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It is never something we are meant to earn; it is a gift from God. Faith is necessary as a condition of justification by faith, and salvation is for the penalty and the plague of sin (Maddox 144).
Maddox writes that argues that Wesley's view of salvation is best expressed as a via salutis, a way to salvation" rather than a more reformed or scholastic expression of ordo salutis, a logical sequence of steps leading to salvation. Via Salutis, involves distinct way-stops, but each one is intimately related to what has happened at previous stops and prepares the way for future events and pauses in the march to the kingdom. Maddox's interpretation of Wesley's theology as "responsible grace" fits well with via salutis, as each pause on the way to salvation is not only vitally related to what goes on before and after, but the work of God at each waystop calls for an appropriate "response" from the believer which will manifest itself in graciously "responsible" behavior -- morally, spiritually and socially. God's prevenient awakening and conviction are calls meant to elicit a "response" to God's pardon, and pardon calls for "responsible" (as opposed to irresponsible) transforming participation. Wesley and his early American followers certainly wanted to talk more in terms of "free grace" than of "free will." But no matter how it was expressed, the essence of the Wesleyan understanding was something more Arminian than most of the Calvinistic, Reformed competitors of the day (Maddox 73-93). The "responsive" participation will result in "responsible" growth in grace that leads to fullness of transforming grace -- Christian perfection.
Wesley as a practical theologian can be traced from his childhood training and reading of religious books on practical divinity. The approach to Christianity as a practical discipline survived well into the 18th century. The Anglican tradition also shaped his thinking as a practical theologian (Maddox 16). Wesley believed that theology was intimately related to Christian living, and he aimed to transform personal life and social conditions. The message of the gospel, Maddox points out, must be located within people's lives (Maddox 16). Tradition helps enlighten and apply Scripture, and it also must be tested by scripture. Reason is a gift of God, and to experience life is not a sin in and of itself, but the experiences should serve primarily to test one's understanding of scripture, and it must also have scriptural warrant (Maddox 36-46).
Although it is hard to capture here, Maddox provides an in-depth analysis of Wesley's theology. The thread that ties the entire book together, however, is Maddox's thesis that grace is the key to Wesley's theology because grace makes us able to respond to God's grace. We are made response-able. The gift of God's grace also makes us responsible for our own relationship with God. For Wesley, God is more fundamentally like a loving parent than like a sovereign monarch. He will not ultimately force our obedience (Maddox 56). God does not place "holy tempers" like love, patience and meekness into human beings. Instead, he plants the "seeds," and for those seeds to strengthen, they need continuous grace by God and improved by regular engagement in the practical life that God has designed, which allows us to "manifest all holy and heavenly tempers, even the same 'mind that was in Christ Jesus'" (Maddox 178-9).
Regardless of how complicated the nuances of Wesley's theology are, the "orienting content" of Maddox's work is grace and salvation, and how each is obtained. Concurrently, Wesley emphasizes that the articulation of ideas alone is not enough. Ideas must be lived, tested, experienced, and affirmed as consistent with the "way of salvation," and a living Wesleyan theology requires this practice.
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Maddox, Randy. Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology. Nashville. Kingswood Books. 1994. Print
Oden, Thomas C.…[continue]
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