be brought directly into the class meeting. They would be brought into the penitence. And when they gave a demonstration of of living in in accordance with the Christian faith, they would once again be placed in the class meeting. So you can see how John Wesley took discipline very seriously. And other traditions take discipline as well. I know that how elders functioned in some churches, they have an important disciplinary role, and that's a very good thing. Our problem today is that we've lost all or many of these disciplinary structures, whether one is speaking of the Methodist tradition or some other tradition, who would use elders to exercise the kind of discipline we're talking about there. This piece has basically fallen away in many respects. But for Wesley, you could not be a methodist if you were not a part of a class meeting or a band or a select society. You just simply couldn't do it. You couldn't do it. It wouldn't be enough simply to show up on Sunday mornings for church that wouldn't do it. And so we see here the great pastoral care that's involved in this Methodist infrastructure, the discipline that is very much a part of Methodist life.


And so Wesley added at one point, he he wrote, quote, preaching like an apostle without joining together, Those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God is only begetting children for the murderer. And so here actually is a contrast between George Whitfield on the one hand and John Wesley on the other. George Whitfield undoubtedly was a better preacher than John Wesley. And and the numbers show that although Wesley has very good numbers when he preaches as well. But George Whitfield was a very popular preacher and they even discussed this issue later on in life that when George Whitfield came through, he would preach. And he'd raised much excitement and much response. But then he didn't gather up the harvest of that into into class meetings and bands, etc., but he would go on and preach elsewhere. John Wesley Every place where he preached, he gathered. He gathered up and placed in structures of accountability. And so but, you know, as Whitfield was an older person and Wesley and Whitfield are discussing this, Whitfield admitted even to John Wesley that he had chosen the better way here, that it is best in preaching also to gather up the harvest and those who are reflected in the number of people who had responded and were a part of Methodists. By the end of the 18th century, thousands upon thousands of people were now in England. They were Methodists due to this important emphasis on discipline. And so when we speak of the infrastructure of Methodism, when we talk about the class meetings, the bands United Societies, we're thinking I mean, the select societies, we're thinking of the larger structure that Wesley called the United Societies. The United Societies and the United Societies were made up of the various groups that I have described.


And notice these groups are they are arranged so teria logically. In other words, the bands are more serious. I mean, they are you know, if I could use that language, they are, you know, hankering for significant growth and grace and the select societies in terms of entire sanctification. And so there's a kind of grading that's going on here, a kind of spiritual grading that's going on here. And Henderson is someone in his own work, John Wesley, in the class meeting who has filled this out in in greater detail. But when we look at a class, it would normally be composed of about 12 persons, and you'd have men in one class, women in another, and women would be leaders, just as men would be leaders. The only requirement for the entrance into the United Society was a desire to flee the wrath to come. But if you had that desire to flee the wrath to come, then you were immediately placed in a class. You'd be placed in a class meeting. And then to remain in that class meeting, however, you were already starting to see a little change. To remain in that class meeting, you would have to keep the general rules of the United Societies, which are three, which are three. First, you would agree to avoid evil. You'd leave off, you know, public known sins. Second, you would do good as best as you are able, do good to your neighbor, serve the poor, serve those who are in need. And third, you would employ the means of grace. In other words, you'd read your Bible, you'd pray you'd attend church. And so once you are placed in a class meeting, you were introduced to the general rules of the United Society.


And these three general rules are also what Wesley means by repentance. Because if you look in other contexts, when Wesley is writing on repentance, he is listing these same three things. Are you in a state of repentance? Then leave off evil, do good, use the means of grace. So this tells me that the very councils of the United Societies is for repentance. So Methodism is being set up for the purpose of repentance, of transformation, of being open to transformation, of being open to receiving the grace of God, whereby we might receive the forgiveness of sins and be transformed in our nature. And so this factor demonstrates that the very purpose of the class meeting was to foster a spirit of repentance from an old way of life to a new one, in which in time sins would be forsaken and the gracious tempers of Holy love would be realized in that person's life. And so the genius of the. It is infrastructure. The genius of the method, a system, if you will, was evident at its very beginning in being open to all people, not simply to Anglicans. And yet, by applying a discipline to all people that would most likely be conducive to what be conducive to the inculcation of real, true, proper scriptural Christianity. And so this is the very purpose, the very point of the method as infrastructure set up for repentance and as a way to introduce folk to real, true, proper scriptural Christianity. And I think we should also say here, because Wesley, like Luther, has a rich understanding of the priesthood of believers, that those who were looked down upon in in British society in the 18th century, those folk, some of whom were poor, they had status when they came into a methodist class meeting, they had what for want of better language we can call so teria logical status.


And so you will see that some of the poor who were, you know, looked down upon in British society are the actual leaders of class meetings. They're the actual leaders of class meetings because they are valued in terms of the Imago day in which they have been created and they are exercising their spiritual gifts in the context of a structure which is should be conducive to real Christianity. And so that's an interesting dynamic we see playing out in the class meetings that people have status here because what counts is receiving, receiving the grace, receiving the grace of God. And so you can see in terms of this infrastructure and we could talk in greater detail about the bands and select societies that drawing from some pieties and also Moravian models. You know, Wesley was not an innovator. He basically appropriated key insights from other traditions in this case in terms of patriotism and in Moravian ism. And so when we see what's going on here, I think Albert Out was correct and very apt in describing Methodism with this infrastructure as a quote and evangelical order with in the Ecclesia Anglican. And so what Allan is saying there is Methodism is an evangelical order within the Church of England, within the Church of England directly, but also not simply limited to the Church of England, but open to all Methodism. Then we say it again was never intended to be a church with the full panoply of bell book and candle or outlaw rites. But it was meant to be a society, a reforming order, a reforming order within the larger communion of faith. Yes. Okay. Let's entertain some questions or comments that you might have. It's common today that people are busy with job responsibilities and entertainment activities that they're involved in.


And yet it seems like even 250 years ago that Wesley had a model of small groups with the purpose of discipleship. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. But today, that's difficult to be seen as a priority. In other words, and it might become for some, I hear you suggesting a time issue. In other words, if we talked about having a class meeting on a weekly basis, that that becomes a time issue for folk and therefore they're not much interested in it. Okay. Well, even the idea of taking time out for personal discipleship and then translating that into a small group setting and taking the time to build those relationships, it seems like often that's not a priority. Yes, I hear you and I. I think you are being descriptive of a reality that we all know here, that we all know this here. You know, in my past, when I've counseled with folk, when I've done spiritual counseling, I have asked people to just take a blank sheet of paper and write down what your values are, what do you value, and be honest. You know, just be honest. Be frank. Just just lay it all out there what you value. And then after they do that, I ask them to do this. Okay, Now that you've listed all your values and you've been honest with that. Rank them. Rank them in order. What is the most important? And then after that, what's the next most important and go through the whole list until you get to the bottom. Okay. And then we would have this conversation or a similar conversation in light of what they hand it in. And what you will see at times is that. What is on the sheet does not correspond to how they're living.


Okay. And so, you know, there's that kind of dissonance. That in and of itself may be helpful, but they might do a kind of economy of their daily life. How are they spending time? Wesley did this. He did this because he saw time, especially after reading Jeremy Taylor in the same way that people view money. In other words, it's a resource not to be wasted. And so Wesley talked about redeeming the time that you don't waste time because we use our time to the glory of God. Okay. And so, you know, if I were counseling such a person, I'd want to see how they're spending their time. You know, you mentioned entertainment. How much are you spending in entertainment and how much are you spending in terms of the church and serving the life of the church? That might be a good thing to do. Yeah, but you raise an important issue. Yeah. Also, we talk about unity of the church. And you mentioned conversations between Protestants and Catholics. Yes. Yes. And the it seems unlikely that there would be any movement. On their view of sacraments. On either side of that, and I know we mentioned earlier about, you know, the value of those conversations. What about within the Protestant? Um, groups. What do you see as subjects that we that are non-negotiable, That we could function together in unity and still have our own views on those? And what should we be discussing that might be better coming to an agreement about. Okay. No, this is a very, very good question, a very difficult question. I heard you respond in some respects. Would you like to start off here? Yeah. Like Ed was reading my mind, I was thinking those very stark scriptural differences between some denominations in terms of non-negotiable items like how are you saved? It's salvation by faith through grace, and that's it.


So I'm not sure how you can unite. Denominations. If we're doing what Paul says and removing the false teaching about from among us, when it comes to that's fundamental. We can't get to heaven without this. I mean, this is what Christ says about it. I was thinking about that too. But Protestants too have their own. I mean, everything from the form of baptism to. And what does unity look like? Yeah. Yeah. What does your body look like? Okay. Yeah. Let me. Let me indicate what I. What I came to in my own reflections after having written, you know, that book, Roman, but not Catholic. What remains at stake 500 years after the Reformation? I realize that what happened over time in the life of the church is that although there was an early unity, you know what I like to call the ancient ecumenical church, you know, during, let's say, the first 500 years of the church, that the church broke up into distinct theological traditions by the sixth century. We know that because, you know, during the latter part of the sixth century, the Western tradition interpolated the creed and added the Philly okay clause. The spirit precedes from the father and from the son that and from the son and the east did not accept that. And so what do we have? Well, you know, do we have unity? I think in some sense we still have unity. But what we do have also is distinct, and they are distinct, distinct theological traditions. The Western tradition is going to go this way and the Eastern tradition is going to go that way. Now, what happens later on, you know, if we jump ahead to the 16th century, the time of the Reformation, the Western Church is breaking up into distinct theological traditions.


You know, from the Lutheran, the reforms, the Anabaptists, the Anglican. Okay. And then, of course, there's Roman Catholicism. Those are distinct theological traditions. They will share some things that are common, but there will also be things that are different. And and Tom Oden, the late Tom Oden. In his book Classic Christianity, he described the unity in difference by drawing a pyramid. And if you remember from your geometry classes, this would be the largest area. This would be the largest area. And so if we were to think of, let's say, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism, we are going to share this in common. What is this? It's Christology. We share the same Christology. We share, you know, in many cases, the same understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, though the West has interpolated the creed. So there's going to be a lot of commonality, but then there will be, you know, some some differences. And we can explain that there, but less in terms of area. And then when we get up here, we might be in a particular theological tradition that would be distinguished. You know, let's say, for example, that they don't practice sacraments like Salvationists. They are going to be distinct. And so I think this is helpful with this pyramid, because we do have things in common with Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox in terms of Christology, in terms of doctrine of the Trinity, etc.. Now, we're going to differ doctrinally as well. I get that. I understand that. And that would be expressed, you know, in in another part of this pyramid. Okay. The question becomes and some Protestants will say some of those differences are crucial differences. Yeah, well, yeah, and some will. And so there's there's you know, there's a conversation there as well.


It's interesting, in writing that book, I was criticized by both Roman Catholics and by Protestants, as was Dr. Jerry Walls, who as who wrote the book with me in that. Some Protestants thought that we were too open to Roman Catholicism and that we should have stressed the differences more. So we got criticisms from that end. And then Roman Catholics thought that we were too Protestant and we were too critical of Roman Catholicism. And so we got criticized from both sides of the equation, if you will. But. My heart is this that I, as a Christian believer in a particular theological tradition like Methodism, I want to be open to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are in different theological traditions, even though I differ from them sometimes, you know, in important places in terms of the Christian faith. And so that that is my basic position, my general judgment. I certainly reject, you know, some of the Protestant polemics that the pope is the anti-Christ in all of that. I just I reject that. I really do. And and the reason I rejected, I think, is because I'm a historian. I know the history of the church. I know how the Roman tradition evolved over time. I understand the logic of their tradition, how they came to believe and affirm what they do. But I also understand that real, true, proper Christianity exists outside the Roman Catholic Church, in Presbyterian is in Lutheranism, in Methodism and that sort of thing. And I will acknowledge that as well. And so I would never consider myself in any way a second class Christian because I'm a methodist or a Wesleyan. And and and I'm not Eastern Orthodox, although the Eastern Orthodox will not allow me to take communion and or if you know, whatever.


So go ahead. So as part of that, to that, even though we may not change the institutions involved that we can see. Each other as fellow believers and be willing to find common ground, to work together to love our neighbor and to love God in our daily activities. Yes. Yes, I like that. I like that The recognition that there are the Christian faith is expressed in distinct theological traditions, but that there is enough commonality that we can work together because we acknowledge the same Lord. We are filled with the same spirit and we have the same baptism. And so there is a lot of commonality there. And so I want to, you know, in the name of the gospel, because the gospel is the universal love of God. I certainly want to overcome the hard distinction between Catholic and Protestant, because that's that's going in the direction of tribalism. And and I have trouble with that. I want to especially show to the world that I fellowship with my Roman Catholic brother and sister or Eastern Orthodox brother and sister or my Presbyterian brother and sister because of one Lord and one spirit, you know, that sort of thing. Yeah. I guess some. I'm a little torn on this one. Not a little, a lot torn, because Paul himself and teaching was Christ only. Faith only grace only. So for you. I mean, how can we call somebody and not call in any, any termination out, any individual? Right, Right. But if we're calling someone a brother and sister in Christ, what makes us brothers and sisters? It's salvation. It's not the baptism, it's not the ordinances. It's how we come to Christ. So how do you overcome that? I mean, you began the series with Wesley would consider the way, way more narrow than other traditions.


And so I don't know how we find common ground when that the base was saying, okay, we're all commonality. So would we want to send our friend to a church that doesn't believe in salvation by grace, by faith alone with no works whatsoever? See? Well, I would I would ask you to read in light of your comments. What? The Roman Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation produced as a joint work in 1999 on the doctrine of justification and so on the doctrine of justification. Now, I've read that very carefully, and I've read it several times, actually, and I though I do differ how Rome understands justification by grace through faith. I do differ. And but nevertheless, I believe that one could be in that communion of faith and be redeemed and be living out salvation. Indeed, I have read Roman Catholic theology books that I in reading them, I said to myself at the conclusion it could have been written by an evangelical, in your view, all the same? Well, it's not that we're all the same, because I do acknowledge there are different theological traditions, eternally significant. Well, it depends. You know, I get the sense that you think Roman Catholicism has gone wrong, but any tradition could go wrong. I mean, Wesleyan ism can go wrong and Lutheranism can go wrong. But I believe this is my understanding, I believe within these different traditions is the heart, the substance of the Christian faith, and that people within these traditions, I believe there are many Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, Christ in Christ today who love the Lord, who have the Holy Spirit in their lives, and they are living holy lives. I have to acknowledge and recognize them as brothers and sisters.


You say they might not articulate doctrine the way you have been taught or the way I have been taught, but I think we have to see the bigger picture here that God looks upon the heart. And I know of Roman Catholic brothers and sisters who are real, true, proper scriptural Christians. I can't deny that, nor would I ever I would affirm it. I differ from them theologically, for sure. I do. But I don't want to break fellowship.