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Introduction to the New Testament from a Wesleyan Perspective

Introduction to the New Testament from a Wesleyan Perspective

Wayne McCown

This essay attempts a brief overview of the NT as viewed from three perspectives: literary, historical, and theological. Thereafter, a Wesleyan perspective of the NT will be delineated, with special attention to the doctrinal and devotional interests of the movement.

At the outset, it must be acknowledged that there is considerable diversity of opinion among contemporary evangelical Wesleyans with regard to many of the matters to be treated. On the other hand, a conscious effort has been made to represent the moderate mainstream of the movement.

While John Wesley and his followers have always given attention to both testaments, the primacy belongs to the NT. It is viewed as the fulfillment of the OT, and the OT is interpreted by the light of the NT. In this respect, the contemporary Wesleyan movement stands in the mainstream of Christian tradition.

The same is generally true in regard to the use of the Bible in Wesleyan churches. Typical of the Protestant tradition, preaching from the Bible is the central act of worship, and study of the Bible is the norm for instructional curricula. Further, evangelical Wesleyans share strong convictions about the authority of Scripture (holding it to be the Word of God) and its role in modern life.

On the other hand, evangelical Wesleyans do not come from the same mold as other modern evangelical Protestants. (Some evangelicals often do not understand this fact: Wesleyans sometimes feel quite uncomfortable when lumped together with them.) Contemporary evangelical Wesleyans are distinguished by several historical realities: (1) Their rootage is in Anglicanism; (2) they are Arminian in theology; (3) they belong to the Methodist movement; (4) they were more influenced by the holiness revivals of the nineteenth century than by the debate between Fundamentalism and Liberalism; (5) many of the denominations within Wesleyanism were born out of those revivals and/or the social struggles of that era. In addition to these influences, it is a fact that contemporary evangelical Wesleyans are also Wesleyan (not Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostal, or Independent).

Thus, while they stand in the mainstream of Christianity and share much common ground with other evangelicals, contemporary Wesleyans do represent a distinctive way of viewing, studying, and using the Bible. Ways in which the Wesleyan way is distinctive will be described in the final section of this essay.