Saturday, August 27, 2011

The new book market

I've signed a contract with Wipf & Stock to publish my book The Form and Power of Religion: John Wesley on Methodist Vitality, and I've created a separate page on this blog where I'll reflect on the publishing process.  One step in this process involves identifying academic journals and professional periodicals that will review the book.  I'm interested in knowing your e-sources for book reviews.  What online sites do you visit for book recommendations?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Soul at Worship

My thanks to Rev. Russ Tompkins (senior pastor at St. James UMC in Bellevue, NE) for the tour of his church sites.  Russ shared the theory of experiential worship that informs his approach to contemporary worship, and I'm intrigued by the definition of the soul that undergirds this theory.

Quoting Mark 12:30, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength," this approach to worship seeks to include elements that will engage the intellect (mind), body (strength), emotions (soul), and choices (heart).  These "four levels of human experience" are some what comparable to the theory of the soul (the embodied functions of understanding, will, affections, and liberty) implicit in Wesley's doctrinal writings.

Notice that in place of the word Soul the experiential worship philosophy uses the term Human Experience.  This raises two questions for me--
What meaning will people take away from a statement like "Jesus redeems Human Experience"?
Are there only four levels to human experience?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Hermeneutical Rule

     Every verse of Scripture could be interpreted according to the Analogy of Faith, in Wesley's opinion.  Dr. Maddox associates four doctrines with Wesley's interpretive key:  natural corruption, justification, regeneration, and sanctification.  I would extend this list by one more category-- Eternal Happiness.
     The themes of sin, sanctification, and heaven are evident in Wesley's commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, for example:
Notes, Mt 5:3-- The poor in spirit - They who are unfeignedly penitent, they who are truly convinced of sin; who see and feel the state they are in by nature, being deeply sensible of their sinfulness, guiltiness, helplessness. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven - The present inward kingdom: righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, as well as the eternal kingdom, if they endure to the end.
The connection between justification and heaven is made in Wesley's note for John 10:26-28:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, &c. - Our Lord still alludes to the discourse he had before this festival. As if he had said, My sheep are they who, Hear my voice by faith; Are known (that is, approved) by me, as loving me; and Follow me, keep my commandments, with a believing, loving heart.
And to those who, Truly believe (observe three promises annexed to three conditions) I give eternal life. He does not say, I will, but I give. For he that believeth hath everlasting life. Those whom, I know truly to love me, shall never perish, provided they abide in my love. Those who follow me, neither men nor devils can pluck out of my hand. My Father who hath, by an unchangeable decree, given me all that believe, love, and obey, is greater than all in heaven or earth, and none is able to pluck them out of his hand.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Daily Bread

The commentary in the Wesley Study Bible for Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3, "Give us this/each day our daily bread," does not reflect John Wesley's interpretation of these texts in his Notes on the New Testament.  The Abingdon commentary focuses on the practical need for physical sustenance.  Wesley commented on the need for physical and spiritual nourishment:

Matthew 6:11
Abingdon -- "Daily bread" acknowledges the reality of an agrarian society in which economic distress is a daily reality.
Note -- our daily bread - All things needful for our souls and bodies: not only the meat that perisheth, but the sacramental bread, and thy grace, the food which endureth to everlasting life.
Luke 11:1-4 
Abingdon -- the need for physical bread is first
Note -- Who asks for no more of this world than his daily bread, longing meantime for the bread that came down from heaven
A footnote indicates that "epiousion" has been translated as both "daily" and "tomorrow," however the Abingdon commentary obscures the debate over the meaning of the word.  The ambiguous meaning of this infrequently used word allowed early interpreters to see this as a petition for the bread of this world and as a request for the bread of the coming Kingdom of God.  I prefer Wesley's commentary to Abingdon's in this case because of it's consistency with early church tradition.