Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Catholic Spirit

I am currently reading a book by Dr. Donald Dayton called The Theological Roots of Pentecostalism. Dr. Dayton is an ordained American Baptist Minister and Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL. I have recently had a sort of "pentecostal" revival in my life. No...I have not gotten the "Spirit", though I was filled with the Holy Spirit when I was 11 years old and spoke in tongues for the first time....but I am currently unsure of of what to do with that experience. What I mean is that I, a former member and minister in the Assemblies of God, have Pentecostal roots and I have begin to read, research and explore those roots more thoroughly. I must have read 5 or 6 books over the past 4 months or so on Pentecostal theology and history and Dr. Dayton's book is one of them. Interestingly enough Methodism played the most significant role in the development of Pentecostal Theology, so it;s kind of ironic that I find myself, a former Pentecostal minister, now a Methodist minister :).

One particular thing that Dr. Dayton pointed out was his perception of John Wesley as theological inconsistent. He stated that "Wesley was "conflicted" in his theology" and that this "conflict" was either a mark of his genius or a sign of his ambivalence." Being the good Methodist minister that I am, I choose the later and chalk it up to Wesley's genius. He believed Wesley to be in conflict theologically because of several issues that Wesley seems to ride the proverbial theological fence on. One thing is Wesley's commitment to both Evangelical revivalism and traditional Anglo-Catholic sacramentalism. Also he claims that Wesley both endorses a professionary faith, based on personal assurance of new birth as well as baptismal regeneration (being reborn through ones baptismal rite or baptism saves). With all this being said, one could easily see how Wesley's theology seems conflicted, but I purpose that it's not theological conflict, but generous orthodox that Wesley affirms.

One of Wesley's main points of theological understanding was this idea of the catholic spirit (notice I used a little "c"). Catholic spirit is not the spiritual prowess of the Roman Catholic church, rather it is a commitment to a theology that says "in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty" The catholic spirit is a way of approaching our faith as well as the faith of others and even other religious traditions form a position of inclusion. Methodism is a faith tradition that is a "safe" place to grow and learn and explore. I'm proud of my Methodist heritage, I'm proud of our historic and biblical commitment to ministry to those outside the mainline. I'm thankful for Wesley's generous orthodoxy. The bottom line is that we are all of the same faith and that we all can and ought to exist in unity with each other, but we don't. How can we ever expect a broken world to find solace in our midst, when we are always so broken ourselves. Lets work together to share the good news "with" not just "to" everyone.

Monday, September 12, 2011

are you saved?

I had a great conversation with a church member the other day. It had to do with a very difficult time in her life, when she discovered that her husband had been cheating on her for ten years of their 22 year marriage. She told me how devastated she was and that she thought she had a great marriage, a "brandy bunch home" in her words. She proceeded to tell me how her husband was a good man, that he prayed everyday and went to church every Sunday...that "he was SAVED." That statement caught my attention. After our conversation, we prayed and she thanked me graciously for listening and we went on with or day, but I kept thinking about that comment, "he was SAVED".

Being a Wesleyan chrisitan, I have a different perspective on what salvation is and how it is obtained, than maybe my more reformed friends do. First of all salvation is more or less a destination versus a condition, but it is in a sense a condition and a destination, much like hell is a condition and a destination. Wesley taught that salvation was a processes which concluded with the entire sanctification of the believer and absent from that entire sanctification we are not actually saved. That women's husband was not saved, is cheating on your spouse something someone who is entirely sanctified would be doing? No. I am not saved, you are not saved, unless you are entirely sanctified, which according to Wesley is possible in this life, but unlikely.

What we experience as believers that so many churches miss interpret as salvation is assurance, assurance that we are justified by grace and being sanctified through our faith. The women from the church, her husband, he was justified by grace, but he was not saved, for if he were actually saved, that is, entirely sanctified, than he would not have cheated and hurt his wife the way he did. The key to sanctification is this, perfect love. Perfect love is when we love God with all that we are and when we LOVE EACH OTHER AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. Had he husband loved her the way he loved himself, he would have never cheated.

Most of us are very far from being saved, but this does not mean we do not have assurance that we are reconciled (justified) to God. We are going on to perfection, to salvation, to entire sanctification, but one prayer and even years of devoted service to prayer, does not mean we are saved. I look forward to the day I am saved, to the day God's love is made perfect in me, but that day is not today, and I don't know when it will be, but some day it will happen. Until then I will continue to be sanctified and perfected in love, working towards salvation.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love wins?

I am amazed at the number of people who are outraged and angered by the release of Pastor Rob Bell's new book, "Love wins." If you google love wins, or Rob Bell, or even the words heaven and hell, together or apart you will most certantly receive search results regarding Bell's new book. It has caused such controversey that Bell has been featured on news broadcast from local ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates to CNN, all dealing with his new book. And whats so controversially abou this book? The idea that God gets what God wants, that God has allready reconciled all humanity to God's self through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, thats so controversial? I mean scripture does say that God desiereth all mankind to be saved, and that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. So...that's what's so upsetting to the droves of Fundamentalist ego maniacs like Mark Driscol and other less known preachers ministers and lay people who have come out and attacked Bell, mind you many of them have not even read the BOOK!!! I honestly believe that Bell is a religous genius and spiritual catalyst for the post modern church, or perhaps mostly for the modern church which is trying to (by any means necessary) hold on to power in Christedom as it slips into post modernity, as if the idea of Christendom will even exists in a post-modern world. I had a long, and meaningful conversation with my wife last night about this and when I called Bell a catalyst my wife said, "That's exactly what he is!" She went on to explain that a catalyst is something you add to a formula or mixture that expedites a change. The change will happen, it has to because of the chemical make up of the mixture, but the catalyst causes the change whether the mixture is ready to change yet our not. Christianity must change if it is to have any part in post modernity...whether we are ready our not. Authors like Bishop John Shelby Sponge, Brian Mclaren and even Rob Bell have been telling us this for years and I think most of "us", that is Christian ministers (lay and clergy), realize this because the Holy Spirit has been speaking it to us. What Bell has done with this latest book if force at lest the discussion of change and I for one welcome it. The message is clear LOVE WINS and there is nothing anyone can do about.