The United Methodist Association of
|2003 CONSULATION PAPERS||
A WESLEYAN ECOLOGY OF CHRISTIAN FORMATION
Editors Note: The following is a copy of the handouts used by
Dr. Maddox at the UMASCE Summer Consultation, Estes Park, CO, August 2003. These
are not to be used for any other purpose without the author's express permission.
Theology and Christian Life
The Wesleyan Commitment to Renewing the Connection
Randy L. Maddox
I. Perennial Dimensions of Theology
primal dimension: The basic worldview that orients believers lives in the world.
formative dimension: The task of forming/reforming a Christian worldview in believers.
normative dimension: secondorder reflection on adequacy of particular practices for forming Christian worldview, alternative conceptions of worldview, etc.
apologetic dimension: engaging self-consciously those who question or reject Christian beliefs and practices.
training dimension: preparing leaders to carry on formative, normative, and apologetic dimensions
II. Historical Variations in the Dynamics of Theology
A. Through First Millennium
1. Main theologians where leaders of religious communities focused on forming (or reforming) the worldview of members in their communities.
2. Focus on formative dimension, and the practical-theological forms that were appropriate to itcatechisms, rules for the order, liturgy, sermons, etc.
3. Normative debates arose out of this formative context (i.e., they were second-order), decisions about the normative were influenced in part by apparent implications for ongoing life and practice of the church (see Charry), and decisions were meant to guide further formative activities.
4. Apologetics was another important second-order activity (i.e., more faith seeking understanding than foundationalist), and occasional in nature.
5. Training was mainly by mentoring under practicing leaders.
6. Overall, theology considered a practical discipline aimed at shepherding Christians in their daily lives in the world; though in monastic settings an emerging tendency to focus more narrowly on the spiritual life as distinct from material or ordinary life.
B. Growing Impact of the Independent Universities
1. Change of training dimension increasingly distances the ones doing training of leaders from the formative tasks. Theologians now focus on new forms of expression geared mainly for university training: Books of Sentences, Summae, Systematic Theologies.
2. Theology increasingly defined as a speculative discipline, shifting focus of serious theological activity to the normative and apologetic dimensions.
3. Some monastic orders counter this trend by championing an alternative spiritual or practical theology that focused on prescribing the path to mystical union for those dedicated to denying worldly ends and pursuing this goal.
4. Both of these forms less relevant to life of ordinary Christians in the world without some translation, and there are fewer bridge persons to interconnect.
C. Impact of Specialization and Professionalization
1. Aquinass division of theory from praxis results in separation of treatment of Christian beliefs from treatment of Christian behavior and formative practices (i.e., of doctrine from ethics/formation).
2. Roman Catholic scholastic manuals further divide the practical section into
a. Moral Theology (aimed at all Christians)
b. Spiritual Theology (for those pursuing spiritual vocations)
This in essence reduced Moral Theology to focus on normative principles, without formative practices. Protestants, in rejecting two levels model, tend simply to delete Spiritual Theology, again losing formative practices.
3. Impact of Renaissance, Reformation, and growing historical consciousness leads to further divisions:
a. Biblical Theology
b. Historical Theology
c. Systematic (or Speculative, or Theoretical) Theology
d. Practical Theology (either just moral; or moral and spiritual)
4. Schleiermachers influential model of this curriculum distinguished Moral Theology from Practical Theology, focusing the latter on professional training for pastors (i.e., here one could again address issues of how to do liturgy, etc., but this is not seen as theology in its most central sense).
D. Recent Calls for Recovering Focus of Theology Per Se as a Practical Discipline
1. Sources of the Call
2. Implications for role of Practical Theology as a special focus?
3. Key importance of greater dialogue among the disciplines
4. Need to reconnect normative/apologetic with formative dimensions
III. Evaluations of Wesley as Theologian within These Developments
A. Wesleys Own Sense of Himself as a Divine
1. His clear sense of the importance of the primal dimension
2. His Anglican Context meant that he gave more primacy to model of the early church, and its focus on first-order materials like catechisms, liturgy, etc.
3. He chose the life of a pastor/theologian, providing formative leadership of a small movement.
4. He operated in the context where could still hope for a single person to be competent in all fields (so a type of modeling of greater unity)
B. The Rapid Dismissal of Wesley as a Theologian among His Heirs
1. In part because of North American primitivism Nothing but the Bible
2. In part because of trying to measure up to Continental theology
3. In part because of compartmentalization of theological curriculum
4. In part because of Enlightenment model of progress
5. In part because of diminished appreciation of importance of formation, due to changed assumptions about moral psychology
Ellen Charry. By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrines. New York: Oxford, 1997.
Randy L. Maddox. Formation and Reflection: The Dynamics of Theology in Christian Life. Quarterly Review 21.1 (Spring 2001): 2032.
Randy L. Maddox. Recovering Theology as a Practical Discipline: A Contemporary Agenda. Theological Studies 51 (1990): 65072.
Randy L. Maddox. Respected Founder / Neglected Guide: The Role of Wesley in American Methodist Theology. Methodist History 37 (1999): 7188.
Randy L. Maddox. Reclaiming an Inheritance: Wesley as Theologian in the History of Methodist Theology. In Rethinking Wesleys Theology for Contemporary Methodism, 21326. Edited by R. L. Maddox. Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, 1998.
Randy L. Maddox. Spirituality and Practical Theology: Trajectories Toward Reengagement. Association of Practical Theology Occasional Papers 3 (Spring 1999): 1016.
Randy L. Maddox. An Untapped Inheritance: American Methodism and Wesleys Practical Theology. In Doctrines and Disciplines: Methodist Theology and Practice, 1952, 292309. Edited by Dennis Campbell, et al. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1999.
Knowledge and Vital Piety
Ecology of Theological Reflection and Means of Grace
Randy L. Maddox
This is the religion we long to see established in the world, a religion of love and joy and peace, having its seat in the heart, in the inmost soul, but ever showing itself by its fruits, continually springing forth, not only in all innocence but likewise in every kind of beneficence, in spreading virtue and happiness all around it (Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion,§4).
I. The Moral Psychology Assumptions of Wesleys Mature Spirituality
A. The Rational-Control Moral Psychology in which He was Nurtured
Susannas exhortation to her children:
. . . moralize all your thoughts, words, and actions, which will bring you to such a steadiness and constancy as becomes a reasonable being and a good Christian (Letter to Samuel Jr., 11 October 1709)
We must preserve the government of reason and not suffer our passions to get the ascendant over us. If our affections are but purified, the work is done. Therefore, be sure to be very hearty and earnest in praying to God for strength to govern and regulate your affections (Journal, entry #21).
John Wesleys initial appropriation of this model:
To love God I must be like Him, holy as He is holy; which implies both the being pure from vicious and foolish passions and the being confirmed in those virtues and rational affections which God comprises in the word charity. In order to root those out of my soul and plant these in their stead I must use, (1) such means as are ordered by God, (2) such as are recommended by experience and reason (Letter to Mrs. Pendarves, 19 July 1731).
B. The Affectional Moral Psychology which Wesley Adopted
We must be holy of heart, and holy in life. But we must love God, before we can be holy at all; this being the root of all holiness. Now we cannot love God, till we know he loves us. We love him, because he first loved us. And we cannot know his pardoning love to us, till his Spirit witnesses it to our spirit (Sermon 10, The Witness of the Spirit I, §I.8).
Soul and Body make a human, Spirit and discipline make a Christian
1. Responsive Nature of Christian Life: The Spirit and Discipline make a Christian
The life of God in the soul of a believer immediately and necessarily implies the continual inspiration of Gods Holy Spirit: Gods breathing into the soul, and the souls breathing back what it first receives from God; a continual action of God upon the soul, the reaction of the soul upon God; an unceasing presence of God, the loving, pardoning God, manifested to the heart . [But] God does not continue to act upon the soul unless the soul reacts upon God (Sermon 19, The Great Privilege of Those that are Born of God, §III.23).
2. Formative Dimension of Christian Life: The Spirit and Discipline make a Christian
There is one only condition previously required in those who desire admission into these societiesa desire to flee from the wrath to come, to be saved from their sins: But, wherever this is really fixed in the soul, it will be shown by its fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, First, by doing no harm ... Secondly, by doing good ... Thirdly, by attending upon all the ordinances of God. Such are, the public worship of God; the ministry of the word, either read or expounded; the supper of the Lord; family and private prayer; searching the Scriptures; and fasting, or abstinence (The Nature, Design, and General Rules of the United Societies, §2).
3. Wesleys Balanced Means of Grace: The Spirit and Discipline make a Christian
In a Christian believer love sets upon the throne, namely love of God and other humans. ... In a circle near the throne are all holy tempers: longsuffering, etc. ... In an exterior circle are all the works of mercy, whether to the souls or bodies of others. By these we exercise all holy tempers; by these we continually improve them, so that these are real means of grace, although this is not commonly adverted to. Next to these are those that are usually termed works of piety: reading and hearing the word; public, family, private prayer; receiving the Lords Supper; fasting and abstinence. Lastly, that his followers may the more effectually provoke one another to love, holy tempers, and good works, our blessed Lord has united them together in onethe church (Sermon 92, On Zeal, §II.5).
1. The Lords Supper (UM Hymnal, #613) 4. Accountability
2. Corporate Worship The General Rules
Formal Prayers Spiritual Directors
Scripture Lectionary Accountability Groups
Church Year 5. Private Exercises
Hymns Study of Scripture
Sermon Devotional/Catechetical Readings
3. Communal Support (UM Hymnal, #554, 561) Private Prayers
Love Feasts (UM Hymnal, #699) 6. Works of Mercy
C. The Vital Role of SelfDenial in Christian Formation
To deny ourselves, is, to deny our own will, where it does not fall in with the will of God; and that however pleasing it may be. It is, to deny ourselves any pleasure which does not spring from, and lead to, God; that is, in effect, to refuse going out of our way, though into a pleasant, flowery path; to refuse what we know to be deadly poison, though agreeable to the taste (Sermon 48, SelfDenial,§I.5).
1. Example of Wesleys Spiritual Advice to Miss J. C. March
Go see the poor and sick in their own poor little hovels. Take up your cross, woman! Remember the faith! Jesus went before you, and will go with you. Put off the gentle-woman; you bear an higher character. You are an heir of God! (Letter, 9 June 1775)
Sometimes I have been afraid lest you should sustain loss for want of some reproach or disgrace. ... The knowledge of ourselves is true humility; and without this we cannot be freed from vanity, a desire of praise being inseparably connected with every degree of pride (Letter, 30 May 1776).
I find time to visit the sick and the poor; and I must do it, if I believe the Bible ... I am concerned for you; I am sorry you should be content with lower degrees of usefulness and holiness than you are called to (Letter, 10 December 1777).
Gregory Clapper. As if the Heart Mattered: A Wesleyan Spirituality. Nashville: Upper Room, 1997.
Steve Harper. Prayer and Devotional Life of United Methodists. Nashville: Abingdon, 1999.
Henry H. Knight III. Eight Life-Enriching Practices of United Methodists. Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.
Randy L. Maddox. A Change of Affections: The Development, Dynamics, and Dethronement of John Wesleys Heart Religion. In Heart Religion in the Methodist Tradition and Related Movements, 331. Edited by Richard Steele. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 2001.
Randy L. Maddox. Psychology and Wesleyan Theology: Historical Perspectives on a Renewed Engagement. In Companions and Apprentices, 2131. Edited by Maxine Walker. San Diego, CA: Point Loma Press, 1999.
Randy L. Maddox. Visit the Poor: Wesley, the Poor, and the Sanctification of Believers. In The Wesleys and the Poor: The Legacy and Development of Methodist Attitudes toward Poverty, 5981. Edited by Richard P. Heitzenrater. Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2002.
Randy L. Maddox. Wesleys Prescription for Making Disciples of Jesus Christ: Insights for the 21st Century Church. Quarterly Review 23.1 (2003): 1528. Longer version: http://www.pulpitandpew.duke.edu/maddox%20paper_9-23-02.pdf
Honoring the Dialogue
Challenges and Prospects for Renewing Wesleyan Conferencing
Randy L. Maddox
I. The Challenge of Our High-Tech, Entertainment-Oriented Culture
A. The focus on entertainment rather than real discourse (Postman)
B. The focus on information rather than formation (Schultze)
II. The Ambiguity of Our Post-Modern Setting for Renewing Dialogue
In principle, postmodernism gives all groups and individuals the freedom and space to believe their own truths. But it does so by unmasking all beliefs as instruments in the struggle of diverse interest groups for power. In the pluralism of postmodern society there is no basis on which to argue or persuade (Bauckham, 62).
One of the good things about our ... postmodern situation is that many of us have rejected modernitys superiority complex. ... Now we are free in a new way to recognize what is of value in premodernity, modernity, and postmodernity (Ford, 21).
III. Desideratum in Renewing Dialogue with Wesley as a Mentor
A. Avoid the Earlier Tendency to Hagiography
B. Be Cautious of more Recent Tendency to Debunking Only
C. Engage Wesley Openly, yet Critically, as a Partner in the Conversation
IV. Reflections on a Wesleyan Model of Broader Theological Dialogue
A. Main Criticisms of Emphasis onand Understandings ofthe Quadrilateral
1. It focuses Methodist identity on a supposed unique method, rather than on an enduring doctrinal/theological set of convictions
2. It focuses Methodist theological energies solely on deciding debated issues rather on conveying consensual convictions
3. It undercuts (or overplays!) the proper authority of scripture and tradition in normative theological reflection/debates
4. It represents a surrender of Methodism to the Enlightenment prejudice for present knowledge over traditional wisdom
B. Some Clarifications about what is distinctively Wesleyan in the Quadrilateral
1. Assuming the importance of interrelating scripture, tradition, experience, and reason in theological reflection is not unique to Wesley, nor is his conception of each of these
2. What was distinctive was the way Wesley resisted the emerging tendency in his day to split these aspects into opposing elements, in particular of championing present authorities (reason and experience) over past authorities (Scripture and tradition).
C. Key to Wesleys approach is the distinction between fact and interpretation in all areas of human understanding
Although every man necessarily believes that every particular opinion which he holds is true; (for to believe any opinion is not true, is the same thing as not to hold it;) yet can no man be assured that all his own opinions, taken together, are true. Nay, every thinking man is assured they are not; seeing humanum est errare et nescire: To be ignorant of many things, and to mistake in some, is the necessary condition of humanity (Sermon 39, Catholic Spirit, §I.4).
D. This led Wesley to a commitment to staying in the dialogue until one found a way to do justice to all four, rather than playing some elements off against others.
E. Some Historical models of Honoring the Dialogue in the Wesleyan Tradition
1. Women in the ministry of Word and sacrament
2. Slavery as an economic structure for society
3. The problem of drunkenness
F. Note, affirming the wisdom of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral does not mean accepting a predetermined outcome to the dialogue. It does mean pursuing the dialogue in community with openness, honesty, and integrity.
A catholic spirit is not speculative latitudinarianism. It is not an indifference to all opinions. A man of a truly catholic spirit, has not now his religion to seek. He is fixed as the sun in his judgment concerning the main branches of Christian doctrine ... [while] he is always ready to hear and weigh whatsoever can be offered against his principles ... [and] while he is steadily fixed in his religious principles, in what he believes to be the truth as it is in Jesus ... his heart is enlarged toward all [persons], those he knows and those he does not; he embraces with strong and cordial affection, neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. This is catholic or universal love. And he that has this is of a catholic spirit (Sermon 39, Catholic Spirit, §III.14).
Christianity is essentially a social religion ... to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it. ... I mean not only that it cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without society, without living and conversing with other [people]. ... Not that we can in anywise condemn the intermixing solitude or retirement with society. ... Yet such retirement must not swallow up all our time; this would be to destroy, not advance, true religion. For, that the religion described by our Lord cannot subsist without society, without our living and conversing with other [people], is manifest from hence, that several of the most essential branches thereof can have no place if we have no intercourse with the world. There is no disposition, for instance, which is more essential to Christianity than meekness. ... Another necessary branch of true Christianity is peace-making, or doing of good ... (Sermon 24, Sermon on the Mount, IV, §I.1-4).
William J. Abraham. Waking from Doctrinal Amnesia: The Healing of Doctrine in The United Methodist Church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1995.
Richard Bauckham. God and the Crisis of Freedom. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2002.
John B. Cobb Jr. Grace & Responsibility: A Wesleyan Theology for Today. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1995.
Kenneth J. Collins. The Scripture Way of Salvation: The Heart of John Wesleys Theology. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1997.
David F. Ford, The Shape of Living: Spiritual Directions for Everyday Life. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1997.
W. Stephen Gunter, et al. Wesley and the Quadrilateral: Renewing the Conversation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1997.
Thomas A. Langford, editor. Doctrine and Theology in The United Methodist Church. Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, 1991.
Randy L. Maddox. A Heritage Reclaimed: John Wesley on Holistic Healing. (forthcoming).
Randy L. Maddox. Honoring the Dialogue: A Wesleyan Guideline for the Debate over Homosexuality. Circuit Rider 22.6 (Nov/Dec 1999): 2427.
Randy L. Maddox. Responsible Grace: John Wesleys Practical Theology. Nashville: Kingswood Books, 1994.
M. Douglas Meeks, editor. The Future of the Methodist Theological Traditions. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1985.
M. Douglas Meeks, editor. What Should Methodists Teach? Wesleyan Tradition and Modern Diversity. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1990.
Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penquin, 1986.
Quentin J. Schultze. Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002.
Theodore Runyon. The New Creation: John Wesleys Theology Today. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1998.
Celebrating the Whole Wesley
An Agenda for Contemporary Methodism
Randy L. Maddox
I. The Wisdom of the Whole Wesley
When fifty years ago my brother Charles and I, in the simplicity of our hearts, told the good people of England that unless they knew their sins were forgiven, they were under the wrath and curse of God, I marvel ... that they did not stone us! The Methodists, I hope, know better now; we preach assurance as we always did, as a common privilege of real Christians; but we do not enforce it, under pain of damnation, denounced on all who enjoy it not (Comment to Melville Horne , Southey, 1:295)
There is an irreconcilable variability in the operations of the Holy Spirit on [human] souls, more especially as to the manner of justification. Many find him rushing in upon them like a torrent, while they experience The oerwhelming power of saving grace. ... But in others he works in a very different way: He deigns his influence to infuse; Sweet, refreshing, as the silent dews. It has pleased him to work the latter way in you from the beginning; and it is not improbable he will continue (as he has begun) to work in a gentle and almost insensible manner. Let him take his own way: He is wiser than you; he will do all things well (Letter to Mary Cooke, 30 Oct. 1785).
II. The Whole Wesleys Emphasis on Holistic Salvation
A. Not just Forgiveness, Spiritual Transformation (healing) as well!
What is salvation? The salvation which is here spoken of is not what is frequently understood by that word, the going to heaven, eternal happiness. ... It is not a blessing which lies on the other side of death ... it is a present thing ... [it] might be extended to the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul till it is consummated in glory There is a real as well as a relative change. We are inwardly renewed by the power of God. We feel the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us, producing love to all humankind (Sermon 43, The Scripture Way of Salvation, §I.14).
B. Not just for Individuals, for Society as well!
The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness (Hymns and Sacred Poems , Preface, §§45).
Christianity is essentially a social religion ... to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it. ... I mean not only that it cannot subsist so well, but that it cannot subsist at all, without societywithout living and conversing with other [people]. ... Not that we can in anywise condemn the intermixing solitude or retirement with society. ... Yet such retirement must not swallow up all our time. That the religion described by our Lord cannot subsist without society, without our living and conversing with other [people], is manifest from hence, that several of the most essential branches thereof can have no place if we have no intercourse with the world. There is no disposition, for instance, which is more essential to Christianity than meekness. ... Another necessary branch of true Christianity is peace-making, or doing of good ... (Sermon 24, Sermon on the Mount, IV, §I.14).
Where is the justice of inflicting the severest evils, on those that have done us no wrong? Of depriving those that never injured us in word or deed, of every comfort of life? Of tearing them from their native country, and depriving them of liberty itself? To which an Angolan, has the same natural right as an Englishman, and on which he sets as high a value? Yea where is the justice of taking away the lives of innocent, inoffensive men? Murdering thousands of them in their own land, by the hands of their own countrymen: Many thousands, year after year, on shipboard, and then casting them like dung into the sea! And tens of thousands in that cruel slavery, to which they are so unjustly reduced? (Thoughts upon Slavery, §IV.2)
You first acted the villain in making them slaves. You kept them stupid and wicked, by cutting them off from all opportunities of improving either in knowledge or virtue: And now you assign their want of wisdom and goodness as the reason for using them worse than brute beasts! (Thoughts upon Slavery, §IV.9).
C. Not just for Souls, for Bodies as well!
It will be a double blessing if you give yourself up to the Great Physician, that He may heal soul and body together. And unquestionably this is His design. He wants to give you ... both inward and outward health (Letter to Alexander Knox , 26 October 1778).
I was still in pain for many of the poor that were sick: there was so great expense, and so little profit. ... I saw the poor people pining away, and several families ruined, and that without remedy. At length I thought of a kind of desperate expedient. I will prepare, and give them physic myself (A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists, §12).
What is the business of an Assistant? ... To take care that every society be duly supplied with books; particularly with Kempis, Instructions for Children, and the Primitive Physic, which ought to be in every house (Large Minutes, Q. 42).
It is the business of a Visitor of the sick: To see every sick person within his district thrice a week; To inquire into the state of their souls, and to advise them, as occasion may require; To inquire into their disorders, and procure advice for them; To relieve them, if they are in want; To do any thing for them, which he (or she) can do (A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists, §XI.4).
Says is pleased to hear that Mrs. Dickensons healthbody and soulincreases. Certainly exercise is the best medicine for both (Letter to Peard Dickenson, 15 June 1789, in Methodist History 27 : 123).
D. Not just for Humans, for the Whole of Creation!
The whole brute creation will then undoubtedly be restored, not only to the vigour, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree (Sermon 60, The General Deliverance, §III.3).
[These speculations about how God will transform animals] may encourage us to imitate him whose mercy is over all his works (Ibid., §III.10).