Living Grace is the most comprehensive expression of systematic theology for United Methodism to appear in the 1990's. Its authors, Bishop Walter Klaiber and Dr. Manfred Marquardt, are leading theologians of continental European United Methodism. Their work meets the long-felt need to provide partners in ecumenical dialog a clearer exposition of Methodism's theology, as founded upon biblical witness, apostolic heritage, the Protestant Reformation, and the Wesleyan Revival.
The authors concede that Methodists are often regarded more as specialists in evangelization, ecclesial organization, or social engagement, than as representatives of a cogently articulated theology. Further, United Methodists today are frequently at the forefront of facilitating interchurch cooperation in worship and social outreach. It is the authors' hope that a clearer exposition of our common understanding could offer a foundation upon which the "vital Wesleyan accent" could better direct the Christian witness we are offering in the world. Their response to the challenge has produced a thoughtful attempt to find a solid theological basis for our identity as a church that will not only accent our distinctiveness but will also assist other faith communities to articulate their profiles of faith.
In this first English edition, the work has been adapted for the American historical and social milieu. As such, it becomes a pathbreaking effort to articulate for our American constituency the global dimensions of a United Methodist theology, in which the American church is increasingly called to participate. Four emphases of the book are: Responsible Proclamation, Basics of a UMC theology; Universal Salvation; Personal Faith; and, Fullness of Christian Life and the Reality of Love.
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Manfred Marquardt is Director of the UMC Seminary in Reutlingen, Germany.
Walter Klaiber is Resident Bishop, German Central Conference, the United Methodist Church.
Read an Excerpt
An Outline of United Methodist Theology
By Walter Klaiber, Manfred Marquardt, J. Steven O'Malley, Ulrike R. M. Guthrie
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2001 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Responsible Proclamation, or Fundamentals for a Theology of The United Methodist Church
Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.
—1 Peter 3: 15
What can I know? What should I do? For what may I hope?" According to Immanuel Kant, these are the basic questions about human existence and they require philosophical answers. There are still many people in our day who are concerned with these same questions. They scarcely expect to find the answers to them in philosophy. They are searching for that court of opinion which can provide them with adequate answers. Although people today do not always pose their questions in this fashion, Kant's formulation of them undoubtedly indicates three basic dimensions of these existential questions. This becomes more apparent when we understand that the first question, "What can I know?" is not a superficial intellectual inquiry into the possible extent of accessible information. Instead, it is asking, "Of what can I be certain? To what can I really abandon myself? What can I trust? What can I believe?" Kant's critical assessment also reflects these concerns.
It is in this sense that people today are asking these questions concerning the Christian Church and its message. This is usually done covertly, not overtly, with suspicion of some Christians' tendency to put on an air of religiosity with old creedal formulations, but many people are also suspicious when the church temporizes and accommodates itself to faddish trends. Although some questions to the church seem to be superficial and many charges appear to be unqualified, yet: when I engage in deeper conversation with people, they repeatedly ask these basic questions: Upon what can I truly build my life? What ought to be the norm for my behavior? For what am I to hope, both for myself and for this world?
Christian proclamation and theology thereby are placed under a dual responsibility. It is a responsibility to their charge and to the Giver of that charge, and to Jesus Christ, whose word and mission provide the foundation and content of their message. It is important that the church repeatedly ascertains whether its preaching is still identical with its original charge. This is particularly crucial to those persons who do not expect the church to be mechanically repeating what everyone else is saying. Instead, they are expecting that the church will be faithful in offering an uncompromising message.
However, this responsibility is not fulfilled merely by ascertaining that its witness is aligned with and corroborates what is considered to be right belief and orthodoxy. This responsibility entails a willingness to "be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). It also assumes a willingness to make clear to every person that this message is the answer to the fundamental questions of their lives.
The "identity" and "relevance" of faith are desired objectives, and the decisive responsibility of Christian theology may well be to provide an undergirding for the preaching of the church as it moves toward this goal.
What is theology, and what is its duty with regard to our convictions within the realm of Christian preaching and church activity?
Perhaps at this point it is helpful if we do not try to offer our own definition or to appeal to a standard work of theology. It would be preferable at this point to refer to a general reference work that speaks of the task of theology, such as Meyer's Großes Taschenlexikon, which defines theology as "a systematic, reflective development of religious expressions of faith." In distinction to the science of religion, which "describes all religions as in principal, equally valid articulations of human religiosity, theology proceeds from the truth of its respective tradition: it reflects the phenomenon of religion from a predetermined conviction ('faith')." Christian theology is therefore understood as a "methodical, exact reflection and exposition of faith in God that is founded upon Jesus. Thus, the truth of the Christian substance is expressed in faith (as revealed), and it is also to be accounted for in juxtaposition to the state of knowledge at a given time and in relation to others (apologetics)."
If we accept this description of Christian theology, we are led to the following conclusions:
(a.) Theology is not a science without presuppositions, assuming that anything like that even exists. It does not achieve its scholarly status by taking upon itself alien premises. On the contrary, it clearly sets forth its premises. It proceeds from the fundamental assertions of Christian proclamation and Christian faith and thinks in a methodical, thorough, and reflective manner. For practical reasons, this eventuates in a group of specific disciplines. Biblical theology investigates the biblical witness of God's speaking and acting in the history of Israel, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the early community of faith, and historical theology traces the course of the gospel within the history of the church. Systematic theology probes the basic expressions of the biblical message and its consequences for faith and action today in conversation with the Christian tradition and with the thought of our time. Practical theology reflects ecclesial praxis, in that it examines and develops the methods for preaching, pastoral discourse, and congregational structure, and it confronts theological reflection with the results of an analysis of humanity and society through the disciplines of psychology and sociology.
Yet this division of labor is not intended to put a mere semblance of reality in the place of the fundamental task of theology, which is to attend thoughtfully to preaching and faith and to examine the inner consequences and the agreement of this task with its fundamental principles.
(b.) Theology has a responsibility to "itself and others." The theologian will seek to enlarge this secular expression by the overarching conviction that he or she discharges his or her work in responsibility to God. Yet it is absolutely vital to emphasize the conviction that this responsibility to God also represents a responsibility "to others," especially to those who are distant from the Christian faith.
A central task for theology is to examine and confirm the agreement of contemporary preaching with the basic expressions of the Bible and the church and their original concerns. Theological reflection is always to remain a living expression of the missionary focus of the church. Hence, it proceeds to interpret that focus on the level of reflective thought. The key word apologetics, which the dictionary uses with reference to this concern, is based upon the Greek word apologia ("defense," or "responsibility") in 1 Peter 3:15b, and it portrays this aspect of theological activity as a special discipline of study. In this regard, Emil Brunner has spoken of the "other duty of theology." It was this that provoked his ensuing disagreement with Karl Barth. By so doing Brunner possibly brought his justified concern into a false light, in that he so emphasized the "other" duty of theology that it seemed as if the missionary task might be seen as something secondary or supplemental, and in method quite different from what is treated in theology itself. Instead, the mission task of the church is to be regarded as an indispensable component of the actual duty of theology. It is fitting to say that "every theological utterance always needs to be a fresh attempt to formulate in a normative and understandable way the Christian understanding of God and humanity that is anchored in the Bible, in a way that is appropriate for a particular time." A theology that is bound to the Methodist heritage will see this as an especially central task.
(c.) Theology recognizes its responsibility to bring a critical perspective upon the church and its preaching. Its purpose is not—as is often insinuated—to offer a critique of the basic principles of the Christian faith. Those principles certainly belong to the presuppositions and to the axioms from which the work of theology is to proceed. However, the examination of church proclamation, in relation to its conformity with the substance of the gospel, requires critical reflection on what is the proper development of its message. The question needs to be asked how those traditions that have been handed down to us, as well as the present praxis of preaching and the forms of church activity, are to be viewed in their relevance and proximity to the gospel. Of course, this also includes the willingness for self-criticism and the openness to allow one's views to be subjected to critical examination from the perspective of the theologian. There can be a vital ferment leading to the development of mutual holiness in the community of faith wherever critical theological thinking is guided by the question of how God's will for persons in our day is to be discerned. Anyone undertaking to write the theology of a particular church must give special attention to this moment of self-criticism!
Thus, theology and preaching belong inextricably together. As in its origin, so also in its purpose, every theological work is finally to be seen as the proclamation in which God himself addresses persons. Yet, theology itself is not proclamation, for whenever it can awaken and foster faith, it can also raise questions and promote uncertainty. It should be seeking much more to facilitate proclamation in sermons and instruction as well as in confession and in Christian action. Preaching, for which theology offers preparation, should serve precisely that purpose—to set aside false "vexations" and to lead to the most unambiguous encounter possible with the gospel. The gospel needs to be protected against misinterpretations and misunderstandings, and theology should contribute to a clear and understandable transmission of the gospel. Theology is not a proclamation of the gospel (although it can on occasion become that), but through its help we take responsibility for preaching, so that the gospel can be given a hearing in our day. It remains a theologia viatorum— that is, a theology for the pilgrim, who is directed from beginning to end by the fact that God himself allows what he has commissioned to be brought to fruition.
Thus, theology is to be understood as one possible way to respond to God's address. Alongside other responses to God's gift, such as confession and prayer, it is called to offer praise to God and discipleship to Jesus. It intends to serve as guide and thereby to make possible an awareness of the fundamental principles of our existence as Christians and a clarification of the central content of the Christian faith. Christians are thereby made conscious of living as Christians and of becoming alert to answer the inquiries of others.
Within the framework of this description of reality, a theology of The United Methodist Church has a double responsibility:
It shares the basic theological task of every Christian theology in ascertaining that which lies at the basis of our faith as well as determining what is to constitute the preaching and activity of the church.
At the same time, it is obligated to ascertain and set forth how the preaching and praxis of the gospel are accentuated through the doctrinal heritage and order of The United Methodist Church. The points of departure for our presentation are the convictions that are advocated by The United Methodist Church, beginning in Central Europe and extending to the Anglo-American world. These are treated within the framework of the fundamental theological principles that have been formulated by the entire constituency of The United Methodist Church, which also takes into consideration the ongoing theological discussion that is occuring in Methodism and also the background and history of the Methodist movement.
The United Methodist Church is a child of the Great Awakening, which began in eighteenth-century England and was developed most extensively in North America. Among the great evangelists of that age, it was John Wesley who aroused people through his preaching to a decisive encounter with the message of the gospel. In addition, through indefatigable efforts and great organizational skills, he also succeeded in gathering the awakened into societies and thereby prevented the rapid disintegration of the movement. As a consequence, the Methodist Episcopal Church sprang up after 1784. Its work also provoked the rise of other church bodies, such as the Evangelical Association and the United Brethren in Christ, who began laboring among the German population in the Middle States. In 1968 these churches came together to form The United Methodist Church.
Early in their history, these church bodies became extensively involved in overseas mission activity. Special attention should be given to the mission that emerged in continental Europe, since the authors of this study represent that part of United Methodism. The European mission resulted from returning German immigrants who had encountered the message and the new forms of Christian community in England or in America. House meetings were instituted in the German homeland among these persons. The mission work in the German-language areas of Europe, as in America, received significant influence from the heritage of the Protestant Reformation and especially from German Pietism, although that influence had also been operative upon the originators of the movement, Charles and John Wesley.
Whereas American Methodism became increasingly influenced by Protestant liberalism from the beginning of the twentieth century, continental European Methodism has displayed a moderate Reformed and Pietistic imprint. These influences are exemplified in the work of Adolf Schlatter and Karl Heim. Since 1950, the European churches have reflected the influence of the kerygmatic theology of the disciples of Barth and Bultmann, and the historical-critical school of Gerhard von Rad. Since church union in 1968, there has been a marked interest in reappropriating the distinctives of the Wesleyan theological heritage, and this effort continues to the present day.
This brief overview points to the twofold task that lies before us in the preparation of a theology of The United Methodist Church. The theology and preaching of the Methodist movement is deeply grounded in the native soil of the Bible and the apostolic creeds. Wesley had appropriated those norms with his Anglican heritage, and they are most closely joined to the new discovery of the gospel that is implicit in the witness of the Protestant Reformation and its successors. Like other Reformers, John Wesley was convinced that he was not advocating a "new religion." Instead, "Methodism so-called," said Wesley at the laying of the cornerstone for the New Chapel in London in 1777, is "the old religion, the religion of the Bible, the religion of the primitive church, the religion of the Church of England." And this "old religion," Wesley continued, "is no other than love: the love of God and of all mankind."
However, even this description indicates the new emphasis and shows why the Methodist movement led to the first great post-Reformation ecclesial structure.
Hence, if we are to probe the fundamental principles for a theology of The United Methodist Church, this effort cannot be viewed as anything other than an effort to identify the fundamental principles of all Christian theology. At the same time, we have already indicated that we are defining and shaping this theology through the medium of the history, doctrine, and praxis of The United Methodist Church.
1.1 God's Self-Revelation as an Expression of God's Love
Theology speaks of God and of God's actions toward the world and toward humanity. Anyone wishing to gain an overview of the decisive doctrinal affirmations of The United Methodist Church and its understanding of the gospel could find them summed up in the following confession:
We believe that God loves humanity and the creation entrusted to it, and that God has opened for them the way for salvation, so that they might find and go use it. This salvation is for all humanity. Each and every one should grasp this by faith and become wholly renewed by it, so that God might lead his creation, which is alienated from God and damaged through the sin of humanity, to its full renewal.
Excerpted from Living Grace by Walter Klaiber, Manfred Marquardt, J. Steven O'Malley, Ulrike R. M. Guthrie. Copyright © 2001 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
|1.||Responsible Proclamation, or Fundamentals for a Theology of the United Methodist Church||17|
|1.1||God's Self-Revelation as an Expression of God's Love||23|
|1.1.1||God's Revelation in Jesus Christ||27|
|1.1.2||God's Revelation in the Word||30|
|1.1.3||God's Revelation in God's Creation||36|
|220.127.116.11||The Knowledge of God in Different Religions||40|
|18.104.22.168||The Knowledge of God from the Standpoint of Thought||44|
|22.214.171.124||The Content of Truth and Its Meaning for the Natural Knowledge of God||48|
|1.1.4||The Triune God and the Missionary Dimension of Revelation||55|
|1.2||The Holy Scripture as the Foundation for Theology||57|
|1.2.1||The Origin of the Bible||58|
|126.96.36.199||The Formation of the Old Testament||58|
|188.8.131.52||The Development of the New Testament||60|
|1.2.2||The Significance of the Biblical Canon||62|
|184.108.40.206||Who Created the Canon of the Bible?||62|
|220.127.116.11||The Standards Concerning the Definition of the Canon||63|
|18.104.22.168||The Adherence to the Old Testament||64|
|1.2.3||The Meaning of the Bible in the History of the Church||64|
|22.214.171.124||To the Time of the Reformation||65|
|126.96.36.199||The Reformation Understanding of Scripture||65|
|188.8.131.52||The Development of the Post-Reformation Era||66|
|184.108.40.206||The Bible in the Hands of Wesley and the Early Methodists||67|
|220.127.116.11||The Challenge of the Historical-Critical Exegesis of the Bible||69|
|18.104.22.168||Models of the Contemporary Understanding of the Bible||71|
|1.2.4||The Bible--God's Word in Human Words||76|
|22.214.171.124||The Transparency of the Biblical Message||76|
|126.96.36.199||God's Voice in the Words of the Bible||77|
|188.8.131.52||The Human Side of the Biblical Message||79|
|1.3||Methodist Doctrine as a Theology for Praxis||80|
|1.3.1||Principles of the United Methodist Exposition of the Bible||81|
|1.3.2||The Steps to a Vital Development of Doctrine||83|
|1.3.3||The Landmark Documents||85|
|1.3.4||The Basic Contours of a United Methodist Theology||88|
|2.||Universal Salvation, or God's Love for God's World||93|
|2.1||God's Loving Care in God's Creative Activity||94|
|2.1.1||God's Loving Care in the Creation of the World||95|
|2.1.2||God's Loving Care in the Creation of God's Image||103|
|184.108.40.206||The Human Being as Question||103|
|220.127.116.11||The Human Being as the Image of God||106|
|18.104.22.168||The Human Being as a Person||111|
|2.1.3||God's Loving Care in the Providential Oversight of Creation||115|
|22.214.171.124||God's Creative Power||115|
|126.96.36.199||God's Goodness and the Experience of Suffering||120|
|2.2||God's Loving Care in God's Reconciling Acts||126|
|2.2.1||Sin and Its Consequences||126|
|188.8.131.52||The Universality of Sin from the Beginning||127|
|184.108.40.206||Sin as a Deed||134|
|220.127.116.11||Sin and the Law||138|
|18.104.22.168||Sin and Suffering||143|
|22.214.171.124||Sin and Death||147|
|126.96.36.199||Sin and the Power of Evil||149|
|188.8.131.52||Sin and Grace||153|
|2.2.2||God's Covenant Faithfulness||154|
|184.108.40.206||God's Faithfulness to Creation and to Humanity||154|
|220.127.116.11||God's Faithfulness to Israel||156|
|18.104.22.168||The Covenant of Law and the Covenant of Grace||158|
|22.214.171.124||Covenant and Covenant Ratification in the United Methodist Tradition||163|
|2.2.3||The Reconciliation of the World in Christ||168|
|126.96.36.199||Living Out of God's Will||169|
|188.8.131.52||Dying for One's Enemies||175|
|184.108.40.206||Risen, That God's Peace Might Lead to Victory||181|
|2.2.4||The Messenger of Reconciliation||185|
|2.3||God's Loving Care in God's Renewing Actions||189|
|2.3.1||The Work of the Spirit in the World||190|
|2.3.2||The Renewal of Human Beings Through the Spirit of God||194|
|Excursus: Receiving and Being Baptized in the Spirit||196|
|220.127.116.11||The Fundamental Renewal Through God||199|
|18.104.22.168||The Renewal of the Relationship with God||200|
|22.214.171.124||The Renewal of the Manner and the Mode of Living||202|
|126.96.36.199||Renewal for True Fellowship||203|
|188.8.131.52||Renewal for Mission and the Competency for Witnessing||205|
|184.108.40.206||The Renewal of Insight and Reflection||208|
|220.127.116.11||Renewal for Hope||209|
|2.3.3||The Consummation of the World||210|
|18.104.22.168||The Hope of the Congregation of Jesus Christ||212|
|22.214.171.124||The Hope for a New Heaven and a New Earth||215|
|126.96.36.199||Judgment and Consummation||215|
|3.||Personal Faith, or the Personal Experience of Salvation||221|
|3.1||Liberation for Hearing and Conversion||223|
|3.1.1||The Abiding Love of God--Prevenient Grace||223|
|3.1.2||The Awareness of Human Distance from God--Awakening||228|
|3.1.3||Turning to God--Conversion||232|
|188.8.131.52||The Biblical Witness Concerning Conversion||233|
|184.108.40.206||Repentance as a Step on the Way to Salvation||235|
|220.127.116.11||The Concrete Form of Conversion Today||239|
|3.1.4||Coming Home to God--Faith||241|
|18.104.22.168||The Biblical Understanding of Faith||242|
|22.214.171.124||The Reformation Rediscovery of "By Faith Alone"||245|
|126.96.36.199||Faith in the Thought of John Wesley||246|
|188.8.131.52||Basic Guidelines for Proclaiming the Faith in Our Day||250|
|184.108.40.206||Freed for Response--An Attempt to Summarize||255|
|3.2||The Renewal to Life in God||256|
|3.2.1||The New Relationship to God--Justification||258|
|220.127.116.11||The Biblical Foundations||259|
|18.104.22.168||The Understanding of Justification Among the Protestant Reformers||263|
|22.214.171.124||Justification in the Thought of Wesley||268|
|126.96.36.199||The Message of Justification Today||272|
|3.2.2||The New Life from God--Regeneration||275|
|188.8.131.52||Regeneration in the New Testament||275|
|184.108.40.206||Wesley's Doctrine of Regeneration||276|
|220.127.116.11||Baptism, the New Birth, and Conversion||279|
|18.104.22.168||Adoption by God, Assurance of Faith, and Prayer||281|
|22.214.171.124||Identity and Change||284|
|3.2.3||Liberation for Love--Sanctification||285|
|126.96.36.199||Holiness and Sanctification in the Bible||287|
|188.8.131.52||Sanctification in Wesley||290|
|184.108.40.206||Sanctification in the Contemporary World||294|
|3.2.4||Excursus: The Perfection of Love--Christian Reflection||302|
|4.||Christian Existence in its Wholeness, or the Reality of Love||311|
|4.1||God's Renewing Presence in the World||312|
|4.1.1||Love as the Operation and Sign of God's Presence||313|
|4.1.2||Love as the Fruit of the Spirit||314|
|4.1.3||Love as the Basic Norm for the Conduct of Life||315|
|4.2||The Community as the Creation of the Love of God||319|
|4.2.1||The Community as the Body of Christ||320|
|220.127.116.11||The Fellowship of Seekers and Believers||322|
|18.104.22.168||The Obligatory Life of a Christian||325|
|22.214.171.124||Baptism and Acceptance into Church Membership||328|
|4.2.2||The Congregation as a Fellowship of Life and Service||334|
|126.96.36.199||The Gathering of the Congregation: Worship||336|
|188.8.131.52||The Significance of the Means of Grace||337|
|184.108.40.206||The Congregation and Ministry Groups||340|
|220.127.116.11||Connexio: The United Methodist Church as a "Connectional" Church||343|
|4.3||The Church as the Mission of God||348|
|4.3.1||The Witness of Individual Christians||351|
|18.104.22.168||Faith and Lifestyle||352|
|22.214.171.124||The Personal Witness of Faith||355|
|126.96.36.199||The Call to the Ministry of Proclamation||356|
|4.3.2||The Congregation as the Social Form of the Gospel||359|
|188.8.131.52||The Congregation as the Realm of the Love of God||361|
|184.108.40.206||The Congregation as a Witness to God's Love||363|
|4.3.3||The Mission of the Church||364|
|220.127.116.11||The Outer Mission||367|
|4.4||The Church in the World||369|
|4.4.1||The World as the Place of God's Reign||372|
|4.4.2||The Diaconal Task of the Church||376|
|18.104.22.168||The Diaconal Existence of Christians||378|
|22.214.171.124||The Ministry to the Weak||380|
|126.96.36.199||Ministry in Society||382|
|4.4.3||The Ethical Task of the Church||385|
|188.8.131.52||The United Methodist Church as a "Free Church"||389|
|184.108.40.206||Church and State||393|
|220.127.116.11||A Church for the People||399|
|18.104.22.168||The Global Community and the Whole of Creation||400|
|4.4.4||Penultimate Actions and the Hope of Fulfillment||409|
|22.214.171.124||Provisional Acts of Significance||410|
|126.96.36.199||The Overcoming of Evil||413|
|188.8.131.52||The Consummation of Creation||413|
|In Lieu of a Summary||415|
|Foundations for the Doctrine and the Theological Task of The United Methodist Church||419|
|Selected Literature for Further Reading||509|
|Index of Biblical Citations||529|
|Index of Names||537|