Full Text for American Religious Scene- Volume 46 - Methodists Confessional Statement (Video)

No. 46. >> Thank you. I always wondered where the Methodists came from. Now I have a better idea. Please permit me to follow up with one more question, if I may. Could you tell me, do the Methodists have a confessional statement? And what is it like? >>DR. LAWRENCE R. RAST, JR.: Yes, they do, Josh, as a matter of fact. The Methodist Articles of Religion are their official doctrinal statement. But they don't function like say the Lutheran Confessions do for a Lutheran. They are more demonstrative in terms of the perspective of Methodists than they are normative for a Methodist theological position. Afterall, a theology that has as its material principle the conversion and sanctified experience, it's a little difficult to reduce that to hard, cold, systematic theology. Nonetheless, they do have their Articles of Religion, which are largely based on the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles. So if you were to go back and take a look at the Thirty-Nine Articles and then read the Articles of Religion, the first thing that would strike you is the profound similarity between the two documents. Afterall, Methodism grew out of the Church of England. And in fact, a point I should have made earlier, John Wesley remained a priest in good standing in the Church of England through his entire life. The same is true of Charles. So Methodism had that very close connection with the Anglican communion. And if you recall, the real character of the Anglican communion is summed up in that notion of a via media, a middle way. Methodism simply saw itself as a new kind of via media. That is to say that Anglicanism had dropped too much into a dead and cold formalism. And on the other side, you had some more extreme examples of radical conversionists. Methodism simply said: We bring together the best of both. And the Articles of Religion reflect that in a very clear and powerful way. As such then it, you have a consistent statement in that respect. But there are other texts, as well. And some of the more important ones are Wesley's sermons where he unpacks what he means by conversion experience. Where he talks about what he means when he uses the word sanctification. And in which he also begins to introduce an enormously important topic for the Methodist tradition. Namely, the idea of sinless perfection. There is a theme within Methodism that emphasizes the ability of human beings to make the choice for God. Arminian theology afterward puts great emphasis on choosing to follow Christ. It is not a large step then to go beyond that and to talk about the ability of human beings to continue to choose the good. And to pursue the good to the end that perhaps it is theologically appropriate, if not existentially appropriate to talk about sinless perfection. And within the Wesleyan tradition, you'll find those who are what we call perfectionists. Now, that goes beyond the theological statements of the Articles of Religion. That is a point of theological development that characterizes the Methodist tradition. But it's one that becomes central not only to a portion of the Methodist tradition, but to others who then follow in the wake of Methodism, specifically in the wake of Wesleyan perfectionism.