Thursday, February 05, 2015

What is distinct about a Wesleyan hermeneutic?

I was confronted with this question the other day. If I were to write an "introduction to studying the Bible" book to become the "go-to" book for colleges and seminaries in the Wesleyan tradition, what would be distinctive about it? What would distinguish it from other hermeneutics and Bible study books out there? There are books in these areas written by individuals in the Wesleyan tradition.

Here were some first thoughts?
  • Historical method is historical method. I think what is more distinctive are the hermeneutical values in which we place the results of historical study.
  • The priority of the Bible for Wesleyans is transformation, both corporate and individual. This is God's doing and it is on God's agenda. The priority is formation rather than information.
  • The priorities of the individual for God are 1) our hearts, 2) our behavior, 3) our thoughts. So God is most interested in forming our attitudes and living through the Bible. Ideas are secondary.
  • Because of its sense that God's love is his central feature, the Wesleyan tradition naturally gels with an incarnational God, a God who comes to us. As such, we believe God speaks to us whatever our understanding of Scripture may be. We don't have to get to the original meaning to finally hear God. God will meet us without us having to have a certain understanding.
  • Thus, the Wesleyan tradition is more open to "more than literal" and figural readings of the Bible than other Protestant traditions. We are not bothered if the NT does not read the OT in context. We are open to the Spirit speaking to us out of context through Scripture. God's goal with the Bible is to meet us, not to give us a homework assignment.
  • On a side note, the "new perspectives" are far less a problem for the Wesleyan tradition than they are for the "high Protestant" traditions. 
  • We are not opposed to the way the Spirit has used the Church to clarify the application of Scripture in the Church. We are more a tradition of prima scriptura rather than sola scriptura.
Those are a few thoughts. Any you would add?

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