Refreshing, enlightening, educational and easy to read is my assessment of Kenneth Kinghorn's account of America's Methodist Heritage. Even if you have already read a history of Methodism or The Life and Times of John Wesley you will find this volume most refreshing. He covers areas not usually covered by others such as the "Black Experience" and camp meeting phenomena. My first ever hearing of the singing experience! Read it for yourself and be blest. This oversized book contains an extensive collection of illustrations, photographs, and lithographs. Many have never before appeared in print. [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 176 pp, $25.00]. To order call Cokesbury at 800-672-1789.
One finds in this scholarly work a thorough and understandable overview of John Wesley's theology. Whether the reader should be a long time student of the founder of Methodism or one who seeks to be newly introduced to this great man's teachings, a fresh insight and sound understanding of his scripturally based doctrine of salvation is sure to be gained.
Dr. Collins shared with me what motivated him to write A Scripture Way of Salvation:
I believed that the liberty that we have in the Gospel, freedom from the guilt, power and being of sin was being obscured by some popular theologies. One favorite move was to empty regeneration of its "power" and then ascribe it to Christian perfection. This unfortunately results in antinomianism in practical Christian life. I was also concerned with the deprecation of conversion (Aldersgate) and the instantaneous motif in the thought of leading Methodists. I eventually became convinced that they were doing "constructive theology" rather than "historical theology," that they told us much more about their own theological judgments and sensibilities than about those of John Wesley. In short, they failed to be historically accurate and ignored significant evidence which undermines their (popular) contemporary constructions.
In his introductory comments, the author reveals the significance of the title he has chosen for this book. He identifies the first part of the title as having been "taken ... from a summary sermon that Wesley produced in 1765, "The Scripture Way of Salvation." Rather than focusing upon the term, Way within this title, as he says some scholars are apt to do, Collins prefers to put the emphasis of his study on the term, Scripture as found in the title. As he points out, "It is, after all, not 'The Traditional Way of Salvation,' or 'The Rational Way of Salvation,' or 'The Experiential Way of Salvation,' but the 'The Scripture Way of Salvation.'"
The Heart of John Wesley's Theology, was chosen as a second part of the title and captures well the full content of this work. Collins explores thoroughly the various aspects of Wesley's doctrine of salvation, beginning with the doctrine of creation and original sin. He then continues by giving full treatment to Wesley's views of prevenient grace, repentance, justification, the new birth, entire sanctification, and final justification. Herein the reader finds Wesley's orderly process of salvation clearly marked and explained.
Wesley's doctrine of entire sanctification, or the cleansing from all inbred sin, is often emphasized by theologians and pulpit evangelists to the degree that it tends to eclipse his theological emphasis on the new birth. In contrast, Collins provides a more honest and balanced review of Wesley's teachings. He impresses the reader with that great man's extraordinary emphasis of the initial work of God in the heart of a penitent. He introduces afresh his view of this transformation as necessarily implying an "entire, general, universal" and "supernatural change--a change "whereby a soul moves from death to life." Wesley's persuasion that this new life and regenerating force is accompanied by sufficient power over inward and outward sin is highlighted, as well as the view that the work of sanctification is begun in regeneration.
Although Collins gives due consideration to Wesley's teaching of the instantaneous aspect of both justification and entire sanctification, he is careful not to omit the reality of what Wesley assures us is a gradual process before and after these crises experiences. He likewise provides thorough insight into Wesley's doctrine of assurance, both in reference to justification and entire sanctification.
In the final chapter, the author makes an emphasis of Wesley's doctrine of a "final justification" in the day of judgment in contrast to that justification experienced initially in the new birth. He concludes this excellent study by revealing the wide variety of resources and traditions from which Mr. Wesley drew his theological thinking [Kenneth J. Collins, The Scripture Way of Salvation: The Heart of John Wesley's Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), 256 pp, $19.00]. To order call Cokesbury at 800-672-1789.
In March 1999 God's Revivalist printed an essay by Richard S. Taylor entitled, "Why the Holiness Movement Died." This was heralded far and wide as a "landmark" article. Although this article has receive much acclaim, The Arminian Magazine, Fall 1997 and Spring 1998, contained a two-part article "Why the Holiness Movement Died" by Douglas Crossman which was more comprehensive than Taylor's analysis.
The American holiness movement, beginning around 1835, was misguided in its very beginning by Phoebe Palmer, with her misconception of faith, and by Charles Finney, who denied original sin. By the turn of the twentieth century the center of the radical holiness movement was God's Bible School and their Revivalist Press. Nothing did more to pull the holiness movement away from its Methodist moorings than some of the folk theology published a hundred years ago by Revivalist Press, which issued Taylor's essay in booklet form last year.
Although the recent editorial trend in God's Revivalist toward a more comprehensive grasp of Methodism is refreshing, it seems a bit presumptuous for Taylor to single out Nazarene theologian Mildred Wynkoop (1905-1997) as the scape goat of a movement that was off track before she was ever born. This is a classic illustration of reductionism. Taylor dislikes the writings of Wynkoop because she advocates a relational view of sin instead of Taylor's more substantive or materialistic view. Taylor feels that his concept of eradication is essential to the holiness message. Thus carnality is perceived as something, often compared to a tree stump, which was removed by the second blessing. Although Taylor tries to distance himself, and the holiness movement, from a substantive view of sin in this booklet, he previously argued that it was reasonable to believe that the sin nature was passed down through the genetic code [Exploring Christian Holiness, 3:96-8].
In contrast, Wesley taught that the sinful nature came through Adam and "not by immediate generation." Neither the Bible nor Wesley used the word "eradicate." In A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Wesley described Christian perfection as "love filling the heart, expelling pride, anger, desire, self-will; rejoicing evermore, praying, without ceasing, and in everything giving thanks."
Taylor also asserts that Wynkoop adopted the Pelagian doctrine of sin advocated by Charles Finney. This is a serious charge which cannot be proven. Wesley wrote that anyone who denied original sin was still a heathen and claimed this doctrine was "the first grand distinguishing point between heathenism and Christianity." Before supposing that Wynkoop was a heathen, I reviewed her Foundations of Wesleyan-Arminian Theology and Theology of Love. I concluded that Wynkoop had not denied this fundamental doctrine, only that she had not accepted Taylor's views. All in all, I found her presentation to be more Wesleyan in spirit than Taylor's [Richard S. Taylor, Why the Holiness Movement Died (Cincinnati: Revivalist Press, 1999), 16 pp].