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John & Charles Wesley

John & Charles Wesley

I intend this as a site that is focused on the Wesleyan teachings about holy living. I know I pursue other topics, but I know what I am about, and I mean to emphasize the call to live a life wholly devoted to God. I believe that this the great animating theme of the Wesleyan tradition — and it is a theme I greatly appreciate.

To this end, I continue to scan and edit old holiness books, and maintain two sister blogs on Blogger: Steele’s Answers and The Hidden Life. I don’t personally agree with everything that is said on those pages — or maybe I should say, I don’t always agree with the way it is said. But, I believe those writers were intending to call us to the living of a life wholly devoted to God and to the genuine well-being of others — and I need to hear that challenge and that call — I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I’ve been doing some re-arranging and re-editing over in the Old Books section. That takes time away from blogging, but it is part of my mission and purpose here.

IFThe Bible studies I post are also part of my purpose here. Faith unfolds in dialogue with Scripture — or, at least, mine does. The prayers are part of it. I occasionally comment on things that are happening or being said around the church and the Internet — but that is a sideline. If I engage with some current controversy, or if I post on sexuality issues, that is likely to send the blog stats up — which is nice but not necessary. In the last analysis, I need to do all this for myself or I won’t end up doing it at all. I want for the people who visit here to find material that is supportive of the pursuit of a wholly sanctified Christian life.

I have a perspective that (I think) sets me apart from many voices in the Christian world — because I believe that at the heart of the Christian message of redemption is a call to holy living. So, the Christian message cannot be reduced to a message of forgiveness — as important and vital as that is. If things are left at that, Christianity becomes little more than a “Get Out of Jail Free” card — that is, a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. The purpose of forgiveness is to wipe the slate clean so that we can begin again. Our initial sanctification at the point of the initial exercise of our faith — whenever, however, we came to repentance and faith in Christ — is designed to lead us to deeper and deeper sanctification along the way.

I also think evangelical theology and partisan conservative politics is an uncomfortable fit. I guess that’s strange too. I’m not especially interested in politics, but it seems to me that the Gospel does not endorse any status quo — it is calling us toward Kingdom of God living and Kingdom of God expectations. The Holy Spirit seeks to change people, and to change society — for the better. That is an implication of my perspective as well. Wesleyanism implies an optimism of grace — a belief that people by the grace of God, can change for the better — and that the world, by the grace of God, can be changed for the better. Since all Christians have been instructed to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, I fail to see how we can be satisfied with any status quo in this world.

In picking up and re-asserting the Christian perfection theme.

In his day, John Wesley was seeking to recover a message which was — and is — the common property of the Church. Everyone who does the this now is seeking to do the same thing. Ultimately, this is not a sectarian pursuit.

51fvsmreI-L._UY250_The theme of Christian Perfection is controversial and often misunderstood. It has attracted fanatics. Extreme and mistaken statement have been made. But, it is a wonderful, positive, however challenging, theme, if properly understood. T. A. Noble (Professor of Theology at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO) writes:

To begin with, it is necessary to remember that there have been fanatics throughout the history of the church who have claimed absolute “perfection.” We do not have to search too far to find examples of unbalanced extremists who claimed to be “sinless,” and clearly that claim has to be rejected. Wesley had to dismiss two of his preachers, Maxfield and Bell, who made such exaggerated claims.54 And yet that does not account for some of the greatest teachers of mainstream Christianity — Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius writing about Antony, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Cassian and Benedict, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, the Pietists Arndt and Spener, and the great evangelist John Wesley—who all gave measured teaching on Christian “perfection.”

But also, and most importantly, it is essential to note that the biblical writers and these great teachers of the church through the centuries were working with a somewhat different understanding of the word “perfection.” None of them ever taught “sinless perfection”—the idea that within this life, Christians could reach that final, absolute state of perfection where they were sinless and perfectly holy. Unfortunately, that is the idea our English word “perfect” conveys, a perfection of “zero defects.” But these great teachers of Christianity were working with the biblical concept of perfection, which is rather different. It works essentially not just with a negative understanding of “perfection” as merely the absence of sin, but primarily with a positive understanding of “perfection” as a fullness of love. It has several shades of meaning.

— T. A. Noble,  Holy Trinity: Holy People: The Theology of Christian Perfecting (Didsbury Lecture Series) (p. 22). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 I’m always working on this site. Some of the work I do doesn’t show up on the blog. But, the blog is not all that is important to me.


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