Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Brief Commentary on The Wesleyan Church's Articles of Religion: Conclusion


In conclusion, two points need to be made. First, the Wesleyan Church’s twenty-one Articles of Religion are broadly ecumenical in nature. While Wesleyans have distinctive beliefs, most of our Articles of Religion are shared with historic Christianity as a whole and Evangelical Protestantism in particular.

Specifically, the bulk of the Wesleyan Church’s Articles of Religion is grounded in the consensually orthodox tradition of Christianity. Most of the Articles of Religion express basic Christian beliefs shared in common with Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and all major Protestant traditions. With them we believe in the Trinity, in creation ex nihilo, in original sin, in the life, death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the full divine nature and the full human nature of Jesus Christ, in the full deity of the Holy Spirit, in the agency of the Holy Spirit in creation and salvation, in the atoning work of Christ, in the universal and local Church, in the second coming of Jesus Christ, in the bodily resurrection from the dead of the just and unjust, in final judgment, and in heaven and hell. Furthermore, with them, we believe that humanity was created in the image of God, that humanity fell in the Garden of Eden, and that there is no redemption for humanity apart from Jesus Christ.

While the Articles are primarily shaped by the classical exegesis of Scripture in historic Christianity, becoming the foundation of basic beliefs, they also are shaped by the doctrinal emphases found among Protestant Evangelicals. With them, we believe in the total depravity of humanity apart from grace, in the necessity of the divine initiative in salvation, in the necessity of the experience of personal conversion/new birth, in salvation by grace through faith, in good works as a fruit of regeneration, in the Protestant marks of the Church, in the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and in the primacy and authority of the Old and New Testaments in all matters of faith and practice.

Second, the Wesleyan Church’s Articles of Religion do reflect a distinctive viewpoint within Christianity, highlighting truths of the Gospel often neglected in contemporary Evangelicalism. They give voice to an irrepressible optimism in the power of divine grace in the present life, while also emphasizing appropriate human cooperation with grace. These can be seen in the distinctive Wesleyan doctrines of the chief end of humanity, prevenient grace, absolution of original sin, high view of regeneration/new birth, assurance of salvation, the possibility of the forfeiture of grace, and entire sanctification. While the Wesleyan Church gladly embraces its theological identity rooted in historic Christian belief and the doctrinal emphases of Evangelical Protestantism, Wesleyans believe their particular doctrinal distinctive provides a needed message in the Church and in the world. As such, we do not shrink from embracing them, but believe they are a vital part of the message God has given to Wesleyans to proclaim in the world.


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