Does the love of God make any difference in today’s world?
That’s the question Howard Snyder addresses in this radical book about the radical John Wesley, arguably the preeminent revolutionary of authentic Christianity in the West. He was despised and persecuted in his day for bringing the message of God’s love to the teeming masses of England’s poor and disenfranchised. Still today he remains an object of attack from rabid defenders of institutionalism. This recent posting at Christianity Today magazine site is a classic attack on Wesley’s Love Ethics (from Christianity Today’s Web site):
From: Dr. Michael A. Smith Posted: November 21, 2007 8:21 AM As something of a Wesley scholar, I believe that much of what we view as truth about Wesley has come from a revision of history re-written by the Methodist church. I have tried and failed to look at Wesley from the standpoint of his being an Enlightenment thinker. As a contemporary of Newton and others he fought against intellectual freedom and advanced the sola scriptura (the Bible as the only source of truth). While we exhaust the Bible, we must guard ourselves from the tempation of worshipping the Bible as the ultimate truth. In effect, Wesley was an early fundamentalist who denied the doctrines of the Reformation such as election and predestination and purported the heretical teachings of Jacob Arminius. The Council of Dort declared Arminius to be a heretic. His teachings take away the very characteristics that make God to be God. Wesley was a dictatorial leader and very unbending in church discipline. While his life had purpose, he had little or no balance.
Somewhat miffed, I offered Mr. Smith some food for thought:
From: Keith McCallum Posted: November 25, 2007 12:14 AM Despite Dr. Smith’s derogatory words about Wesley, the fact remains that he is one of the most influential voices in biblical Christianity, with spiritual fruit unparalleled by anyone of his era, or since. I find it incredulous anyone could consider themselves a scholar of Wesley and miss the obvious import of his life or disregard the tens of thousands of poor, suffering, orphaned and disenfranchised whose lives were salvaged by Wesley. If Wesley “took away the very characteristics that make God to be God,” then it’s certainly fair to say God would love to see more such men Smith would label as having “little or no balance.” Wesley was one with the “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 (NASB)
Wesley’s enemies have never been able to quell the overwhelming impact of God’s love poured out through this man’s life and Bible teachings. Snyder extrapolates powerful insights into this man’s Love Ethics which are directly applicable to the effort here in northeast Ohio Xenos, and it’s a book well-worth every dollar paid.
From a review from Amazon.com:
Howard Snyder’s third book in his series regardng renewed church life (The Problem of Wineskins and Community of the King) focuses on the contribution of John Wesley to the renewal of existing church patterns. After first giving a brief history of the conversion of Wesley and the growth of the Methodists, Snyder then brings Wesley face to face with today’s church.
The fundamental issues at stake in Snyder’s arguements are:
1) How do you renew the church without destroying it?
2) How do you gain an apreciation for the apostolic faith in a contemporary context?
3) How do you touch people that the current tradition of the church doesn’t touch?
Beautifully, Wesley addresses all of these. It is amazing that Wesley’s voice is as fresh today as it was two centuries ago. In Radical Wesley, Snyder brings this voice out with clairty and alacrity to our current situation. I heartily recommend this to those who are searching to address the gospel in light of post-moderism.
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