Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Wesleyan Theology

Someone asked me if there was good book to introduce Wesleyan theology.  Sad to say, I don't think there is.  I had H. Orton Wiley in college and enjoyed it, but it's hardly coffee reading.  The Nazarenes have had a couple options in the past and I want to commend them for that, but I suspect they are getting a bit of a dated feel like a shaggy carpet and paneled walls.  I see that Will Willimon has recently come out with one for the Methodists, no doubt focused on John Wesley.

I'm not a professional theologian.  I'm always amazed at how little I know about theology when I talk to people like John Drury and Chris Bounds.  But maybe because I don't know as much, I suspect I write more engagingly and relevantly than most of those who are. I don't plan to write a Wesleyan theology, but as usual I got to thinking, "If I were to write a 120 page overview of Wesleyan-Arminian theology, how would I approach it?"

First, I think I would write each chapter in layers.  In each chapter, I would start with what most historic Christians have thought, then move to ways in which the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition might contrast with other traditions, and end with some of the variety among Wesleyan-Arminians themselves on that topic.  It would in the process point out similarities and contrasts of the tradition in relation to other groups like catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Pietism, anabaptism, evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism. We potentially share similarities and have differences with all of these.

Second, I think I would structure the book in terms of the story.

1. Faith (preliminary comments on what we can know and what is important)
2. God (including the Trinity)
3. Creation and Alienation (including some reflection on how evolution might affect this topic)
4. Revelation (much bigger than Scripture, God's movement toward us, including Israel, culminating in Christ)
5. Reconciliation (with Christ as the center; individual, corporate in the church, church as agent of change in the world)
6. Restoration (the resolution of the story in final salvation and judgment)
7. In the Meantime (Christian living as we live in the world, ethics, focus on the Spirit)

Finally, key elements that would distinguish the presentation as Wesleyan-Arminian might include things like 1) an emphasis on relationship, intention, and experience, 2) emphasis on prevenient grace, on the fact that God takes the initiative to come to us, sense that he comes toward everyone, 3) optimism about reconciliation and what God wants to do now in the world on every level.

Oh well, can't write everything...


Brian Small said...

Maybe Chris should write one.

Rob Henderson said...

Sounds like a sermon series waiting to happen.

Ken Schenck said...

Chris could write an excellent one.

Just now received the notification of comments in my email ;-)