Many of us who are interested in the theology of John Wesley are also fascinated by the connections that seem to exist between Wesley’s theology and the theology of the Eastern Orthodox church. For example, the Eastern Orthodox teaching of theosis seems to mirror strikingly Wesley’s teaching on Christian Perfection.
But, then, there is also the fascinating story of John Wesley and Gerasimos Avlonites (also known as Erasmus of Arcadia), an 18th century Greek Orthodox bishop — and friend of Wesley’s. Gerasimos Avlonites originally hailed from Crete. Ted A. Campbell describes him as “a native of Corfu and a subject of the Latin and Catholic Republic of Venice, [he was] exiled from his ecclesiastical see in Ottoman-dominated Crete, [and] brought his own pietistic sense of Christian unity to his interactions with European Protestants who were also evolving a pietistic sense of Christian identity in the mid-eighteenth century.”
Arnold A. Dallimore refers to the relationship of John Wesley and this man when writing on the life of Charles Wesley:
John Wesley showed him kindness but had one of his men write to the Patriarch of Smyrna inquiring about him. He received word that Erasmus was the Bishop of Arcadia on the Isle of Crete. Wesley also heard the same from Amsterdam, and accordingly accepted him as a link in the supposed chain of the apostolic succession.
John Wesley spoke highly of Gerasimos Avlonites saying: “He had abundant unexceptionable credentials as to his episcopal character.” (more…)
A quote from a book I read several years ago. This is from Michael J. Gorman, professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Here Dr. Gorman stresses the transformational character of justification by faith.
“For Paul, I would contend, justification means the establishment or restoration of right covenant relations, both ‘vertical’ or theological (toward God) and also, inseparably, ‘horizontal’ or social (toward others) — what Paul most frequently calls ‘pistis’ and ‘agape‘ — with the certain hope of ultimate vindication and glory, all understood in the light of, and experienced through, Christ and the Spirit.
“Or, as I have said more succinctly elsewhere:
Justification for Paul may be defined as follows: the establishment or restoration of right covenantal relations — fidelity to God and love for neighbor — with the certain hope of acquittal/vindication on the day of judgement.
“This is life indeed, both present and future, the goal of every Jew, the essential substance of the covenant, and the purpose of the divine gift of the Law and, for Paul, the purpose of the divine gifts of Christ and of the Spirit.
“The actual language of justification is drawn from four interlocking realms:
- theological, referring to the divine character — God is just;
- covenantal, referring to the moral obligations associated with a communal, covenant relationship with God — God requires justice;
- legal, referring to juridical images of God as judge — God judges and pardons, and
- eschatological, referring to future judgement and salvation — God will judge and grant approval and life (or condemnation and death) on the day of the Lord.
“The just/righteous are those who are, and who will be vindicated as being, in right covenant relationship with the just/righteous God of the covenant as that God’s distinctive people. In Christ, (or, better, in the Messiah), of course, that relationship is open to Jews and Gentiles alike.
“For Paul, then, justification is not merely or even primarily juridical or judicial — the image of the divine judge pronouncing pardon or acquittal. That is part, but only part, of the significance of justification. The judicial image must be understood within a wider covenental, relational, participatory, and transformative framework.”
Dr. Gorman has written several excellent books on the Bible and Biblical theology. Here is the listing at Amazon: Michael J. Gorman.