Monday, May 10, 2010

What is a "Conservative" Wesleyan?


The labels "liberal" and "conservative" are elusive definitions, perhaps especially so in the churches with a Wesleyan heritage. As I grew up they were used, not only to define the boundaries of doctrinal views but also used to include taboo shibboleths of yesteryear. A person may be a "liberal" if he wore shorts on a church campground or saw no problem with "mixed bathing" (which is a phrase describing men and women swimming together in the same place at the same time).

After I began my formal theological training I learned that these labels were best used for the doctrines one held and not his positions on "gray areas" (or legalistic matters, or however you wish to describe it).

I learned that a conservative Wesleyan affirmed certain things:
That the Bible truly is the word of God. That it was without factual or theological error when originally written (i.e. inerrant and infallible in the autographs).

That Moses wrote most of the first five books of the Bible (i.e. the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch rather than the Documentary Hypothesis [JEDP]).

That the exodus from Egypt happened circa 1450 B.C. (i.e. not 1290 B.C.).

That Isaiah wrote, well, Isaiah (i.e. there was neither a Deutero-Isaiah nor a Trito-Isaiah).

That the Old Testament (i.e. Tanach) prophets did predictive prophesying (though they were primarily preachers of righteousness) and their prophesies were accurate.

That the virgin birth of Christ is real.

That Christ really did walk on water, raise the dead and cast actual demons out of people, not psychological disorders (i.e. the miracles occurred as recorded).

That Christ really did rise physically and bodily from the dead (i.e. it wasn't some "existential resurrection in the hearts of the believers").

That Paul wrote all the letters tradition has assigned to him. (But we don't know who wrote Hebrews.)

That Peter wrote both First and Second Peter.

That John the apostle wrote the gospel bearing his name, all three of the letters bearing his name and the Revelation (i.e. there was no different "John the Elder" who penned the Apocalypse.)
Yes, I am a theological conservative and I make no apology for it.