Why a Wesleyan Approach to Theology?

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Dr. Ben Witherington III discusses why he considers the Wesleyan understanding of the gospel to be most faithful to Scripture.

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Dr. Witherington joined the Asbury Seminary faculty in 1995. A prolific author, Dr. Witherington has written more than 40 books and six commentaries. He is a John Wesley Fellow for Life, a research fellow at Cambridge University and a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Society of Biblical Literature, Society for the Study of the New Testament and the Institute for Biblical Research. In his leisure time, Dr. Witherington appreciates both music and sports. It is hard to say which sound he prefers: the sophisticated sonance of jazz sensation Pat Metheny or the incessant tomahawk chant of the Atlanta Braves faithful. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, he is a dedicated Tar Heels basketball and football fan. He and his wife, Ann, have two children.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hmm. I fear that Witherington and Seedbed may have stepped into something they really aren’t ready for. He basically made a straw man of Calvinists (faith without works) and issues what will be seen as an implicit challenge. Calvinists are dominating the online discussion.

    • ToLibertyandBeyond,

      Thanks for your earnest assessment of this video. As there is no real moderation of comments here, anyone is welcome to have conversations and to challenge or defend content. Seedbed invites and encourages this kind of dialogue.

      In the spirit of Reformed theology, with its hyperbolic statements (think 5 solas), one has to wonder if Ben Witherington’s comment on faith & works aren’t appropriate. The Calvinist theological edifice has so stressed the judicial elements of salvation that it is effectively equated with “salvation” in many Calvinist circles. Calvinist literature on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness typically lacks the appropriation of grace by the Holy Spirit. So, in terms of the way discussions about right standing with God are framed, Witherington’s comments about works having nothing to do with it ring true. See the recent engagement between N.T. Wright and John Piper on this, especially regarding the New Testament on “two justifications.”

      Tone and charity are important, but contrasting one theology with another is firmly set in the tradition of the Church. Much of NT literature, the Patristics—imagine orthodoxy being articulated without the severe cry of “contra!”—and yes, even the Reformation itself have all been reactionary movements, not to mention the entire tradition of deliberating about God via negativa.

      All are invited to talk about, reflect on, and press on toward the full graces afforded us by the gospel here!

      • Well, apparently I overestimated the reach of SeedBed (which I hope continues to sprout and grow). I somehow expected a response on the reformed blogosphere within 48 hours. Ha. … I hope you all continue to produce content defending the Wesleyan position. It is severely needed.

    • I have to agree with you in pointing out the straw man argument. Generally, if one wants to be taken seriously, it’s necessary to present one’s opponent’s argument at its best, rather than misconstruing their views.

      I do agree with Dr. Witherington that many Calvinists take much too narrow a perspective on salvation and limit it to penal substitutionary atonement, but to say that Calvinists don’t believe that God’s grace can transform a person isn’t accurate. Could you draw such a conclusion by looking selectively at some writings? Perhaps. But listen to a reformed preacher, and you are also likely to hear about good works as the fruit of a life saved by grace through faith and empowered by the Holy Spirit. “Faith without works is dead” does not have to be discarded to be a Calvinist, as Dr. Witherington seems to indicate.

      I appreciate the Wesleyan perspective and I think both traditions have much to learn from one another. Let’s be generous to one another in our discourse and not resort to the straw man.

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