Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Human Freedom (5) (W)

This attempt to capture the distinctiveness of Wesleyan theology:

A Generous Tradition
Heart-Oriented Tradition
God is Love

Cross is Love
You can see how central human free will is to a Wesleyan view of the world.  To be sure, Wesley did not believe in anything like absolute free will, where we have complete control over what we want and do.  Wesley believed that our ability to make moral choices was a gift from God, empowered by God's prevenient grace, a grace that finds us when we are not seeking it.

Indeed, if we have a spark of free will inside, it must surely be a miracle.  The more we understand the brain and human psychology, the more we realize the extent to which "who we are" is a function of the physical structure and chemistry of our brain, the harder the idea of human freedom becomes.  And the debate has moved beyond whether our actions are determined or free.  Quantum physics has pushed the issue beyond whether our desires are "determined or free," to the sense that they are random, chaotic, and unpredictable.

At the same time, more than Wesleyan thinking is at stake.  The greatest objection to the truth of Christianity is the problem of evil, why God allows evil to continue in the world.  The best answer, although it is not perfect, is that a world in which people have freedom to make moral choices is a better world than one in which they do not.  Christian traditions who do not believe in human freedom run the risk either of making God the direct author of evil or making him unjust himself, views which seem to render Christianity incoherent.

The belief that God has created a world where humans are free to follow or not follow him has implications for the way we live.  The Wesleyan tradition, when it is consistent with itself, is thus not oriented around forcing others to conform to Christian values.  To be sure, it has always been active in stopping the oppression of others.  But it is not like other traditions that view wrongdoing primarily through the lens of offending God.  It does not try to legislate Christian morality beyond the protection of others. Its prophetic voice to those outside the church is more for others than against sin.

We thus relate to others in a different way.  The parent does not get enraged because the child has disobeyed, an effrontery to authority.  The parent is concerned for what the child will become, and disciplines to try to steer the will of the child in the right direction.  Discipline is formative not summative.  It is about formation more than about punishment.  The best of the Wesleyan tradition will thus live out its sense of God empowered human freedom from a motivation of love.


Wesley 'Whitey Lawful' Mcgranor said...

Its like Common Law: if we follow him--the law is fulfilled and we wear the spirit on our heart, mind and soul. Transgressing for a perverse humanism--we fall into bondage, for Satan--we meet death.

FrGregACCA said...

Like I keep saying, you guys are SO close to Orthodoxy, but are missing out on so much by not embracing the whole package.

Rick said...


Getting a chuckle out of your "recruiting". You would be a good college coach.

Why don't you come to the Wesleyan side, since it is SO close. You just have to do away with a few of those "extras". :^)

FrGregACCA said...

LOL, Rick. Been there, done that. That's pretty much where and how I grew up. Assemblies of God. Church of the Nazarene. Christian and Missionary Alliance. Jesus movement. United Christian Ashrams.

However, the "extras", as you put it, are not extras. They are part and parcel of the practice of the Apostolic Faith, as the Bible itself, and the words of Jesus contained therein, bear witness: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life within you." (John 6) So does Fr. John Wesley, as a matter of fact. He called the Eucharist "the Christian sacrifice" and celebrated it, receiving Holy Communion, several times per week.

Wesley 'Whitey Lawful' Mcgranor said...

I am not interested Mr. Greg. I find it unfortunate that your people are making gains. There is a void in Protestantism since the counterculture. In addition the bogus protestantism that has the license to be made under America's allowment of liberty has steered many wrong.

FrGregACCA said...

I am sorry that you are not interested, Mr. Wesley. I will pray that the Lord enlighten you.

Why are the Orthodox making gains? Well, for one thing, Protestants come to realize that their faith is not 100% in line with the Bible and thus, is self-contradictory. Roman Catholics, for their part, note that their faith has been changed significantly over the past 1,000 years and more. Both often find that something is missing in their spiritual lives.

So they then start reading Church history and especially, the early Church Fathers.

Rome distorted the Orthodox Christian Faith, resulting in the Great Schism of the 11th Century and continued on its merry way. The Reformers reacted, quite rightly, to these distortions, but instead of returning to the Faith once delivered and the Church once founded, merely substituted one philosophical mistress for another and so managed to not only throw out the baby with the bathwater, but in many cases, to throw out the baby and keep the bathwater!

Where does the Reformation lead? If not to a brittle fundamentalism, to unitarianism and deism. To agnosticism and atheism. Or to such deviations as Mormonism.

But there is another way. It begins with Arminius and leads to Fr. Wesley. It continues to either Anglo-Catholicism or original Methodism and goes on to the Holiness movement, Evangelical Wesleyanism, Pentecostalism, and Charismatic Renewal. It ends with the return to the Faith once delivered and the Church once founded, "the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:22b-23).