Abstracts of Papers Presented at this Year’s Wesleyan Studies Group at the American Academy of Religion
Members and friends of the Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Research may be interested in the following list of abstracts of papers presented at this year’s Wesleyan Studies Group at the American Academy of Religion.
Theme: Eschatology in Wesleyan and Methodist Traditions
How should the spiritual descendants of John and Charles Wesley think about the Christian hope? What do Wesleyan and Methodist folk mean when they affirm the traditional language of the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus “will come to judge the quick and the dead”? What might this have to do with Wesleyan movements for social justice and social reform? The papers to be presented in this session will explore the connections between Christological affirmations, eschatological expectations, and efforts at concrete social reform in Wesleyan and Methodist theological traditions.
Resurrection and Reform: Christological Eschatology in the Wesleyan Tradition
The purpose of this paper is to clarify the connection between eschatology and Christology for Wesleyan/Methodist dogmatics, with special reference to its implications for social praxis. Our thesis is that a Christologically-shaped eschatology provides a theological vision to warrant and sustain Wesleyan efforts for social reform.
Jesus Christ in his resurrection holds together the dialectic of continuity and change that conditions both eschatological thinking and social acting. We develop this thesis by examining three theological texts from different periods in the history of Methodism: Charles Wesley’s Hymns for Our Lord’s Resurrection (1746), William Burt Pope’s A Compendium of Christian Theology (1875), and Daniel Thambyrajah Niles’ Who is this Jesus? (1968). We conclude by urging Wesleyan/Methodist theologians to pursue greater dogmatic clarity and consistency with regard to the intersection of Christology and eschatology, not as an end in itself, but in order to sustain our social praxis by explicating its operative norms.
God’s Deliverance of Animals: Future Belief and Present Challenge
This paper argues that any authentic Wesleyan and Methodist agenda of social reform must take John Wesley’s eschatological vision seriously by making a concern for non-human animals an inescapable part of its programme. As Wesley realized, eschatology is related to ethics in that once we have glimpsed the breadth of God’s redemptive purposes, we cannot see the creatures God will redeem in the same way again, whether human or other-than-human. If Wesley’s interpretation of Romans 8 is correct, the followers of Christ must reflect on what God’s future general deliverance of all creatures means for current human practices that deliver other creatures into situations of suffering. Such reflection will require those who claim to be inheritors of Wesley’s vision to be prominent among advocates for better treatment of other animals in agriculture, research, sport and beyond, and may prompt them to consider adopting Wesley’s vegetarianism.
The Creative Eschatological Tension in John Wesley’s Sermon “The General Spread of the Gospel”
John Wesley’s 1783 sermon “The General Spread of the Gospel” presents an intriguing tension. Wesley both despaired about the state of the world and at the same time expressed a profound hope that can only be adequately characterized as eschatological; he believed that God had begun a work of renewing creation, specifically through his Methodist movement, that represented the first stirrings of a universal redemption. This tension is heightened by Wesley’s continuing and characteristic insistence upon a synergistic model of divine activity in creation; he never veered long from his conviction that the manner of God’s working was to renew and to heighten human ability (e.g., understanding, affections, liberty) rather than to annul it. A characteristically Wesleyan interpretation of eschatology must, like Wesley, maintain hope in God’s labor to redeem creation through Jesus Christ while also acknowledging that such labor neither bypasses nor cancels authentic human responsibility.
The Eschatological Significance of Work for Justice within History: A Contribution from Wesleyan Conceptions of Sanctification
This paper builds upon the eschatological insight of Jose Miguez Bonino by including a consideration of the unique contribution Wesleyan theology can make to eschatology through its understanding of sanctification. The Wesleyan conception of sanctification is fertile ground for a discussion of the eschatological significance of work for justice in history. This development of the doctrine of sanctification in relation with eschatology will also provide a fuller and social dynamic to the doctrine of sanctification itself, as this aspect of salvation would refer to social sanctification, transforming society to closer reflect the Kingdom to be consummated with Christ’s Parousia.