Chapter 1 Conclusion: Great Time


The rest of the book looks at these themes in more detail.  Chapter 2 looks at the Wesleyan focus on the heart before the head   We can reject the extremes of postmodernism and yet recognize that it has exposed the degree to which our ideas are not always about what we say they are, as well as the degree to which the way we formulate our thinking is a function of the whims of time and culture.  Human motives are more constant and true to who we are than the ideas we often use to present them, even cover them up.

Chapter 3 looks at how new perspectives on Judaism and Paul have tended to bolster a Wesleyan-Arminian reading of the New Testament.  The reason is the renewed sense of how important works were in Paul’s thinking about final justification before God, in conjunction with a more accurate sense of how they functioned within Judaism.  The Wesleyan emphasis on righteous living, captured well in Wesley’s notion of entire sanctification, fits well with this renewed understanding, even if the way the tradition has often formulated entire sanctification is more of an experiential inference than a clearly stated biblical teaching.

Chapter 4 continues to look at Wesleyanism and the Bible, this time in terms of developments in hermeneutics.  Again, we do not have to go to the extreme of saying that texts have no meaning to recognize that postmodernism has demonstrated the extreme polyvalence of words.  The broader evangelicalism of the mid-twentieth century, which flowed largely from the influence of the Old Princeton school of the 1800s, has not been nearly as well equipped to handle this multiplicity of meaning as Wesleyan and Pentecostal traditions, which have always tended to read Scripture more pneumatically than contextually.  With a clearer sense than ever of the way the New Testament itself interpreted the Old, these latter traditions are in a good position for taking biblical hermeneutics forward in the twenty-first century.

Chapter 5 then turns to the notion of social justice.  To be sure, the connotations of social justice in the Old and New Testaments do not translate exactly into our world the way they did in the ancient world.  Nevertheless, the Wesleyan tradition has historically championed the cause of the oppressed and disempowered.  It may require some sophistication to lead such causes forward on a large scale today, but this emphasis again finds ready spirits in the younger generations of evangelicals today.

Chapter 6 closes out the book with a look at the “can do” spirit of the Wesleyan tradition and its sense that mission trumps method.  This pragmatic spirit requires a clear sense of priorities and a willingness to compromise on non-essentials.  In an age of inconceivably rapid development in which the emphasis is what Christian groups have in common, these are values that should be perpetuated.