March 1, 2011

What Makes Us Methodists?

Ever wonder what is distinctive about Methodists? Here are some ways we are different from our Baptist, Presbyterian, and Church of Christ friends.

1. How we understand what it means to be human:
Coming out of the broader catholic tradition in general and Anglicanism in particular, our theology underscores the importance of prevenient grace; that is, the prior gracious activity of God in all things. This emphasis keeps our theology free from determinism and diminished views of human being. Hence Wesleyan (or Methodist) anthropology is underscores the responsible nature of the divine-human relationship.

2. Our theological emphasis:
Wesleyan theology is balanced in its conception of grace. It draws from the traditions of the Reformation in its understanding that sinners are justified by grace through faith alone. Like the Protestant Reformers, Wesleyan theology teaches that salvation is a sheer gift from God (free grace). It also draws from the catholic tradition in emphasizing the cooperant nature of grace. As Wesley, himself, put it in his sermon, On Working Out Our Own Salvation, "God works, therefore you can work; God works, therefore you must work." It is the combination of these two in its theological emphasis that is distinctively Wesleyan.

3. Our purpose is eminently practical:
With its origin as a reforming movement within the broader church, Wesleyan theology has been focused on the end or goal of religion, which is holiness or holy love. In other words, the Wesleyan way of doing theology is eminently practical: to inculcate nothing less than the holy love of God and neighbor in daily living.

4. Our historic emphasis on holiness:
Wesleyan theology is holistic, embracing proper teaching (orthodoxy), a transformed heart (orthokardia) as well as an array of practices that reach out to the neighbor, especially the poor (orthopraxy).

5. Our mission-orientated understanding of the church:
Wesleyan theology freely acknowledges that it operates within a communion, an interpretative tradition, that is a part of the larger ecumenical church. When Wesleyans are mindful of their historic roots, they understand call and mission as fostering the love of God and neighbor. In other words, Methodism is a reforming movement, organizing itself so that it focuses on the proper ends or goals of the Christian faith.

6. Our outward focus:
In reflecting on the Word of God manifested in Jesus Christ, those who practice our Wesleyan theology refuse to be merely theoretical or speculative in their approach, but remain practically engaged and "other directed"; that is, they are ever mindful of the “cash” value of theology and are therefore oriented to the service of their neighbors. Put another way, Wesleyan theology in its best sense, in its methods and means, exemplifies love of God and love of neighbor.

7. How we move toward perfection--our goal:
Every aspect of our theology sees its completion, its perfection, in the glory of God; in the One who ever calls forth the community to both renewal and loving service.

Credit to Dr. Ken Collins, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary for his help on this.


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