In preparation for writing our Theology Papers (responses to the theological questions in the Book of Discipline) for ordination in the UMC, we did some reading in the area of Wesleyan theology. One of the books we read was Bishop William Willimon‘s This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice (you can read the first chapter at abingdonpress.com).
We loved the book (Joleen used it as a Bible study at West Side). One of the things I love about the book is its readability—pretty rare for books about theology. While many theological books are written for academic audiences (but they should be more readable anyway!), This We Believe is written for use with the recent publication of the Wesley Study Bible.
The book focuses on seven areas: (1) the Trinity, (2) Jesus, (3) the Holy Spirit, (4) Scripture, (5) salvation, (6) Christian work and witness, and (7) the Church.
We highlighted a number of great statements. Here are some …
Wesley was not much interested in any theology that couldn’t be put into practice; warmed hearts and good intentions were no substitute for active hands (xv).
Christians admit that it may be of the nature of God to be beyond human visibility or comprehension. Until Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the perfect, sufficient revelation of who God is and what God does (2-3).
Our love of God is responsive, responsible love. … Wesley relentlessly repeated that God’s love evokes our love. God’s love evokes, enables, and even requires our response (7).
[At Pentecost] We had gathered to remember the past, only to have the Holy Spirit thrust us into a new, unexpected future (44).
Claims of justification without evidence of sanctification were what Wesley called ‘dead religion’ (60).
Scripture is not merely to be understood, pondered, and debated but also enacted, embodied, and performed. We are to intellectually understand Scripture and to practically, morally enact Scripture in our lives. The truth of Scripture is known in its performance (76).
The religion of the warmed heart produces religion of the active hands (127).
The church is … Christ in motion, continuing his movement into the world (137).
I am sure this is a resource we will refer to time and again!
Willimon is bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church. We read his book, Pastor, in a Theology of Ministry class in Asbury’s D.Min. program several years ago (incidentally, Willimon was elected bishop the week we were at Asbury for this class). Willimon also blogs, and I just added his recent book, Why Jesus?, to the list of things I want to read as I prepare for ordination.