As one who grew up in a sect deeming Christian orthodoxy perverted, corrupt, and pagan, I find the institutionalization of orthodoxy essential in understanding our place in the Church universal. Orthodoxy keeps us from developing into cults and sects, but it does not promise a good Christian life.
Ted Campbell has a wonderful article about Wesley’s division over doctrines. Wesley, Campbell promises, has two different sets of doctrine. The first is what all Christians hold. The second is what the Wesleyan movement held in particular.
The first list, of seven, is as follows:
- The Trinity
- The Deity of Christ
- The Atonement
- Biblical Authority – there is much to be discussed here. Wesley, however, does separate between faith and practice, but both come from Scripture.
- Original sin (which we may interpret differently)
- Justification by Faith
- Regeneration (leading to holiness)
Campbell quotes extensively from Wesley’s “Letter to a Roman Catholic,” a letter whereby Wesley has forever upset some of the previous notions of sola scriptura. I mean, Wesley believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary. How is that sola scriptura?
What is first? The Trinity. Always. It is the orthodox doctrines Wesley found the cause of holiness. There were those without knowledge leading a good life, but these things mattered nothing to them. And the opposite is true. However, faith and practice still mattered to ole John. The more I have lived an orthodox Christian the more this doctrine in particular has come to mean. It is the essential, doctrine, from which all else flows.
I note the often quoted Hebrews 12.14, “without holiness, none shall see God.” Of course, most often they miss the first part about living in peace with all. How would that fit into this list? I think holiness is often a misunderstood concept among those who lean legalist and those who lean hedonist. Rather than beginning with the Trinity, surely a perfect example of peace with all, the sacrifice of God in Christ because of the need to atone for our sin, the legalist begins with holiness and then suggest we can then, and only then, pick up the other doctrines. Yet, Hebrews 12.14 doesn’t begin with holiness. It begins with the peace (of Christ) among all and ends with seeing the Lord (Christ is the image of God). Holiness is there in the middle. But, contrary to the hedonist, it is there.