A Wesleyan Vision of the Gifts of the Spirit

God the Spirit bookCascade Books publishes a very helpful “Wesleyan Doctrine Series,” edited by Randy Cooper, Andrew Kinsey, D. Brent Laytham, and D. Stephen Long. As the series editors put it, “The Wesleyan Doctrine Series seeks to reintroduce Christians in the Wesleyan tradition to the beauty of doctrine.”  While works in this series deal with the key components of the Wesleyan tradition, they do so “with a profound interest and respect for the unity and catholicity of Christ’s body, the church…. For this reason, the series supplements the Wesleyan tradition with the gifts of the church catholic, ancient, and contemporary.” The volumes are written by scholars but aimed at Christian laity “who have a holy desire to understand the faith they received at their baptism.”

Beth Felker Jones, who is Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College, has written one of the volumes in the series, God the Spirit: Introducing Pneumatology in Wesleyan and Ecumenical Perspective. One attractive feature of this book is that it clearly and respectfully distinguishes between Wesleyan and Calvinist understandings of salvation, and particularly the Spirit’s work in salvation. I am especially appreciative of the book’s seventh chapter, “Pentecostal Power, Global Revival, Wildness, and Order.” In this chapter, Jones offers a helpful summary of the Wesleyan approach to charismatic gifts, which I’ll quote here (pp. 96-97):

1. We ought to stand open to and hungry for the Spirit’s power in our churches and in our lives. If we are closed to the Spirit, something has gone seriously wrong.

2. We can embrace the characteristic pneumatological confidence of our tradition.

3. We must reject a “cessationist” theology, which would confine the Spirit’s mighty works to the past.

4. Churches that tend to practice less charismatic forms of worship should not disdain those churches that do, and churches that focus on charismatic gifts should recognize the authenticity of churches that do not. Both ends of the tradition would be enriched by asking the question, what are we missing?

5. The Spirit does not make claims or give gifts that contradict the Scriptures. Neither does the work of the Spirit contradict the Father or the Son.

6. The gifts of the Spirit build up the church and empower the sharing of the gospel with the world, but this should not be used as a utilitarian test of such gifts, which are also about the intimacy of God with his people.

The rest of the book shows the same clear and thoughtful discussion of God the Spirit. If you are looking for a rock-solid primer on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, this book delivers the goods.

2 thoughts on “A Wesleyan Vision of the Gifts of the Spirit

  1. Great summary of use of gifts in the church. Why are there pastors afraid of Holy Spirit? Or, unwilling to acknowledge the gifts?

  2. Excellent overview of the book. I am looking forward to reading it. I so appreciate those in the Wesleyan faith who are examining the reality of spiritual gifts from a theological position. Thanks Doc.

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