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A Pentecostal Appropriation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

In his lengthy letter to the Conyers Middleton, John Wesley argued that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit among the early Church Fathers were the attestation of their ministry and interpretation of Scripture. Wesley believed that the ancient church had a “standing power” to perform miracles which accompanied, and attested the truth of their proclamation of the gospel.33  He felt that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit had primarily continued until the Second century. He had associated the decline of the gifts of the Spirit with the age of Constantine where “the empire became Christian.”34  He felt that the church had become corrupted by the wealth and immorality of the Roman Empire.

John Wesley desired to see a revival of “true” Christianity, which would have included both the ordinary fruits and the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. Although John Wesley believed that the gifts of the Spirit had waned after the time of Constantine, he never believed that they had completely ceased. In fact, Wesley gradually believed that the gifts of the Spirit had been intended to remain in the Church throughout the ages.35  Randy Maddox says, “Since Wesley believed that his Methodist movement was recovering the holiness of the Early Church, it seems reasonable to suggest that he was open to renewed manifestation of even the extraordinary gifts among his followers.”36  Therefore, Wesley looked to the Holy Spirit in church tradition for hermeneutics and attestation.

Wesley spent a considerable amount of time trying to explicate the relationship between reason and religion.37  He attempted to find a middle way between extremists who valued one over the other. For Wesley, “reason is much the same with understanding. It means a faculty of the human soul; that faculty which exerts itself in three ways;—by simple apprehension, by judgment, and by discourse.”38  (Maddox offers three modern terms: perception, comparison, and inference).39

To the question “What can reason do in religion?” Wesley answered, “It can do exceedingly much, both with regard to the foundation of it, and the superstructure.”  Wesley offered three benefits of reason, which Thomas C. Oden summarizes as physical, religious, and moral reflections.41  To the consideration of what reason cannot do, Wesley again offers three things: “First, reason cannot produce faith. Secondly, reason alone cannot produce hope in any child of man: I mean scriptural hope. Thirdly, reason, however cultivated and improved, cannot produce the love of God.”42  Wesley made a clear distinction between what reason could and could not do. He valued reason greatly, however he realized that without God it was useless speculation

Throughout the course of his life, John Wesley attempted to reconcile the role of reason and religion. This led him to a religious epistemology, in which he viewed intuition as a “spiritual sensorium.”43  Intuition or deductive reasoning alone cannot lead a person to the revelation of God; the Holy Spirit must be present and actively working in the believer first preveniently, and then ontologically. In “The Case of Reason Considered” John Wesley asks, “Is it not reason (assisted by the Holy Ghost) which enables us to understand what the Holy Scriptures declare concerning the being and attributes of God?” and then he states, “It is by this we understand (his Spirit opening and enlightening the eyes of our understanding).”44

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About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Winfield H. Bevins serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He is also the Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas and an adjunct professor at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting (Seedbed, 2016), Rediscovering John Wesley (Pathway Press, 2005), Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Simeon Press, 2013), Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith (NavPress, 2011), and Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship (Seedbed, 2016). Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter: @winfieldbevins

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