Wesley’s focus through 1 John

In order to understand the theology of John Wesley, believers have to understand how he viewed scripture passages, said Rob Wall, the Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies.

"His core beliefs about the Bible belonged to the Protestant Reformation, whose principle of ‘sola scriptura,’ scripture alone, decisively underscores the Bible’s importance for its faithful readers," he said.

Wall spoke on Wesley’s use of 1 John during the annual Paul T. Walls lecture yesterday morning. The lens through which Wesley saw scripture was the book of 1 John, Wall said.

"Wesley believed this with an unwavering passion, and it remains a non-negotiable property of the people called Methodists," he said

To bring understanding for his conclusion, Wall took the audience of First Free Methodist Church through the social, political and philosophical atmosphere that surrounded Wesley.

The context of the cultural traditions and the social practices in which Wesley lived and worked must be taken into context to understand his view of scripture, Wall said. Wesley used 1 John to address the culture and society of his day in the midst of the Enlightenment period, he said.

Wall said that biblical interpreters use special passages from scripture, or a "canon within the canon," to highlight lifestyle choices. It also helps warrant their faith within the context of the world in which they live, he said.

"[For Wesley,] 1 John is that touchstone that makes plain the Bible’s gospel message," Wall said.

Believers and faith communities grant canonical status to things that they believe can be trusted to measure or regulate the content that they believe, Wall said. Individuals will often refer to the scripture passages that exemplify this as their "life verse."

Wall cited various texts and sermons in which Wesley explicitly or implicitly referred to the passage. For example, Wall said, in the preface to the fifth volume of his collected sermons, Wesley wrote, "If the preacher would imitate any oracles of God above all the rest, let it be the first epistle of Saint John."

Wall’s position is made in part from an endowment from the Paul T. Walls family. Walls served on the SPU Board of Trustees for 31 years, with 20 years as chair. The family endowment has helped establish a School of Theology Chair of Wesleyan and Biblical Studies.

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Title: Wesley’s focus through 1 John | Author: Shawnrene Keppel | Section: News | Published Date: 2008-04-30 | Internal ID: 6479