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John Wesley

This tag is associated with 3 posts

Book Review: “Wesley and the Anglicans” by Ryan Nicholas Danker

wa-dankerWesley and the Anglicans by Ryan Nicholas Danker is an historical project about the developing split between John Wesley and the Methodists on the one hand and the Anglicans and Evangelicals on the other. Danker’s work offers a mixture of data and correction, exploring the topic in a way that brings new insights.

Danker does an excellent job interweaving different disciplines into his approach to the issues at hand. Instead of taking a purely theological approach to the reasons Wesley and the Anglicans split, he argues forcefully that sociological and political issues were just as–if not more–important to the division than the theological reasons. Indeed, theologically there was an Evangelical movement with Anglicanism (Danker uses Evangelical to refer to those within the Anglican church and evangelical to refer to those either immediately or ultimately outside of it). There were plenty of theological sympathies to be had for Wesley’s movement within the Anglican communion, but John Wesley (and Charles Wesley, his brother) ultimately pushed against the political and sociological hierarchy too hard to maintain unity.

Indeed, for Wesley, his commitment to aspects of the Anglican Church made the pushback from Evangelicals (and others) within the church more surprising to him. These ideas are developed through a number of case studies. For example, because of Wesley’s commitment to evangelism, he continued to encourage lay preaching. When confronted about how this may lead to laity taking over the Sacraments and the like, Wesley was (to sum up Danker’s argument) surprised; after all, he was not encouraging these lay preachers to make their own church buildings or orders of hierarchy–how could this therefore be seen as a challenge to the Anglican Church? Wesley’s own intriguing mixture of old and new made it difficult both for him to understand why he was being criticized so harshly and for those within the Anglican Church to see why he was being so divisive.

Political pressures were also brought to bear on the topic, and much of this was due to hierarchy within the church and concerns over how Wesley’s teaching might lead to a collapse of this hierarchy and unity of belief. Thus, laws were passed which began to make lay preaching more and more difficult, for small groups were suddenly considered rivals to official church business by law. Further pressure came from the laity, which began to push back and wonder why they couldn’t do things like administer the Sacraments. All of this came to a head over the course of several meetings of the Methodists, and ultimately led to the split with the Anglican Church we see today.

Danker does an admirable job uniting so many divergent threads into one continuous stream, but he does so in a way that sometimes leaves a bit to be desired. Perhaps the main downside of the book is that it reads very dryly. It doesn’t so much bring life to the historical persons and events as it does describe them. This does an adequate job of presenting the ideas and important topics, but it makes it less exciting to read than some other historic works. It conveys information, but doesn’t necessarily awaken a love of the topic in the reader.

Wesley and the Anglicans is an interesting read about a vital point in church history. Danker also demonstrates that church history ought to incorporate broader studies into its approach than just theology or history. It isn’t the most exciting history book, but it presents readers with a great deal of information on a topic of interest.

The Good

+Sheds light on an important time in church history
+Multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates sociology and politics into theology
+Full of information

The Bad

-Dryly presented

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Source

Ryan Nicholas Danker, Wesley and the Anglicans (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2016).

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SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Made Perfect in this Life? – A Lutheran reflection on Methodist sanctification

sanctification-kapic

I was visiting a United Methodist Church and the pastor preached on the doctrine of sanctification. She referenced the affirmation within the Methodist church that Christians can receive perfection in this life.

I’ve been curious about this assertion for some time, and I decided to explore some more. On the United Methodist Church’s website, in the section entitled “Our Wesleyan Heritage,” sanctification is defined, in part:

We’re to press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. Rather, he understood it to be a continual process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin. (accessed here)

The embedded link sends readers to a sermon from John Wesley. In that sermon, he talks about what he means by being made perfect in this life. He distinguishes between what, in his view, is not attainable in this life regarding perfection, as well as what is attainable. Christians, he argues, are not made perfect in knowledge in this life, nor will they become free from making mistakes, nor from illness, nor from temptations. Instead, Christian perfection in this life will lead to various blessings:

First, not to commit sin… Secondly, to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers…

Wesley, of course, goes into much more detail than that, and defends his positions from various objections. The length of the sermon makes it prohibitive for a detailed interaction, so I just want to focus on these aspects of Wesleyan/Methodist sanctification.

Sanctification Over Time?

The notion of achieving perfection over time is something that causes difficulty because it makes sanctification a biographical account. To clarify, a quote from Oliver O’Donovan in his chapter in the book Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice entitled “Sanctification and Ethics,”- “Sanctification understood biographically [as occurring over the span of a life] has given encouragement to a belief in progressive and incremental moral improvement, to be attained with maturity and age” (155, cited below).

The implication of a view of continual sanctification that is progressive leads to the assumption that a more mature Christian ought to also be more sanctified. Yet this may lead to failed expectations related to the Christian life. If one is led to expect perfection in this life, and they continue to find themselves simul iustus et peccator (to borrow a very Lutheran phrase: simultaneously justified and a sinner [or a sinner and a saint, as it has come to be said]), they may lose their assurance of hope not just in sanctification but also in salvation. After all, their expectations of the Christian life are undercut.

It may be answered that the proper interpretation of Wesley is, rather, that he argued for instantaneous perfection. But this is a debate for a different time. (See the book Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice for chapters related to this topic.)

A Lutheran Interaction

The Lutheran Confessions make it clear that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit (Formula of Concord, Article III, paragraph 41). In the Large Catechism, Luther refers to the basics of what could be considered a Lutheran view of sanctification:

…because holiness has begun and is growing daily, we await the time when our flesh will be put to death, will be buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life. Now, however, we remain only halfway pure and holy. The Holy Spirit must always work in us through the Word, granting us daily forgiveness until we attain to that life where… there will be only perfectly pure and holy people… (The Large Catechism, Second Part, section 57-58)

Thus, a Lutheran perspective of sanctification sees humans as part holy and part sinful. But what are we to make of this? Here, perhaps, is where the Methodist and Lutheran view of sanctification may split most sharply, for the Lutheran will note that what makes us holy is the Spirit through Word and Sacrament. That is, through the taking of Holy Communion and the receiving of absolution, we are daily made holy by the Spirit of God. Thus, holiness is, yes, in part works driven and completed by the Spirit, but it is also and perhaps mostly that which we gain through participation in the community of Christ, the church. For Lutherans, Word and Sacrament stand paramount.

Some object to this Lutheran position, charging Lutherans with a kind of antinomianism. After all, it can’t be that easy, right? Yet on the Lutheran view, sanctification is ongoing, but not in the sense that we discussed above. Instead, it is something that the Spirit works continually for us. Moreover, though the topic is hotly debated in Lutheran circles, the notion of the “third use of the law”–as a guide for Christian life–helps curb antinomianism and turn the Christian back to Christ for forgiveness.

Conclusion

I believe I have more to learn in this area, and I am interested to read on the topic further. I have a book on the topic I’m currently reading, so I’m hoping this will give me some more insight into the fascinating topic. For now, it seems to me that the primary division between the Lutheran and Methodist view here is centered not so much on the concept of perfection now (though that is an intriguing topic to explore), but rather on a view of sanctification through the Sacraments.

Sources

Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000).

Oliver O’Donovan, “Sanctification and Ethics” in Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited by Kelly M. Kapic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014).

Other sources are linked above.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

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SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

John Wesley’s Directions for Singing Hymns

449px-NürnbergReformationsGedKircheA while ago, I was visiting my Grandma’s church. She goes to a United Methodist church. When I visit other churches, I like to go through hymnals, bulletins, etc. and see what they say about where they’re coming from. I was delighted to come upon some comments from John Wesley in the beginning of the hymnal, because I think they’re fairly well on-point for how we should sing in worship to this day:

1. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find a blessing.

2. Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

3. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above, or distinct from, the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

4. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before, nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

5. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim to pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing; and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

I’ve excluded his first two from this list because he also exhorts readers to learn hymns in a specific way and try to unlearn other ways (presumably to help with unity in singing). These comments are from Wesley’s Select Hymns (1761), according to multiple sources I found. However, I was unable to track down a copy to browse online to ensure this is the correct citation and I apologize if I have incorrectly cited it.

As I said, I believe these instructions are just as good for today as they were in 1761. Too often, I go to a church and very few people are singing apart from those in the choir. Hey, my voice is not that great, but if I follow the directions above, my average-quality voice will lend itself alongside some better singers and together we’ll make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Just a thought! Let’s all sing along to those words which sing praises to our God.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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