Friday, 29 January 2016


These debates fuelled controversy in the 19th century. David Bell suggests there are still many unresolved issues today that trip the church up as it tries to communicate the Gospel message.

Further insights from kiwi connexion


Some insights into how we understand sin today...these are copied from the the old 6senses.nz site before it became the kiwiconnexion.nz. We were looking at a contemporary understanding of the Creation, Fall, Redemption saga as we tried to understand John Wesley's sermon on Sin, which is part of the Methodist heritage. This series of posts form  a good basis for discussion of the Creation, Fall, Redemption saga. 

Stuart Manins wrote
 "‘As Adam’s descendants, we all died spiritually when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. This makes us full of evil and sin, born without hope, and under the curse of an angry God.’

 In this position, Wesley takes the anthropomorphic reference to God as literal; he reaffirms ‘the truth’ of a three-layered universe and indulges in a universal claim of absolute depravity for each person. Further, he claims that the people of his day are equally ignorant, sinful, and wicked. In his opinion both the Bible and experience confirm this.

 Now, the acceptance of evil existing side by side with goodness in human behaviour is quite reasonable, but the extreme nature of Wesley’s hyperbole is close to being heinous. It is referred to traditionally as ‘the Fall’.

 In support of the view of human innate ignorance of God, the Herodotus story of two children brought up without hearing human speech is given. Of course they grew up with only animal-like grunts to assist communication; we learn language through engaging with speech through enculturation! Similarly, I think, we learn love, by being loved, and do not learn to love if we have been denied it in human relationships.

 Wesley decries the situation of ‘trying to manage without God’. This depends on what one means by God. If God is a person ‘out there, usually in heaven’, whose Nemesis is Satan, then I must disagree. If God is revealed to us through interaction with God-like qualities experienced through human relationships, then I can thoroughly agree with him.

Wesley’s differentiation between ‘love of the world’ and ‘love of God’ as polar opposites can be explained theologically from tradition, but makes less sense in the 21st Century, when a range of points on a continuum between extremes makes more sense.

David Bell wrote
Stuart, are you being a little too harsh using the word "heinous"? 

Simon Williams wrote
What do you mean David?

HuiYoung Han wrote
Yes, What do you mean by "too harsh"?

David Bell wrote
Well, I am glad you asked that question Huiyoung and Simon. This is what I mean. 
'After reading the long list of sermon titles it will be clear that John Wesley, who sometimes referred to himself as a man of one book, the Bible, certainly did not preach exclusively in Biblical terms. Far from it. However, he was also utterly convinced that the Biblical themes are embedded deep within the soul, and it is to those themes we are drawn over and over in the course of daily living.' Those are some words I wrote in the course reader which explains Wesley sermons in somewhat broader terms.

Simon Williams wrote
Further to this I might quote from the same source : "Original sin = a human flaw that is inescapable,the rupture in the imago dei, the image of God,of Genesis 1. It is symbolised by Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and from this act humanity is characterized as “Adam’s helpless race” (MHB 372). Note carefully that the concept of original sin is not Biblical, but was a development within Christian theology. Wesley accepted it as normative."

Valerie Marshall wrote
I wonder - if both Augustine and Wesley were alive today, and familiar with contemporary scholarship around the literary, cultural and so on, contexts of the Bible, would they perhaps have accepted the stories of Genesis 1-11 as being more aetiological in nature, designed/shaped/told to explain how humans became human, rather than literal or "normative" as in the case of Wesley?
For example, the story of "the Fall" may be one way of explaining why humankind loses its "innocence" once it starts to talk and think and make choices - which is what happens as a child grows from infancy to childhood and then on into adolescence and adulthood, as well as what can be seen to have happened with the development (evolution?) of the human race as a whole through the millenia.

David Bell wrote
I tend to agree with all of what you say Valerie. We inevitably fit the cultural and educational patterns of our time and context. If I was asked to describe this 6senses website to Augustine of the ancient world, for example, he would regard it as miraculous, or possibly diabolical. But it is a commonplace for today's younger generation. Yet what Augustine and 6senses do have in common is that both are attempting to formulate a Christian anthropology. And Wesley as well was into this polymath approach, multiple ways of knowing inform the human condition. 

HuiYoung Han wrote
Yeh, David, you must be right in saying that, because "Christian perfection is perfect love which operates in a fallen world (1 John 4:18) . But it is not absolute, nor provable, nor does it make you infallible. For Wesley a further Biblical clue is in Hebrews 6:1 where justified persons are “to go on in perfection”. Wesley created a storm of controversy around his doctrine of perfection. He records the fiery nature of the debate in A Plain Account of Christian Perfection."