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.