Wesleyan Spirit

Wesleyan Spirit

What is unique about Wesleyan theology? With that in mind, using the materials in Unit 3: Reading and Video, write an 8-page description of the “Wesleyan Spirit” in our theology as United Methodists. In other words, in your paper, respond to this question: “What is uniquely Wesleyan about the theology we have as Wesleyan/Methodist Christians?” Name and describe at least eight characteristics.

What is unique about Wesleyan theology?

Introduction
The Wesleyan theological paradigm or characteristics are unique when it comes to formulation of Wesleyan theology. Dia-chronically it is in the Christian tradition, bearing the historic faith in continuity with the teaching of the apostles. As a living tradition, United Methodist doctrine understands that it must adapt the witness to new circumstances that arise over the course of time.[1] Theology in a broad sense is the systematic study of the nature of God and more broadly of religious belief and practices. Those who want to know God the study of theology is indispensable. Some call it is the queen of science. It is an academic discipline typically learned within a seminary setting. It is bringing out the unique content of analyzing the supernatural and epistemology. It asks and seek to answer the question of revelation and the revelation of God. Religious followers believe theology to be a discipline that helped them live and understand life, love and help them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.[2]

The word “theology” comes from two Greek words, Theos and Logos. The study of theology is an effort to make definitive statements about God and the implications in an accurate, coherent, relevant way, based on God’s self-revelations. This help people to fulfill their primary purpose, which is to glorify and delight in God through a deep personal knowledge.[3] In order to have a meaningful relationship with the divine or deity one need to have a correct knowledge of him. This also means having a rational proposition about God and a personal relationship with God. The goal of theology is to have the knowledge of God.[4]

In the following lines we are trying to explain what it means by the Wesleyan spirit and eight characteristics of the Wesleyan theology or Wesleyan community.

1.     Praxis Orientation

First of all, Wesleyan community or Wesleyan theology is praxis oriented. Christian doctrine and its vision need to be characteristically practical. Most of the time when we differentiate between practical and theoretical it is misleading. The doctrine is the integral part of the Christian community’s life. Beliefs and practices are considered essential to the identity or welfare of the community. Both questions are important such as how we should worship God and how do we bear witness to Christ in the world. [5] The aim of the doctrine if to bring out the hidden truth. The fundamental beliefs and what is means by being practical is to be transformative and fulfilling God’s purpose in creation. It is orthodoxy and orthopraxis. It should not only deal with the confession and Christian action in the world.  The liberation theology and its advancement down through the years also bring this gap closer. Christian praxis needs to go beyond practices, action or behaviors. It is a combination of reflection and action. 

Primarily early Methodist mostly are praxis oriented rather than theory oriented. Here the question is what your congregation's beliefs? why they have their own theology. There is a big difference between speculative theology Vs. practical theology. Wesleyan ways always think about pragmatic side of the theology. They give more importance to practical divinity and not speculative divinity. Issues of pragmatism always take leads beyond doctrines or rules or regulations. Praxis refers to or give importance to the community under their own process. Since its inception the Wesleyan or holiness spirit demonstrated a profound revivalist commitment to bring strong and effective mission in the world. The power of Holy Spirit in transforming lives and social structures everywhere in the world is the contribution of the Wesleyan movement.  The theology of mission is practiced from the perspective of the biblical, theological, historical, cultural and strategic perspectives. The evangelism and social responsibilities are held together in a creative form in different cultures.  This is even evident when we study the believe of grace or prevenient grace in the Wesleyan understanding.

2. Theology of Salvation: Saving Grace

Saving grace is the central theme of United Methodist doctrine. This is a framework of Christian doctrine that give importance to the saving activity and the saving grace of God. The theological heritage of Wesleyans is based upon practical divinity, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the lives of believers.[6] This shapes Wesleyans to create the theology of salvation which is based on the Divine grace and human response. God’s grace is given to us make possible or invites our own response. Grace is given to us and faith makes responsibility. John Wesley, even though believe in the sola fade (Salvation through Faith Alone) it is not faith alone, but we have our own response to it. The second distinctiveness is Christian growth is primarily seen as a process. This might be from the influence of the process theology in its earliest form which is also known as Neoclassical theology a school of thought influenced by Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947). It is not only about the destination but about the journey. We think about the goal. We know it is the perfect love of God. That goal is not achieved as a onetime culmination, but it is a process. There are instantaneous responses but not a onetime event it is a process of transformation. There is wilderness period for our faith but there are times when we are in the valley of growth. Salvation is not a point but a process.  It involves the relationships between God, Our self, Others and the Creation. It is about the freewill made possible by grace. It is not overpowering but empowering. It is celebrating the otherness of God, God with us or the presence of God. When we explore the possibility of ministry of social holiness, it is about the relationship with God, others and nature.

This grace is profound and vital, and it is rooted in the Christian tradition and teachings.  John Wesley defined grace as God’s bounty, favor, his free, undeserved favor. The book of disciple defines grace as "the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit."  Grace is universally present and pervades all of God’s creation. Grace unable God’s presence to create, heal, forgive, reconcile and transform human hearts. It brings compassion, justice, generosity and peace.

There are few dynamic and unique expressions of God’s grace such as Prevenient grace (Grace that goes before), Justifying Grace (Grace that is a doorway into new identity or new creation), Sanctifying grace (Grace perfecting us- Christian perfection) and finally Growing in grace.  Prevenient grace is present in all creation and it is found in the natural order, human consciousness. The imagery is it the porch of a house. Justifying or saving grace is the grace that gives us assurance of forgiveness that comes from repentance. In John Wesley’s own experience, he felt his heart strangely warmed. Sanctifying grace in Wesley's understanding is the grace that moves beyond forgiveness and acceptance of our identity as beloved children of God. God's goal for humanity is the complete restoration of the divine image and the conformity of all creation to the image of Jesus Christ. Sanctification (from sanctus, holy) denotes the process by which the believer is made holy and whole in response to justification. Growing in grace continue to lead us with the gifts of grace provided to us. In other words, we grow in Christlikeness as we open our lives to God's presence and power at work in us and the world.[7]

3. Evangelism

When persons are baptized or conformed, they are asked to repeat the words of the Apostles’ creed along with the congregation. According to William J. Abraham: Evangelism is the initiation into the reign of God argues that an intellectual commitment to certain truth is required as part of becoming a Christian.[8] In the general sense evangelism is winning of persons to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It is good new or gospel, it is the proclamation of gospel to the individuals or groups by preaching, teaching and personal and family visitation. It is the seeking by the Christians to bring others into a vital personal relationship with Christ to experience the grace of God.

4. Catholic Spirit and Essential Doctrines

United Methodist doctrines is committed to what Wesley called a catholic sprit, refereeing to the way in which its doctrines is to be taught and its theological task is to be carried out. Catholic spirit Wesley says is catholic love. The doctrine captures the essential balance between commitment to truth and commitment to love. Errors are an inevitable part of being human and tolerance matters. Remember Christians are not perfect in several ways, no one is free from ignorance. It is both side of the spectrum where commitment to truth and tolerance to diversity that is the key aspect of catholic spirit in the Wesleyan understanding.[9]

5. Personal salvation and social action

Wesley tend to see both matter of faith and social action important. Life in Christ is both social and personal. This synthetic or conjunctive approach is one of the most relevant aspects of Wesleyan theology for the contemporary church. Paul Wesley Chilcote see it as synthetic or conjunctive approach because it attempts to find a third alternative to opposing points of view that often tear people apart.[10] The Wesleyan method can also be called conjunctive because it seeks to join things together.

6 Scripture (Bible), Tradition, Reason and Experience   

For the Wesleyan Christian, in this dynamic process of knowing and living the faith, Scripture plays a particularly formative role and shapes normative Christianity. Bible provide the authoritative word for both faith and practices. It is the ultimate guide in matters of balance in Christian life. [11] The truth we encounter in the word is attested to in the received faith tradition, ordered by our God given ability to think and reflect and practiced in our ongoing experience of Christ’s Spirit.

7. Proclamation and preaching (Kerygma)

kerygma is a Greek word used in the New Testament for "preaching". It is related to the Greek verb literally meaning "to cry or proclaim as a herald" and being used in the sense of "to proclaim, announce, preach" We have a wonderful message to proclaim and it was the practice even prevalent in early Christian community.[12]The message was very simple. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have come to know the love and grace of God as never before. Apostle Peter proclaimed the inbreaking reign, the self-revelation of God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesu , the exaltation of Christ and the creation of new community of grace in him through the power of the Holy Spirit.

8. Faith and works (Free Grace)

One of the distinctive characteristics of Wesleyan Christians is their emphasis upon the connection between faith and works. To put it simple, if your faith in Christ is genuine, then other people will be able to see it lived out in loving ways. This is true when Albert Outlet pointed out that Wesley is a evangelical catholic, while pessimistic about humanity in its brokenness while optimistic about the potency of God’s grace.[13]

Conclusion

Theology is not a boring exercise or irrelevant. John and Charles Wesley were Christian disciples and theologians of 18th century. Everyone is called to be a theologian. As we live our life daily, we are continually acting our and reflecting upon who you are and to whom you belong. This is a transformative process and thus doing theology is a wondrous and exciting adventure.








[1] Scott J. Jones, United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center, Abingdon Press: Nashville: 2002. P. 69.
[2] “Theology”, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theology, This page was last edited on 18 August 2019, at 10:35 (UTC), accessed on August 27, 2019, 6.45am.
[3] “What Is Theology?” Crossway, created on December 11, 2015, accessed on August 27, 2019, 6.45am. https://www.crossway.org/articles/what-is-theology/.
[4] “What Is Theology?” Crossway, created on December 11, 2015, accessed on August 27, 2019, 6.45am. https://www.crossway.org/articles/what-is-theology/
[5] Scott J. Jones, United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center, Abingdon Press: Nashville: 2002. P. 73.
[6] Scott J. Jones, United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center, Abingdon Press: Nashville: 2002. P. 77.
[7] Kenneth L. carder, A Wesleyan Understanding of Grace”, http://www.interpretermagazine.org/topics/a-wesleyan-understanding-of-grace, November-December 2016, Accessed on August, 27, 2019.
[8] Scott J. Jones, United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center, Abingdon Press: Nashville: 2002. P. 77.
[9] Scott J. Jones, United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center, Abingdon Press: Nashville: 2002. P. 90.
[10] Paul Wesley Chilcote: Recapturing the Wesleys’ vision: An introduction to the faith of John and Charles Wesley, Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1989. P. 16.
[11] Paul Wesley Chilcote: Recapturing the Wesleys’ vision: An introduction to the faith of John and Charles Wesley, Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1989. P. 17.
[12] Paul Wesley Chilcote: Recapturing the Wesleys’ vision: An introduction to the faith of John and Charles Wesley, Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1989. P. 23.
[13] Paul Wesley Chilcote: Recapturing the Wesleys’ vision: An introduction to the faith of John and Charles Wesley, Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 1989. P. 25.

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