Having spent several days last week at Asbury Seminary and a couple of days this week at the Lake Junaluska Assembly, I’ve got Methodism on my mind.
What is it about this movement-become-denomination that captures my heart and keeps my attention? Even when the prognosis for its long-term survival seem dire, what are those theological emphases that make it worth saving?
5. Faith & Works. At its best, Methodism does not separate passionate belief from vital action. Its why we’ve long been known for teaching both a “social gospel” and a “personal gospel.” It’s also why Good Shepherd is worshipping by feeding this coming Sunday, October 30.
4. Holy Spirit Focus. From its early days in the religious revival of 18th Century England, Methodism has long had a strong emphasis on the Third Person of the Trinity. We believe in the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, and the indwelling presence of the Spirit. Historically, I have found many connections between the “Second Blessing Holiness” teaching of 19th Century American Methodism and the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” as taught and lived by modern day charismatics. Both perspectives remind us that what the Spirit does in our soul and to our character after conversion is an essential part of the conversion itself.
3. Assurance. Following the teaching of I John 5:13 — “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know you have eternal life” — we Methodists believe that people can know they are saved and have a place reserved in heaven after death. The assurance comes not because we are good enough to achieve it but because Christ’s work is sufficient enough to accomplish it. Based on what I believe are correct readings of the entire book of Hebrews as well as 2 Peter 2:19-21, assurance stops short of what our Baptist friends call “once saved always saved” and what our Calvinist brethren label “perseverance of the saints.”
2. Prevenient Grace. God is at work in your life long before you are aware of it. Genius doctrine. I believe because it is biblical (Luke 15) and because I’ve lived it. God was chasing me well before I ever decided to follow him.
1. Free Will. My initial church experience after coming to faith was in a highly Calvinist congregation . . . and that’s why I’m a Methodist today. Even as a naive 17-year-old in that north Dallas church, I knew there had to be someone out there who was smart, biblical, and believed that God gives people free will as opposed to electing who is saved and who is damned. So I started a search for that “smart, biblical, free will” person — and it led me to John Wesley and the Methodists. If I Timothy 2:3-4 is true as plainly written — “this is God and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” – then it’s very difficult for me to see how Calvinism’s double predestination can be true to the character of God. Why would he “want” (desire, long for) what he has made impossible by predestination? I don’t think he would; that’s why I land on the side of free will and in the realm of Methodism.