Kipp and Mark A. Maddix, Northwest Nazarene University. Rowell, Ed. District Superintendent, Kansas City District. Benda; Ph. Candidate, University of Manchester. Goodwin, Nazarene Theological Seminary. Ackerman, Ph. Ragan, MidAmerica Nazarene University. Christian, Ph. Hahn, Douglas S. Hardy, and Jason D.
Bassett, Alex R. Deasley, Roger L. Hardy, K. Steve McCormick, and Thomas A. Blevins and Matt Price, Didache Editors. Deborah L. Lisa M. James K. Bixby 83 KB. Phineas F. James B. Mark A. Thorsen, Dennis C. Dickerson and Charles M. Matthews, ed. Exploring the Boundaries and Possibilities 49 KB. Phillips and Wesley Phillips 35 KB.
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Spaulding and Hank Spaulding 38 KB. Blevins, Editor Didache. Henry W. Floyd T. Gustavo Crocker, Regional Director, Eurasia. George, Jr. Even a casual perusal of these volumes reveals how Pannenberg again and again appeals to the trinitarian conception of God to breathe life into the other aspects of his systematic reconstruction of the Christian faith.
Over the next several decades, the tradition will judge Pannenberg's contribution, but it does not seem rash to suggest that he will be judged a major contributor to recentering the Christian doctrine of God on a trinitarian conception. Notes 1. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology , vol. Geoffrey W. Bromiley Grand Rapids: Eerdrnans Publishing , p. Carl E. Braaten and Philip Clayton , eds. Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, p. Quoted by R. Pannenberg, Systematic Theology , p. See Olson, "Wolfhart Pannenberg's Doctrine," p. Olson, "Wolfhart Pannenberg's Doctrine," p.
Pannenberg points this out once each on three consecutive pages in Systematic Theology, p. Pannenberg, Systematic Theology , taken from the first subsection title of section 3 of Pannenberg's chapter entitled "The Trinitarian God," which reads, in its entirety, "The Revelation of God in Christ as the starting point, and the traditional terminology of the doctrine of the Trinity.
John Pannenberg, "The Christian Vision of God," p. Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, pp. This is a central point for Pannenberg's doctrine of God, and those wishing more detail see Wolfhart Pannenbhg, Metaphysics and the Idea of God, trans. Philip Clayton Dialog, 26 : Pannenberg, Systematic Theology , pp. See also, Olson, "Wolfhart Pannenberg's Doctrine," pp. Lewis L. Williams and Duane A. Priebe Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, , pp.
Pannenberg refers us for further detail to his own Anthropology in Theological Perspective trans. O'Connell [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, ]. Olson, "Wolfhart Pannenberg's Doctrine. From personal conversation in January Pannenberg affirmed this in personal conversation and went on to say that if this were not true, it seems it would destroy the creatureliness of Jesus.
I would like to express my appreciation to Professor Pannenberg for allowing my several discussions in late and early , and for his review and comment on an earlier version of this paper. Today the African peoples have come to know who they are after many years unde r for eign pow er. This has necessitated the following questions: ls it possible for Africans to lead a rich spiritual life and worship God in their own ways? Since worship can be regarded as a constant creation of the Holy Spirit, why shouldn't Africans feel free to innovate and pray in their own way?
Such questions have brought about the quest for a theology in Afri ca. As a result, a variety of theologies have emerged in recent yea rs. This paper examines some of these basic trends in theological refl ection in Afri ca, in parti cular, Afri ca n Theolo gy, Bl ac k Th eo logy in So uth Afri ca and Afri can Chris tian Theology. Further, it seeks to sh ow an inner cohesion amo ng these trends towards the final emergence of an authentic Christian Theology in Africa.
Some people are using it as an ideological spring board; others fear it and consider it to be a demonic threat to the Christian faith in Africa.
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He writes "It is all too easy to use the phrase 'African Theology,' but to state exactly what that means , or even to show its real nature , is an entirely different issue. He concludes, "Theological systems and schools of thought will, let us hope, emerge, and it is these, rather than a single static system which together may constitute Theologia Africana. Yet, as suggested by Mugambi above , Africa has many theologies. We can even go on to say that there are varieties of Chrisban, Muslim and other theologies in Africa. I suggest, therefore, that the term "African Theology" is misleading and confusing and that the term, "African Theologies" should be used to refer to various theo'logies in Africa.
He represents the thoughts of most theologians in Africa today who draw a sharp distinction between African Theology and Christian Theology. The following quotation will give us an idea of what African Theology is, as understood by Agbeti and those scholars in his circle. The idea of "African Theology" seems to have been confused with the idea of "Christian Theology" as it may be expressed by African Theologians using African thought forms.
Thus it is m y intention Thus we may think of different kinds of theologies , e. Consequently when we talk about "African Theology we should mean the interpretation of the pre-Christian and pre-Moslem African people's experience of God. According to Agbeti, African Theology is a return to African traditional religious experience-the practices of African peoples before Christianity and Islam were introduced to them. How do we understand Agbeti's idea of African Theology? This kind of attitude presupposes the validity of the African religions with regards to God's direct revelation to the worshipper.
Salvation is possible in African religion, according to Agbeti, for he says that "the traditional African has a living experience with God quite distinct from the Christian experience of God. The source material for African Theology has to be gathered from Africa and its traditional religions.
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Hence he writes: Materials about African religion are being collected and collated regionally. From these regional sources, could grow a religion which could be truly called African Religion. Christianity, according to those who agree with Agbeti, is a "cold and cruel religion" which has caused frequent strife between the converted and the traditional religionists. For them missionaries did more harm than good, "They scared our people with stories of hell ," they insist. He makes no distinction between Black Theology and traditional African religions.
He sees a very close relation and no tension between the two. According to him, Black Theology "originates in the very existence of a religion pertaining to Africa. Perhaps Black Theology was dormant and covered in the mystery and taboo that pervades primitive religion the world over. He writes: On the horns of sacrificial beast is laid the altar of atonement at-one-moment with the creator.. The flesh and blood of goat cleans and unites.
Those who partake of the feast of redemption live forever and those who do not eat of the meat and wash in the blood of the lamb are outcasts and they are doomed. We shall commune with Him and His spirits beast and beer brewed from the grainary He has secured for us. For it is, after all, this God, and not the sectarian and selfish God of the white man, who is overflowing in love. Lediga believes, therefore, that it is the task of Black Theology to reveal anew this God to Africa.
This is because African religions have much to offer to the shaping of auth enti c Afri can th eologi es. Mor eover, th ere are m any Africans today who still value and follow traditional African religions. It is also only after a serious study that our knowledge of African religions will increase; and it is only after such that proper contextualization can take place. To avoid misunderstanding of terms and definiti ons, 1 suggest that the theology propounded by Agbeti and Lediga be called "Theology of Indigenous African Religion" for that is exactly what Agbeti and Lediga are concerned about.
Such theology, though genuinely African , yet seems to lack the necessary Christian component, is a universal heritage rooted in the perso n of Christ and the biblica l witness. In my proposed improvement of terminology in this paper, I have suggested the preferred use of the term Christian Theology in Africa which is authentically African and also genuinely Christian. Some on th e continent believe that Black Theology was born in the year near the mouth o f the Congo River. It was founded by a Congolese girl, Bea trice Kimpa Vita, a prophet, who claimed that she had been commanded to preach and teach after she had experienced death and had been resurrected.
She taught that: Christ appeared as a black man in Sao Salvador and that all his apostles were black. He was a Christ who identified himself with the Africans, who threw in his lot with that of the suffering, oppressed blacks as opposed to the white exploiters and oppressors. Others claim that "African Theo logy began in during a meeting of theo logians in Zaire, reflecting on the topic: 'Debate on African Theology?
Fin ally, there are those wh o think that Black Theology reached South Afri ca through the influence of James Cone's tape in a seminar in The impact upon the participants was grea t.
Mokegthi Motlhabi in an essay on Black Theology writes, "We feel.. Basil Moore defines Black Theology as a situational theology, the situation being the oppression of the black. He writes, "It Black Theology begins with people-specific people, in a specific situation with specific problems to face. The black man has been taught to think "white" and to believe that only what is associated with white is valuable.
He has been accepted as human only in so far as he has rejected black ideals and accepted white ideals. Black Theology gives the black peoples their due recognition that the black man is somebody. In an attempt to find who they are, the South Africans are asking questions such as , "Was our black society and history and culture before the white man came so rotten and heathen that it had to be destroyed? The reason is obvious. The black American has lost the cultural context in which African Theology is taking place. The political bias in South Africa put the Africans, in many respects, in the same category as a black American in the United States.
The main distinction is that the South African is in Africa, apd this offers him "the substratum for an African Theology. But it must be stressed that, although they have some striking similarities, they are not identical. When we read the statements of Baartman and Buthelezi, we are led to believe that there is a great difference , at least in attitude, between these two theologies. Ernest Baartman for instance writes: This is the difficult demand..
God created us in love that goes through bitterness , sweat and blood. He chose death. It is difficult to love whites. It is costly to love whites, yet the hatred must be rebuilt in love It is the love of God in Jesus Christ that transforms strange neighbors into loving brothers. It is very often said that points of racial contacts are points of friction. What is unique about the gospel is that it changes points of contact into points of fellowships. On the contrary, Black Theology of North America is colour conscious in that the North American Black Theologians insist that blackness is the symbol which points to the dimensions of divine activity in America and that whiteness symbolizes the activity of deranged men and is satanic in nature.
Hence, Cone writes:. Chepkwony In order to be Christian theology, white theology must cease being white theology and become Black Theology by denying whiteness as a proper form of human existence and affirming blackness as God's intention for humanity. Thus Black Theology, in an apparent departure from the conventional interpretation of Christian teachings, holds that everything that assists the destruction of white racism is truly Christian, "the liberating deeds of God. Then he adds that they wish to help the white people of South Africa "to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality.
Biko advocates a "peaceful integration of all the races in South Africa into a new, just and democratic socio-economic political system, symbolized by 'sitting at the same table' justly sharing the country's resources. It must be mentioned, finally , that Black Theology in South Africa does not deal primarily with the colour of the skin, but with the entire value system symbolized by apartheid. It is also self-critical and open for dialogue.
Black Theology in South Africa may thus be regarded as a Christian theology. We get a picture of black Christians being persecuted as they witness to Jesus Christ, who frees all-black or white. One may hope that the present developments in South Africa will only serve to increase the focus of Black Theology in their reconciliation and love. As we move finally to Christian Theology done in Africa, we make suggestions for a theology that is bqth, like indigenous theology in Africa, authentically African because it takes seriously African Indigenous Religion , and , like Black Theology in South Africa, solidly Christian, because it begins with distinctively Christian affirmations.
Such a theology should be one which will interpret to the African people Jesus Christ, who is the only ground of unity for Christians. It should be a theology which will make them feel at home in the new faith.
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In other words, it should be a theology that will attempt to relate the gospel message to the various African situations in which they live and work. Kwesi Dickson "in an essay "Toward a Theologia Africana" quotes Donald Jacobs as saying: Traditional Western Christian theology has some weaknesses even for western needs and often has not been seen to be relevant to African problems. Now we must come to the scriptures to discover God's answers to our problems here in our day. Such a cry for a theology which is relevant to African needs can be heard from E. Bolaji Idowu.
Concerning the church in Nigeria he comments that it has not developed a theology which bears the distinctive stamp of Nigerian thinking or meditation. From this point of view, a pluralism is not only legitimate but desirable. An adaptation of the Christian life in fields of pastoral, ritual, didactic and spiritual activities is now possible, it is even favored by the church.
The liturgical renewal is a living example of this. And in this sense you may and must have an African Christianity. It must do so in such a way that it will be "faithful to the inner thrust of the Christian revelation and also in harmony with the mentality of the person who formubJ-es it.
It is necessary that the African theologians interpret the gospel in such terms as are not only intelligible to African people but also suitable to their own temperaments. It is evident that contemporary African Christians cannot continue to exist on an adapted theology.
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There is no real short cut; as Allmen puts it; We must not fool ourselves; Western Theology is not Universal Theology. Whatever is universal about Western Theology is owed solely to the faith that has been professed in all times and in all places; and Western Theology has the duty to reckon with the possibility that others may express the faith in a manner that is just as valid and just as "universal," in categories that are proper to them.
A theology that will afford our people to worship God as Africans, that is: In a way which is compatible with their own spiritual temperament, of singing to the glory of God in their own way, of praying to God and hearing His Holy Word in idiom which is clearly intelligible to them.
A theology that will not be a copy of Western theology; nor will it be a syncretism of African traditional religions and Christian faith ; neither will it be eclectic in nature. It will be a theology that will solely be grounded in an African understanding of scripture as the only true and infallible Word of God. How shall such a theology come into being? I will suggest that African theologians should be aware of such theological processes as syncretism and be able to avoid dangers inherent in a mishandling of these processes.
I will discuss this briefly in the following section. Let me now mention a few more theologians who take a different line from that of Agbeti. Bengt Sundkler relates African theology with Christ when he says: Theology in Africa has to interpret this Christ in terms that are relevant and essentia l to African existence In Africa the same Christ, the King, proves Himself to be the life and the fullness with power to liberate from sickness and death and devil.
Care must be taken to avoid syncretistic tendencies as well as a hollow theology for Africa. The answer is in the vigorous pursuit of systematic theology, based on a philosophical appraisal of the thought forms of the African people. Glasswell also sees African Theology to be a theology "which is conceived by Africans on the basis of African religious insights and emphases, and which serves the African understanding of the Christian faith and advances it.
The result of such reconciliation of different beliefs and practices in religion is a mixture into one single theology. This has been regarded as a dangerous trend by some theologians. The issue of syncretism in African and other theologies has been a topic of lively debate among theologians. It would appear that the castigation of syncretion emerges from the conservative premise that all tenets of Christian Theology are universally and eternally valid, and hence their contact with any "pagan" elements would only serve to adulterate them.
I would say that the question of syncretism cannot be so easily dismissed. It requires to be defined and understood in terms of its efficacy and limitations rather than "dangers. It will suffice to give one example of how ineffective syncretism can be. In India syncretistic reconstructions of the best of Hindu and Muslim religions, as attempted by Emperor Akbar and later on a broader scale by Mahatama Gandhi , with the apparent noble intention of forging a unity between the two religions eventually failed.
The term to me has its emphasis on "Africa" rather than on "Christian-. But the changes so that we can talk of Christian theology in America, India and so on. In this case, "Africa" defines the context of a theological reflection; it demarcates a culture in which Christian universal doctrines are taught. Second , there ts need for a serious dialogue between Christianity and African Traditional Religions. If Christianity is truly universal , in that it is identifiable with each and every human culture as it professes to be, then it should be able to penetrate the African culture.
Christianity, then, cannot afford to reject such dialogue unless it is willing to forfeit its claim to catholicity. Aylward W. Shorter devotes his book African Christian Theology to this idea of "dialogue. Third, there is a "call for a new pattern of training of the pastoral ministry in Africa.
Signs of such a move are already evident. The former gives renewal courses and updates both the clergy and the laity on the approaches to new theological trends in their mission. The aim of the latter college is to provide relevant, practical cross-cultural training for men and women who feel called by God to go out to proclaim the word of God as demanded by Jesus , "Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all Mankind" Mark It should, however, be noted that as long as the so-called "extreme rightist," missionaries from Europe and America, continue to manage and teach in African theological and pastoral institutions, there can be no real hope for the emergence of an authentic African pattern of Christian ministry.
It is sad to note that these institutions are more like Western islands in Africa rather than like African institutions themselves. African graduates from such deculturized schools come out as "black Europeans" rather than as authentic Africans. In language, cultural and almost all other values they copy their white teachers. In Kenyan streets one may frequently witness scenes where these self-made Euro-African evangelists are heard preaching in English with a colleague interpreting for them in the local language; whereas both the preachers as well as the audience are quite fluent in the local language.
It is in this light that the need for the emergence of authentic patterns of African pastoral ministry becomes all the more urgent. I have shown the differences among these trends. I have attempted to argue that many times these three trends are mistakenly lumped together in the general category of "African Theology" or "African Christian Theology. I have further attempted to show the difficulties in defining African Theology and to delineate what African Theology is as understood by Agbeti and those who agree or even disagree with him.
I have argued that Black Theology in South Africa is solidly Christian because it begins with distinctively Christian affirmation. Finally, I have discussed African Christian Theology and the problem of syncretism. I have offered some suggestions on the growth of a Christian theology in Africa. I have also suggested that the term "African Christian Theology" may more suitably be replaced by the term "Christian Theology in Africa. There are various unpublished African hymns also embodying this theme.
The Expository Times, 87 March : Byang H. K Agbeti , Th eologica l Pitfalls, p. Basil Moore, ed. Daidanso , "An African Christian Theology," p. Bosch, "Currents and Cross Currents," pp. Moore, ed. Bosch, "CurreJ. Lippincott Co. Donald R. J acobs cited in Kwesi A. There is a sincere yea rning among Africans for a God whom th ey can worship as trul y incarnated in their own religious systems , however uncompromising these systems may be to Western Christianity.
Allmen, "The Birth of Theology," p. See Ka to, Th eological Pitf alls in Africa, p. Alan Ri chardso n, ed. Aylwa rd W. Recent years have witnessed epochal and unforeseeable changes in the political situation of the Northern hemisphere- the reunification of Germany , the collapse of the Soviet Union, th e fra cturing of former Soviet sa tellites , and broad-scale rejection of nationalist communism. It is sometimes S'llggested that these changes totally discredit what has come to be ca lled Liberation Theology.
But while they do raise serious questions about some of the specific solutions proposed by certain liberation theologians, they have hardly eliminated the problems that spawned libera tion theology in the first place. Indeed , ther e appears to be a widening gap at present between rich and p oo r in severa l nations , between developed or overdeveloped! For those of us in the Wesleyan theological traditions this situation sounds strangely reminiscent of the social context within which the original Methodist revival arose.
Thus, there is good reason for asking whether there are resources in our tradition for relating the Good News of God's salvific love to this critical dimension of our current situation. As liberation theologies found their voices among the world's poor and marginalized, their early questions often focused on specific doctrinal claims of the dominant Christian theological traditions.
It did not take long though for the. That is, they became convinced that there cannot be an adequate theological understanding of, or address to , the situation and needs of the poor or marginalized until theological reflection itself is done with and by these very folk.
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It is in this latter sense that I have titled this essay as the question of whether there are Wesleyan resources for a contemporary theology of the poor i. It does not take much reflection to recognize that the methodological questions being raised by those who are seeking to reformulate theology in the interests of the poor and marginalized, strike at the core of the current dominant model of serious theological activity in North Atlantic Christianity.
This model developed with and is defined by the setting of the Western universities. On such terms: 1 the favored forms of theological activity became apologetics which seeks to provide a ra ti onal defense of Christian claims and systematics which seeks to provide a rational ordering of these claims ; 2 Christian faith became identified with the "obj ective" findings of th ese academic disciplines; and 3 colleagu es or opponents within the university a fairly eli te group! To capture the intensity of the reac tion to this reigning model among those pursuing a theo logy of the poor and marginalized, let me quote from the final report adopted at the Second General Assembly of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians EAOTWT December , Oaxtepec, Mexico : Third World theology is theology as if people mattered.
Its concern is not the neatness of a system but the liberation of the people. It is not elaborated in the academy but developed by the communities of the poor. Professional theologians are the communities' servants in interpreting events and in systematizing the communities' experience. Their fidelity and responsibility to the community are essential to the concept of theology This theology calls for a very different language than that of the academy. There is no need for it to be apo logetic. In sum we have learned to show more respect and concern for people than for systems and scientific theory.
Most obvious to start in reverse order , the EAOTWT statement argues directly that the primary arena within which and for which theology should be done is not th e academy but the Church-understood specifically as th e community of all Christian disciples, with particular focus on those traditionally marginalized. Authentic theology grows. We noted that the Western academic setting made systematic textbooks or sophisticated apologetics the standard form of theological activi ty. If the most primary context of theology is seen instead as the Christian community, and its task is the norming and forming of ordinary Christians' lives in the world , then serious theological activity will take different expressions.
It will elevate to "first-order " those activities which serve most directly to fo rm or reform the worldviews of believers; namely, such things as popular Bible commentaries , basic catechisms, hymns , liturgies and expositions of central elements of worship. In making this call they join a number of other currents in recent reflection on theological methodology that are coalescing around the desire for transforming the defining model into a more truly "practical" theology. Truly Practical Theological Activity Will Be Unified The first of the characteristics advocated for a recovered practical theology is that it overcome the bifurcation and progressive isolation of th e various sciences that has come to typify the university theological curriculum.
This bifurcation is a direct reflection of the separation of theological study and education from the daily life of the community of believers. As they have sought to bring theological reflection into the service of Christian life in the world , liberation theologians have found it necessary to violate such disciplinary boundaries, interweaving biblical and historical studies integrally with doctrinal reflection. Truly Practical Theological Activity Will Be Holistic A second characteristic desired in a contemporary practical theology is that it be holistic.
No one has urged this characteristic more strongly than liberation theologians, with their demand that theologians not isolate orthodoxy from orthopra. As such , the disciplinary separation of doctrinal and ethical reflection in the academic theo logical curriculum must be rejected as a fa lse ideological! If human affections are not "mere feelings " but the motive power and orienting guides of authentic human praxis, then an integral part of a truly holistic and practical theology would be the nurturing and patterning of appropriate human affections orthoaffectus.
This point has gained emphasis among liberation theologians as they have rejected the dichotomy between spirituality and justice, reclaiming the spiritual affectional dimension of any theology committed to justice. A third characteristic prevalent in the recent calls for a more practical theology is the affirmation of the primacy of praxis in theological activity.
This is to contend, to begin with, that authentic theological activity is sparked by the needs and challenges of existing praxis, as contrasted with such factors as theoretical comprehensiveness and professional advancement. At the same time, it is important to note that affirming the primacy of praxis does not imply a crude "pragmatism ;" i. Rather, it requires that all such reflection be pursued to the point of determining the anthropological, soteriological and political dimensions of th5doctrines under consideration.
Truly Practical Theological Activity Will Be Inherently Transformative The emphasis on the primacy of praxis leads directly to the fourth characteristic desired in a recov. It should seek not merely to understand or explain Christian life, but to correct it. As Dermot Lane as put it, The understanding of knowledge and truth operative in the primacy of praxis is one of transformation in contrast to the more traditional understanding of knowledge and truth as simply disclosure or correspondence or conformity or verification. These latter tend to maintain the status quo whereas an under-.
But it also relates to the fo rm of theological activity. Systematics and apologetics can all-too-easily be taken as simply "explaining" Christian life. Truly Practical Theological Activity Will Be Communal The fifth characteristic advocated fo r a contemporary practical theology has been a distinctive emphasis of those concerned to overcome the isolation from the community of faith that the professionalization of theology has fostered. They stress that theological reflection needs the participation of the breadth of persons involved in Christian praxis to preserve its vitality and wholeness.
Some specific aspects of this desired communal nature should be noted.
I. Reference Re: Section 293
First, the point at issue is not just that every individual has a right to particippte in theological activity but that this activity is best done in community, by persons fiving together in faith. Second, there should be a particular concern to involve members of the community most often excluded by academic theology; i. Third, while this emphasis specifically rejects the restriction of theological reflection to an elitist group of professional theologians, it does not exclude them.
They too are a part of the cofhmunity. However , as Samuel Amirtham and john Pobee have phrased it, it is crucial that "what the theologian does is in the context of and with the people, not for the people gathered as a community of faith. Truly Practical Theological Activity Will Be Contextual Perhaps no characteristic desired in a recovered exercise of theology as a practical discipline has found wider contemporary consensus than the demand that it be contextual. It should not be devoted to the search for universal unchanging expressions of the Christian faith.
Rather, it should undertake the demanding work of wrestling with both Christian revelation and particular socio-historical si tuations, seeking authentic context-sensitive embodiments of the Christian gospel. As Rebecca Chopp has shown, this characteristic is central to liberation theologies. In the process some clarifications have emerged. First, it has been argued that the context relevant to theology must be defined broadly, including the social and political dimensions of Christian life, rather than being reduced to individual human experience, as has been typical of Western liberal theology.
Truly Practical Theological Activity Will Be Occasional The final characteristic desired in a contemporary practical theology is that it be occasional; i. One of the questions that many advocates of this agenda are asking is where can we find instructive models of such theological activity? The most promising place to look would be outside the time period and cultural location of the dominance of university theology ; e.
I have suggested elsewhere that john Wesley might also be such a model! Seventeenth-century Anglicans had decided that the best way to preserve a Via Media between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism was to take the pre-Constantinian Church as Among the implications of this was that they followed the Early Church in. One result of this was that early Anglicanism experienced some less tension between the academy and the church than did contemporary continental Christianity.
But tension there was , and when Wesley came face-to-face with this tension he decided that he could not remain in the relative security and isolation of the academic context while there was such pressing need for embracing and theologically shepherding the masses of ordinary Christians. Thus, like modern liberation theologians, Wesley took the primary arena of theological activity to be the community of believers , with a special focus on persons often excluded from the established church.
This is best seen in A Plain Account of Genuine Christianity , where Wesley distinguished between genuine Christianity as a "principle in the soul" and genuine Christianity as a "system of doctrine" which describes Christian character and tells us how to attain it. Among these activities were: the theological editing of the Thirty -Nine Articles and the Booh of Common Prayer; the production of catechisms and catechetical sermons; the provision of carefully edited popular Bible study aids; the collection of guides for prayer and devotion ; the publishing of spiritual biographies and autobiographies as models for imitation; the selection and editing of hymns for Methodist worship; the numero us letters of pastoral advice; the theological conferences with his preachers; and essays, open letters and tracts addressing issues that arose within th e Methodist movement.
With these general commonalities in mind , let us consider how well Wesley's theological activity may have approximated the characteristics desired in a contemporary recovered "practical" discipline of theology. Wesley's Theological Activity Was Unified Wesley largely antedated the growing separation of the sciences in the theological curricu lum. Accordingly, he showed little hesitance in ranging among the areas of Scripture, history of Christianity, church discipline and doctrinal theology.
While he recognized different genres of theological writing controversial, practical , etc. This was the case as he placed theological refl ection in service to ministry. To be sure, Wesley's was a naive, unified theology, since he never faced the challenge of the later divisions. Yet, his example might still bear consideration as post-modern theologians seek a "second naivete" Paul Ricoeur that reunifies the various theological domains.
Wesley's Theological Activity Was Holistic It is also easy to demonstrate that Wesley shared the concern that orthodoxy not be separated from orthopraxy. This is the point at issue in his well-known claim that "right opinion" is a "slender part of religion. Wesley's Theological Activity Reflected the Primacy of Praxis This brings us to the affirmation of the primacy of praxis in theological method.
Such primacy assumes, to begin with, that it is the needs and challenges of existing praxis that spark authentic theological activity. Even a cursory examination verifies that the stimulus of most of Wesley's theological endeavors was the struggle to meet the needs of, and address the controversies within, his revival movement. The primacy of praxis also entails that theological reflec tion must always be related back to praxis through "first-ord er" theological activities. The ea rlier listing of the various forms of Wesley's theological activity should dem onstrate his appreciation for such "first-ord er" activities.
What the primacy of praxis does not imply is a crude "pragmatism" or the neglect of careful do ctrinal reflection. W esley surely did not avoid do ctrinal refl ection. Indeed, at one time or another, he touched on every major area of Christian doctrine. Moreover, he did not limit himself to doctrines whose implications for Christian life o r evangelism were immediately evident. He found it necessary to take up some quite technical debates, such as the question of whether Christ's dea th was the formal or meritorious cause of justifying faith.
Wesley's Theology Was Inherently Transformative The next characteristic desired in a recovered practical theology is that it should seek not merely to understand or explicate Christian life, but to correct it. Obviously, this assumes that humans and human societies are not spiritually whole, and that theology's goal is nbt to make them comfortable with their faults but to reform them.
Wesley shared this. Was Wesley's Theological Activity Communal? What about the suggestion that a practical theology be communal in its process? Wesley's precedent in this regard must be considered ambiguous. On the one hand, he valiantly sought to bridge the gap between professional theology and his minimally-educated followers by providing abridged and simplified editions of materials he judged appropriate.
Likewise, he created the communal setting of the conference for discussing Methodist belief and practice with his preachers. On the other hand, despite his frequent claim that he desired to stimulate thinking rather than indoctrinating, Wesley was hardly a strong advocate of giving the "people" a voice in theological decisions. His primary goal was to provide his lay pastors and other followers with an appropriate theological formation , not to solicit from them new theological insights or perspectives.
Wesley avoided a simple "majority rule" approach to theological decision-making and fulfill ed the role of holding the community accountable to criteria of theological authenticity. Likewise, the truth is that Wesley did actually draw on his interactions with his people for doctrinal judgments on issues such as the connection between conversion and assurance, or the possibility of entire sanctification , though the people themselves functioned more as test cases than as valued interpreters.
Wesley's Theological Activity Was Contextual There is a growing recognition among Wesley scholars of how contextual his doctrinal reflection was, and of how this fact helps alleviate some seeming inconsistencies in his convictions. Good examples would include: Allan Coppedge's study of the contextuality of Wesley's responses to the Calvinist Methodists and their affirma tion of predestination ; Robert Fraser's argument that Wesley nuanced his comments on sanctification relative to his audience; Mark Horst's analysis of Wesley's situational utilization of two differing emphases on repentance; john H.
Tyson's review of the contextual dynamics of Wesley's interrelation of law and Gospel; and john R. Tyson's examination of the contextual variation of Wesley's definition of sin. The crucial point about the contextual dynamics of Wesley's theological reflection is that it seldom degenerates into relativism.
Rather, there is a reasonable consistency between the sundry contextual variations that appears to reflect a basic orienting con40 cern which guided. Wesley's Theological Activity Was Occasional We come finally to the "occasional" nature of a truly practical theology. Perhaps the most relevant expressions of Wesley's theological activity in this regard are his various open letters, appeals, tracts and essays published to explain and defend his theological positions. One might suppose that these are exceptions to the characterization of Wesley as a practical theologian.
After all, it is usually to these works that Wesley scholars turn to defend him in the academy as a theologian. One possibility would be to rethink Wesley's status as a theologian. It has become almost obligatory for anyone writing on Wesley's theology to begin with an apology that he was not a "systematic theologian.
But why even undertake such a reeva luation? Several possible motives come to mind : a desire for historical accuracy , the hope of re newing apprec iation fo r doctrinal reflec tion in Methodist circles, or even a partisan ambition to reverse the tables and champion Wesley or Methodism against those traditions in which systematic theology has been more common. However one assesses these possibilities , I would sugges t that something more fundamental is at stake. We face a dire need for reintegra ting the practice of theological reflec tion and activity into the life of the co mmunity of believers if we are to foste r authen tically Christian responses to the urgent problems of our times-including the problems of poverty and economic injustice.
Recovered awaren ess of earlier approximations to such in tegration wo uld provide both traditional warrant and instructive prototypes for addressing this presen t need. In other words, a ren ewed appreciation for Wesley's model of theological activity may be one of the contributions that our tradition can make to the current quest for a theology of the poor and marginalized, for it might encourage con temporary analogues. But if it is to have this effec t, th en it surely must begin at home! In their concern to demonstrate that their theology was truly Protestant, Methodists largely abandoned Wesley's more "practical" Anglican style and forms of theological activity in the early nineteenth century, appropriating the scholastic style typical of continental Protestant theology.
A striking symbol of this move was the publica tion of the first "compend" of Wesley's theology in to provide an abstract, comprehensive and systematically organized survey of his theological convictions! We must immerse ourselves in the life of the household of believers-including particularly those usually excluded from influence- as deeply as we have been immersed in the academy. And we must devo te more of our attention to the primal level of theological work, which is comprised by those activities which most directly form and re form Christian life in th e world : i.
NOTES 1. Th eodore H. Run yo n as hville: Abingdo n , ; T heodore W. Je nnings, Jr. The dynamics of this development and its effects on the previous practice of theology as a practical discipline are traced in Randy L. Third Wor ld Theol. Abraham Maryknoll, NY: Orbis , , pp. Segundo argues that theology must be seen as the "second step ," reflecting on acts of commitment 75f0.
He then notes that faith or ideologies are prior to commitment The idea of a wo rld view would appea r to capture what he means by "faith" and "ideology" together. They make a distinction between three levels of liberation theology: professional, pastoral and popular. They stress the primacy of such "first-ord er" activities for popular liberation theology, which deals wi th the broad Christian population.
They do not make as clear as others would the primacy of this level of theology. On the importance of popular biblical commen taries see also Abraham , Third World Th eologies, pp. Maddox , "Recovering Theology as a Practical Discipline. To quote fr om the Asian report in Third World Theologies , "Theological methodologies are ways of doing theology on biblical gro unds and sources, in relation to historica l contexts, that is, in commitment or response to the struggles of oppressed peoples in the Third World" p.
Jennings Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, , pp. See especially Samuel Amirtham and J ohn Pobee, eds. Amirtham and Pobee , "lntroduction ," Th eology by the People, p. Chopp, Praxis of Su ffering, p. For particularly helpful discussion of this aspec t of contextualiza tion , see Robert Brown , "W h a t is Co ntex tu al Th eo logy? Randy L. Maddox, "John Wesley-Prac tical Theologian?
On this point see Randy L. Albert Outler New Yo rk: Oxford , For more on th is see Randy L. See Minut es 25 Jun e , in j ohn W esley, p. Theodore H. Runyon Nashville: Abingdon , Sermon 73 , "O f Hell ," Wor ks, See also Rand y L. Note the co nsistent style in his "doctrinal " sermons of defining and if necessary defending the doctrine, and then highlighting the praxis dimensions of the doctrine. Letter to Mrs. Woodhouse 30 Jul y , Th e Letters of th e Rev. John Telfo rd London: Epwo rth, , At the same time, it is cl ear that he ex pected only motivation from his meetings with his people, while he wou ld provide them with information.
As he put it in his journal 16 Feb. Tyson , "Sin , Se!
Davies London: Epworth, , p. Booth , This compend was apparentl y prepared by William Carpenter. On its purpose , see the Preface, pp. It was reprinted several times in the nineteenth century. A good example of the style of work that I am suggesting is the trilogy by Theodore W. J ennings, Jr. Furthermore, not one of these scholars has considered, in any depth, Wesley's conception of "the faith of a servant" and the whole question of Christian assurance as they relate to this broader motif. Indeed , the general, though erroneous , view among many Methodist scholars today seems to be that Wesley either abandoned the motif of rea l Christianity as he developed the distinction of the faith of a servant or else h e r edu ced thi s motif so greatly as to include the latter.
Moreover, in order to display the subtle shifts of Wesley's thought over time, the essay will be divided into three maj or peri ods. Interestingly, what wi ll emerge fro m such labor should prove troubling to many popular beliefs, but it will , no doubt, furth er th e debate among contemporary Methodist historians. Indeed, fo r many in th e eighteenth century, to be an English person was to be a Christian. However, as early as , the year in which Wes ley clearly saw the end or goal of religion which is holin ess, he challenged such glib assumptions among his compatriots and entrea ted J ohn Griffiths , fo r example, "to let m e have the pleasure of making him a whole Christian , to which I knew he was at least half persuaded already.
Mary's church. However, as will be apparent shortly, much of what Wesley had to say about "altogeth er Christians" in this homily was later modified. Neverth eless, th e theme of real Christianity remained a vital one for him during this period as demonstrated by its r epea ted em ergen ce in his writings during the s.
The Faith of a Servant In order to discern cl earl y th e subtl e and no t so subtle modifica tions whi ch Wesley made in his understanding of real or true Christianity, it is necessary to consider this motif against the backdrop of what Wesley called "the faith of a servant" and also in terms of his doc trine of assurance. Indeed, the reigning view in Wesley Studies today is th a t th e Oxford do n bas ica ll y put as ide th e lan gu age of r ea l. Th e Motif of Real Christianity in the Writings of j ohn Wes ley 51 Christianity once he began to use the language of the faith of a servant. But first of all it must be asked , how did Wesley defin e the faith of a servant during the years to ?
Remarkably, the exact phrase "the faith o a servant" is not really developed during this initial period. Nevertheless, since Wesley later linked this phrase with a key distinction which he did indeed make at this tim e, namely, the distinction between the spirit of bondage and the spirit of adoption, this period does, after all , illuminate many of the characteristics of the faith of a servant. In particular, th e identification of the "faith of a servant" with the "spirit of bondage" is revealed in the sermon , The Discoveries of Faith, produced in In it, Wesley observes: Exhort him to press on by all possible means, till he passes 'from faith to faith'; from the faith of a servant to the faith of a son; from the spirit of bondage unto fear, to the spirit of childlike love.
Those under a spirit of bondage, Wesley argues, feel sorrow and refnorse; they fea r dea th , the devil, and humanity; they desire to break free from the chains of sin, but cannot, and their cry of despair is typified by the Pauline expression : "O wretched man th at I am , who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The Doctrine of Assurance In Wesley Studies today, it is well known that when John Wesley was under the strong influence of the English Moravians , he closely identified justifying faith with full assurance.
This time, however, the question will be considered not with respec t to the spirit of bondage , and its implications, but with respect to the whole matter of assurance. On the one hand , th e initial answer to this question must be "yes" since Wesley obviously modified his earlier erroneous views in two key respects: First of all, the English Moravians, who exercised a strong, early influence on Wesley, propounded a view of redemption which , according to Heitzenrater, "essentially equated conversion wi th perfection. In o th er words, the carna l nature or inbred sin remained even in the children of God.
Second, and more importantly for the task at hand , Wesley likewise modified his earlier view which had associated full assurance with justifying faith as just noted above. Indeed, a little more than a year after he began the practice of field preaching, Wesley conceived the doctrine of justification by faith no longer in terms of full assurance but in terms of a measure of assurance. But is this qualified assurance, occasionally marked by doubt and fear , necessary for redemption , for what constitutes real Christianity?
Here the picture becomes somewhat complicated. For example, at the first Methodist conference in it was affirm ed by all present that "all tru e Christians have such a faith as implies an assurance of God's love. Wesley wrote: Q. Is a sense of God's pardoning love absolutely necessary to our being in his favor? Or may there be some exempt cases? We dare not say there are not. Is it necessary to inward and outward holiness? We incline to think it is.
In a similar vein , the conference Minutes of noted that there may be exempt cases, that justifP. Thus, for example, in a revealing letter to his brother Charles, written a month after the 7 conference, J ohn illustrates his doctrine of assurance by pointing out: " l that there is such an explicit assurance; 2 that it is the common privilege of real Christians; 3 that it is the proper Christian faith, which purifieth the h eart and overcometh the world. The distinction is important. Arndt, for instance, had highlighted the themes of personal reform , the repudiation of stale intellectualism, criticism of doctrinal provincialism, and the importance of sanctification more than a century prior to Wesley in his Wahres Christenthum True Christianity , a work which the latter saw fit to include in the first volume of his Christian Library in Dear Christian reader, that the holy Gospel is subjected, in our time, to great and shameful abuse is fully proved by the impenitent life of the ungodly who praise Christ and his word with their mouths and yet lead an unchristian life that is like that of persons who dwell in heathendom , not in the Christian world.
What a proof of the Fall! Even with all the advantages of a hberal education , this person, I will be bold to say, knows just as much of heart religion, of scriptural Christianity, the religion of love, as a child three years old of algebra.