Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists

Here’s a good article by Nazarene Theology professor Al Truesdale that helps to explain the difference between Wesleyans and Fundamentalists, and why Wesleyans aren’t concerned about “inerrancy”. Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists.

From the article:

For fundamentalists, revelation is thought of primarily as divine information or truth about God, humans, and the creation. For example, when Exodus 12:37 states the number of Hebrew slaves who left Egypt, that information is part of divine revelation. The Bible is the inspired and inerrant deposit of divine revelation. For that reason it is the Word of God. God unerringly communicated his revelation in various ways—through patriarchs, prophets and apostles, oracles, signs and wonders, and ultimately through Jesus Christ. Regardless of the topic the Bible addresses, it is part of God’s infallible revelation. It stands to reason that an inerrant God would communicate through an inerrant vehicle.

Therefore, in the Bible God has given us an inerrant source of truth. Either the entire Bible is without error, or the Scriptures as a whole must be false. Either Isaiah of Jerusalem wrote all of Isaiah, or the Bible is deceptive. Equally essential for fundamentalism is belief that the body of revelation the Bible contains is accessible to all who will rightly use their reason, and who will submit to what the Bible teaches.

We can see that for fundamentalists, “truth” is principally “divine truths” God has communicated to humans and recorded in the Bible. This makes the Bible “the Word of God.” Faith, then, is principally a matter of understanding and assenting to truth, to revelation, without reservation. This doesn’t minimize the importance of personal trust in Jesus Christ.

Wesleyans hold to a different understanding of revelation. The difference directly affects our doctrine of the Scriptures. God himself, not information about him, is the primary content of revelation. God manifests himself, his person, his “Name,” and his will in all the earth. he reveals his “glory” as Creator and Savior, the proper end of which is our worship of and obedience to him. God declares his Name particularly by creating a people who, in covenant with him, will bear redeemed witness to his holiness, his love, his Kingship, and his faithfulness. The Bible uniquely and definitively tells the story of God’s self-disclosure and of humankind’s response. But not everything in the Bible is essential to God’s self-disclosure.

For Wesleyans, knowing the truth is primarily a matter of knowing God, of being transformed and gifted by him, and of being placed in his kingdom service. Thinking of knowing the truth as principally a matter of assent to a body of divine knowledge or propositions strikes Wesleyans as once-removed from knowing him who is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.”



Filed under Wesleyanism

15 responses to “Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists

  1. An insightful article that gets to the heart of the purpose and nature of scripture. It is not a collection of countless individual truths that can be applied in isolation outside of context.

    Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself and His relationship with His creation (specifically mankind).

    Seeing scripture as the former leads to theological dogma and conflict.
    Recognising the latter leads to insight into God’s character and purposes, enhancing our relationship with Him.

  2. Dave

    And so which part of the Bible is “not essential to God’s self-disclosure”?

    • He fleshes out that statement in the article. “The measure of importance for any part of the Bible depends upon its role in declaring the Name of the Lord and in training God’s people in holy living. Not all aspects of the Bible equally serve this purpose. That God is the Creator is absolutely central; how he did it is incidental. That God delivered the hebrews from Egyptian bondage is absolutely primary, but how many escaped is secondary. That God will consummate his kingdom is paramount, but how and when is of marginal importance.”

  3. Dave

    Of course my question was actually rhetorical, but I do understand the logic. I just don’t believe that God has given man the option of picking and choosing; it would be, after all, never correct.

    My reaction is primarily one of seeing this position play itself out with a friend of mine who is an ordained Wesleyan minister. She somehow picks and chooses those parts of Scripture which are indeed God’s Word and those which are just the writings of men (and therefore have no essential relevance). Based on this “foundation”, she supports all sorts of human activity (you know the list) as well as universalism, believing that Christ is “Christians way of getting to God, whereas other faiths have their ways. All are equally valid and true.”.

    So in my mind, treating any part of Scripture as not from God is a slippery slope, one which man is not meant to be on and is a slide to destruction.

    • Sure, there can be extremes in both directions.

      • My favorite extremes are “jot’s & tittles” that Christ died to fullfill and the “s” in Seed singular verses many” making the difference in damnable heresy in Galatians.

    • The problem comes with seeing Scripture in “parts” – a habit increased by reliance on chapter and verse sections as opposed to the recognition of the form in which scripture was given (whole books and whole letters).

      The WHOLE of scripture is relevant and important and authoritative for the purpose that it was given – revelation of God.

      Scripture can lose relevance and even become “erroneous” when used for purposes for which it was never intended.

  4. Kevin, thanks for posting this… I think it’s a fundamental(pardon the pun) issue that we as Wesleyans need to remember. Blessings on you!

  5. Pingback: Distinguishing Wesleyan and Fundamentalist approaches to Scripture « James Pedlar

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  7. Seth

    I am a Wesleyan, but I “fundamentally” disagree with you. Every detail in Scripture reveals a something about God’s character. Not every detail may be as important as another one, but like the body, there are no irrelevant parts. The how of Creation is as important as the why. God didn’t just say he created, but how He did it and why He did it. Details matter, and are extremely important. I think a Hebraic understanding of Scripture is more helpful in that the Jews believed that every “jot” and “tittle” was important, and Jesus didn’t deny that. I do believe some fundamentalists seem to never get further that the information about God to a more personal revelation of Him in the Scripture. I think that is more a result of where they put their emphasis. However, detail ought to bring an awesome response to God and a deeper intimacy with Him.

  8. Reblogged this on Humble Beginnings and commented:

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