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“Uneducated Preachers” in The Church

August 20, 2017

Picking up where we left off yesterday regarding John Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons, let me get out of the way and let’s listen to Wesleyan scholar Ryan Danker —

The Sermons of John Wesley form an essential part of the Wesleyan Methodist theological corpus. Any person who would want to know “the way to heaven” according to Wesley would look to these sermons.

One will find in them the work of a true theologian, a theologian who, throughout his life, searched for the great truths of God and preached a message of responsible grace to the people of eighteenth century Britain which is still vital and contemporary for us today.

John Wesley himself must be understood in his own Anglican context. John Wesley never left the Anglican Church. He was an ordained priest in the Church of England and continually fought to keep the Methodist Connection within the Established Church. He was a mixture of evangelical and High Church tendencies.

Much has been said concerning the fact that John Wesley never wrote a “systematic theology”. Some have gone so far as to claim that he was not a theologian at all due to this fact. But from what we have seen within the context of Anglican theology, John Wesley is a classic Anglican divine (theologian). The Sermons of John Wesley would then be considered a major, and important, part of his theological writings.

Within Anglicanism the official theological documents were the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and the Book of Homilies. These homilies (sermons) were to be read to the people of the Church of England and were considered a standard for religious orthodoxy. Thomas Cranmer, who also wrote the original BCP, compiled the first book of homilies. Cranmer was burned at the stake by “Bloody Mary” and today is considered an Anglican martyr. 

Wesley, as an Anglican, understood the importance of a standard set of sermons for the people. Richard Heitzenrater states in his book, Wesley and the People Called Methodists, “Wesley no doubt has the function of the Book of Homilies in mind as he designed these volumes – homiletical material that provided a solid doctrinal basis and boundary for homiletical proclamation by uneducated preachers” (Heitzenrater 177).

— I can’t answer for you, but I’m both humbled by our Wesleyan tradition and honored to be a part of it.

Mr. Wesley was of a profoundly inclusive “both/and” mindset rather than a spiteful “either/or” outlook.

Good stuff.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow.

 

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