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By Stanley J. Rodes / Pickwick Publications / 2013
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Covenant theology and John Wesley’s theology sounds dissonant. What would an evangelical Arminian have to do with a theological framework that historically belongs to a Reformed understanding of salvation? How could this possibly square with his ongoing controversy with the Calvinism of his day? On the basis of compelling evidence from his sermons and correspondence, this investigation dares to push through the impulse to dismiss the idea that covenant theology belongs to the infrastructure of Wesley’s thought. The resulting discovery of its role in shaping his narrative of salvation is surprising and intriguing.
Wesley is not only informed and fluent with respect to covenant theology, but thoroughly committed to it. This study demonstrates that, with theological precision and discernment, Wesley appropriates covenant theology in a way that is consistent both with its primary theological features and with his Arminianism. His distinctive view of “the gradual process of the work of God in the soul” supplies valuable grist for further reflection, especially by those charged with the care of souls in the twenty-first century.
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Rodes provides an enlightening account of John Wesley’s understanding of salvation by highlighting Wesley’s appropriation and adaptation of the covenant (federal) theology of the English Reformed tradition. He critiques from this vantage point the spectrum of views about Wesley’s understanding of ‘the faith of a servant’ in recent scholarship. This is an important study for future consideration of this debated topic.
—Randy L. Maddox, Duke Divinity School
Filling out the covenantal context of Wesley’s practical theology (especially in terms of the important distinction of ‘the faith of a servant, the faith of a child of God’) Rodes is in the proper position to consider, in a way that others have not, Wesley’s seasoned reflections on the outworking of the gospel both within the church and well beyond its walls.
—Kenneth J. Collins, Asbury Theological Seminary
For too long historians have assumed the Arminian and Calvinistic expressions of Methodism developed along entirely separate trajectories, especially after the controversies of the early 1740s. Rodes’ important new study of John Wesley's appropriation of that Calvinist preoccupation—covenant theology—shows that at times Wesley certainly came close to the very edge of Calvinism. This is an important study in theological adaptation; it deserves a wide readership.
—David Ceri Jones, Aberystwyth University, Wales
Stanley J. Rodes is administrative director for Global Clergy Development for the Church of the Nazarene. He is also an adjunct professor at Northwest Nazarene University.