This book is the published fruit of a series of lectures delivered in 2002. It has three parts: the first deals with the life, ministry, and theology of John Wesley. There are many insights to be gained there concerning the non-Puritan religious heritage of his parents, the flaws in his character, his enormous productivity, and the status of his movement at his death. The second part of the book presents a glimpse of three of his successors in the Methodist movement in the nineteenth century. The third section discusses Wesley’s two principal theological errors, at least in Murray’s opinion: a view of justification that seemed at least in 1770 to include works, and Wesley’s perfectionism. Murray seeks to explain Wesley on these points, suggesting, and correctly so, that Wesley’s essential concern was the fear of promoting antinomianism, which he felt was the weakness of Calvinism. These chapters are particularly insightful.
One may wonder how the chapters in the book coalesce, that is, what is the relationship between several chapters on Wesley’s life and ministry, followed by three on his successors, and then two on his theology. The final chapter brings the book together with an unexpected theme. It is as remarkable and inspiring as it is unexpected. Murray’s thesis is that the enormous success of the Wesleyan movement and religious movements as a whole is not about the uniquenesses, quirks, or novelties of theological insights. Instead it is based on three elements: a deep personal devotedness to the Bible, an emphasis on the centrality of prayer as essential to ministerial success, and an abounding zeal in the work. The Methodists had these qualities as did the Calvinist movement at one time. A number of lessons may be gained from this book. The thread that Murray has found in successful movements is not theological distinctives but is a theological orthodoxy and a deep commitment to Bible reading and earnest prayer.
About the Contributors
John D. Hannah (ThM, 1971; ThD, 1974) has worked at DTS for more than forty years. His interests include the history of the Christian church, with particular focus on Jonathan Edwards and John Owen. Among his published works are a history of DTS and a general history of the Christian Church.