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From Around the Internet

Chris Momany, a colleague whose writings I sometimes post here, recently wrote a piece for the United Methodist Reporter online entitled “Embracing our ‘Jesus came for all’ identity”.

Given that it appeared in the United Methodist Reporter, you may assume that by “our” he is referring to United Methodists — but it is applicable to all of those in the Wesleyan tradition. Chris writes:

[The] conviction that Jesus died for all is known as a belief in “unlimited” atonement. It was a cornerstone of John Wesley’s theology and a major distinction between his position and that of John Calvin. Calvin taught a “limited” atonement, a companion to the notion that some are chosen for redemption and some not. This limited conception was formalized in 1618/19 among the “Canons of Dort.” These days our eyes glaze over when someone probes such distinctions, but theology matters. My goodness, does it ever matter!

Among United Methodism we are so obsessed with the societal paradigms of liberalism and conservatism that we often fail to grasp the implications of our theology. Those who ponder the meaning of unlimited atonement might be dismissed as irrelevant or out of touch. Those who underscore the value of all might be dismissed as social activists with an agenda.

It is time to recognize that our Wesleyan theology of atonement demands a regard for all, and it is time to back up our prophetic witness with a carefully articulated theology.

And, since I have previously been outspokenly critical of Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, I think it’s only fair to say that I really liked his Charge to the 2013 Seminary Graduates. He bases his brief remarks on 1 Peter 5:1,2. Here is a taste. He says:

You are being sent forth in holiness – sanctified – spirit filled.  You are not just to be forensically righteous, i.e. some kind of declared, but alien righteousness.  That is there.  But you have also been called and empowered to be righteous… to be God’s shepherds when much of the flock has been scattered.  Never forget that the Chief Shepherd is always before you – showing you the way, leading the whole flock, the global church throughout time and around the world of which we are a part. 

Also over at the United Methodist Reporter online, Andrew C. Thompson speculates that doctrine may be making a comeback in the United Methodist Church: “Is doctrine making a comeback in Methodism?” Again, given the fact that he is writing for UMR you may assume that he is referring to the United Methodist Church. He believes that the current revival of interest in discipleship and accountability has renewed interest in doctrine. he writes:

But a lot has changed. Interest in the Wesleyan tradition has spiked in recent decades. Part of that has included an examination of how the early Methodists practiced their discipleship. What has become clear is that one part of the effectiveness of early Methodism was the way in which the early Methodists understood themselves to be responsible to one another for how they went about their faith in daily life.

David Lowes Watson coined the term “mutual accountability” in the 1980s to characterize the kind of activity that once went on in Methodist class meetings and bands. He prefers to talk about “accountable discipleship” as the Wesleyan standard. It is a form of discipleship that is not carried out individually but rather in relationships that are nurtured in small group contexts.

The result of all this work around discipleship practices in the Wesleyan tradition has been that the word “accountability” itself sounds different to our ears today than it would have a few years ago. The actual experience of accountable discipleship is challenging, and many people still shy away from its demands. But most everyone agrees that accountability is a good and necessary aspect of an authentic faith.I believe that the word “doctrine” is undergoing a similar rehabilitation. When people come to understand that the word itself simply means “teaching,” they tend to let their guard down a bit. And when it is explained that Christian doctrine at its best is nothing more than a summary of Scriptural interpretation on a particular point of belief or practice that has stood the test of time—well, then it starts to sound downright interesting.

On the topic of prayer, be sure to check out Andrew Dragos’ post: Does God Change His Mind? Why You Should Refuse God’s “No” for an Answer. People are in the habit of generalizing that God always answers prayer, it’s either yes, or no, or wait. But, actually it isn’t even that simple. Sometimes God’s “no” is an invitation for us to insist. Andrew draws his argument from Scripture, and he says:

There is something deeply formational about asking a good thing of God, and persisting in it. This means that often God’s refusal to grant a request is an invitation to insist. Sometimes God’s “no” means “ask again.” In this way, God genuinely relates to people in a way that highlights our freedom and honors our capacity to love. Should we expect anything less of a trinitarian God?

And, on sexuality issues — a theme I mention here… oh, from time to time — Rachel Held Evans recently posted: Christians & Masturbation: Seven Perspectives. She poses the following question: “Is masturbation an acceptable component to healthy sexuality for Christians?” and gets responses from Abigail Rine, Anna Broadway, Richard Beck, Dianna Anderson, Matthew Lee Anderson, Jenell Williams Paris, and Tara Owens. The commenters don’t agree, of course, but they have some interesting things to say.

And, of course, there are lots of comments.

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