Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wesley, Soterianism, and Oliver Wendell Holmes...

... No, these don't all go together, but I thought it would peak your curiosity more than "Thoughts I've Had Today."

Wesley and Soterianism
I was reflecting today in class about the fact that the ordo salutis ("order of salvation") was the defining feature of Wesley's theology, and I was connecting this fact to my take-away from Scot McKnight's recent King Jesus Gospel that the very terms of the Reformation got us out of focus on the gospel in the process of correcting an overemphasis on the church as the agent of salvation.

Let me put it in my own terms. The focal point of the Reformation was the argument over the role of works in salvation, indulgences in particular. (The other emphases of the Reformation followed naturally on this focal issue.  The argument over Scripture was about the ground rules of the debate. The foci on Christ and grace had to do with the theological framework of the question of works)

The result is that Protestantism has always tended to overemphasize Paul and overemphasize anthropology at the center of theology.  That is to say, the terms of Luther's debate inevitably has led us to focus on the human problem and its solution as the center of theology.  Rather, God should be the center of theology.

Wesley was simply playing out the terms of the Reformation on the details. So he took justification from Luther, extended sanctification from Calvin, appropriated the Arminian wing of the Calvinist tree, and threw in some assurance of salvation from the Moravians for good measure.  Since he was Anglican, he remained closer to Roman Catholicism than Luther or Calvin.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
Finished the second and third chapters of The Metaphysical Club on the plane home yesterday. Felt quite sorry for Holmes in chapter 2 as the naive "all or nothing" abolitionist/idealist got a real life lesson in the absurd violence of the Civil War.  It is a good reminder for anyone who is excited about war.  War should always, always be a last resort when everything else has failed.

But I didn't like the post-Civil War Holmes. He came to consider individual lives as generally unimportant in comparison to society doing its thing.  Rules became simply conventional for him and his big deal was simply following them, no matter who got run over in the process.

Having started quite interested in the man, I ended that section with little identification with him at all.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Guess, it is ALL a matter of how you 'frame" it and what ultimatly matters...as everyone is biased when it comes to faith issues...and each can give you scripture or point to a particular tradition/understanding to prove it...the Church Fathers haven't agreed, (Constantine versus Turtullian), nor has any religious tradition come to univeral consensus...each have thier sects...which believe different things. So it is a matter of whether one believes, and what one chooses to believe.

Everyone will disagree...unless you want to affirm a "creedal" form of understanding faith, affirming what the Christian tradition has had consensus on (but then there is the Eastern and Western church split...) Then, it would become a matter for human experimentation (empirical evidence of faith and formation)...

It seems that the Eastern emphasis would love to "form" Christ in humans, because they believe that Jesus "was in the image and likeness of God" (sanctification via Wesley). Man is perfectable by identifying in Christ. Self is annihlated or found within a collective.

How this could be done is by appealing to the Western tradition of Augustinian "transcendentalism", and asking the "Christian disciples" to be "conformable unto his death", so that they might bring the Kingdom of God here to earth....It sounds like a PLAN to me...Does that mean that those so 'fore-ordained" have a choice, or not? Arminians would believe so, but the Arminians weren't orthodox, either...

Nathaniel said...

"Wesley was simply playing out the terms of the Reformation on the details. So he took justification from Luther, extended sanctification from Calvin, appropriated the Arminian wing of the Calvinist tree, and threw in some assurance of salvation from the Moravians for good measure. Since he was Anglican, he remained closer to Roman Catholicism than Luther or Calvin."

This is the best summary of Wesley I think I've ever heard.

John C. Gardner said...

The war's effect on Holmes was horrendous. He became a man who even issued an opinion approving on sterilization laws. The Civil was also resulted in white northerners abandoning black southerners for 100 years to lives of segregation and extra legal violence. This, like slavery, is an American shame.

Angie Van De Merwe said...


"...is an American shame"? How can you make a judgment anachronistically? They were where they were....we are where we are.

I cannot stand people to judge our country as an "imperical nation" or "Empire", because it has such connotations! These are judgments based on a universal, which cannot be apprehended apart from context. Otherwise, we can't even begin to make judgments or discriminate!

Our Constitution allows for "the universal" while protecting the individual!! THAT is important, because it is only in the specific that the universals are really appropirated. (No one can claim to love God, if they do not love their brother.."God" is the universal term...so individual liberty must be respected.) Therefore, no one can claim to be "above" or have right over another individual, unless there is consent!

Therefore, "collective talk" is an attempt to sabatoge the individuals within the collective....there are only individuals who make up a society or government, and good government allows individuals the right of choice concerning their life....and protects their property.

John C. Gardner said...

Hi Angie,
I am not thinking anachronistically
at all. Slavery was reviled by Lincoln(see the works by Justin Dyer(2012) and the great Civil War historian Allen Guelzo(2012). Lincoln used natural law arguments to oppose slavery in the Lincoln Douglas debated. Many northern and southern whites were racists but it was southern whites who held 4 million in bondage by 1860. Religious anti-slavery individuals such as the founders of the Wesleyan church were also anti-slavery. There were also black abolitionists across the north. Many northern Democrats party members did use race and pro-slavery arguments prior to and during the Civil War. However, the vast number of northerners were anti-slavery even if they were not egalitarians by 1865. Slavery was reviled rightly then and rightly now. I am a southerner by birth who saw the ravages of segregation and marched in the Civil Rights movement. Many northerners were also moved by there love for the Union. Finally, northerners such as Lincoln(not an abolitionist radical) moved to a more rigorous position by 1865 on black voting and anti-slavery.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Economic realities have to trump human rights, otherwise we undermine our own local needs. The push toward "global initiatives" are bankrupting America in the name of humanitarian aid and Kant's "Categorial Imperative".

Therefore, the liberal "ideal" is a collective ideal, which isn't practical. One must come to prioritize economic realities, not depend on one's "sentiments"~! And we hear this all the time from liberals; people before profit, as if profit is an innate "evil"!~

Our country is struggling to provide enough jobs for its own people, and America is to worry about "the world"? That seems unreasonable, as each person and society must have the right to life, otherwise we kill ourselves to "save humankind". That doesn't sound too wise, no matter how "moral", "ethical", or "ideal" according to the natural rights/natural law argument...

People can choose to serve in these capacities if they desire, but there should be no policy toward such economic "ideals". Economics is about practical realities...and these means that people are subservient to viability.

The expansion of government is its centralization, which is what Lincoln did in "Civil Rights"...which defends a particular class of people, the minority. Though I agree that the rule of the majority cannot circumvent the right of the individual, I believe that collective identities, such as the use of a race, gender or ethnic identity is the undermining of individual liberty, which is the real issue of Justice, as understood apart from race, gender or ethnic identity!

John C. Gardner said...

Hi Angie,
I am a retired accounting professor. However, the issue of slavery is a horror. We as a nation kept slaves for a quarter of a millenium. This was truly evil. I myself am generally opposed to foreign wars but also believe in human rights. It is amoral to place economics above human rights. We as a nation must invest in education, basic scientific research and infrastructure. We must also have cost containment in entitlements(I am 68 years old and know that this can impact me). Additionally, we will have to raise taxes(but only after cutting expenses at a rate of $3 to $1. Human rights is a requirment of the Christian faith and something that can be done by partnerships between government, business and religious institutions. Ignoring human rights would be a travesty.