Wesley’s Way: Non-Dualistic Spirituality

Wesley believed God raised up the Methodists to “unite the two so long divided—knowledge and vital piety.”  He believed that knowledge without piety produced “dead orthodoxy” (his term, and something he abhorred).  He believed that piety without knowledge produced fanatical emotionalism (called “enthusiasm” in Wesley’s day).

In other words, Wesley was a non-dualistic person—holding together what some chose to separate (e.g. faith and works).  He believed that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

We have already seen this in his affinity with multiple traditions—leading him to be thought of as “the grand borrower.”  But he synthesized things because he believed God wanted Christians not only to be deep, but broad.

My friend and fellow Wesley scholar, Paul Chilcote, has captured John and Charles Wesley’s spirit by saying their favorite theological word was “and.”  Paul has written an excellent book about the Wesleyan synthesizing process: Recapturing the Wesleys’ Vision.  It is a good book to read as you approach this weekly exploration.

For today, as we open the door into Wesleyan spirituality, let’s remember that (on the whole) we will be exploring a formative process that is more both/and than either/or.  For example, in learning to pray Wesleyan spirituality will commend liturgical “and” spontaneous praying–believing that the use of both produces a better life of prayer than choosing one and not the other.

We will see this synthesizing process in many other ways as we move farther into our exploration of Wesleyan spirituality. It is a reminder that Wesley was (and wanted others to be) a “Kingdom” Christian—not a sectarian one.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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