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John Wesley, the Uniting Church, and the Authority of Scripture

O'Brien, Glen (2014) John Wesley, the Uniting Church, and the Authority of Scripture. Pacifica: Australasian Theological Studies, 27 (2). pp. 170-183. ISSN 1030-570X

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    Abstract

    This article aims at contributing to the Uniting Church’s theological discourse by appealing to its Wesleyan heritage in order to establish a workable approach to the authority of Scripture. It takes note of attempts by both liberals and conservatives to hijack John Wesley’s opinions to defend idiosyncratic views of biblical authority for political and ecclesial purposes of their own. Rather than relying on Wesley’s ‘rhetorical flourishes’ on scriptural authority, this article considers his overall approach to argue that Wesley affirmed rigorous biblical criticism within the bounds of a generous orthodoxy. Recognising that in the light of reader-response criticism, the Protestant principle of sola scriptura has limited value, it is argued here that some kind of traditioned reading of Scripture (such as ‘canonical theism’) is necessary and desirable. It is suggested that the old battle lines drawn between liberals and conservatives over the authority of the Bible are rapidly becoming the stuff of historical enquiry rather than being situated at the coalface of conflict in the Uniting Church. Instead the area of dispute will lie in determining whether or not the Church’s discourse clearly sets forth the Christian gospel. In such a ‘radical middle,’ biblical authority will be recognised within a framework that embraces scholarly criticism of the text while allowing difference of interpretive opinion within a deeply traditioned commitment to ‘God’s universal, prevenient, transforming love.’

    Item Type: Published Articles
    Additional Information: The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Pacifica, Vol 27 (2) 2014 by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved © Glen O’Brien
    Repository Version: Published Version
    Keywords (separated by commas): Wesleyan theology, John Wesley, Scriptural interpretation, hermeneutics, Uniting Church
    Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
    Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950406 Religious Traditions (excl. Structures and Rituals)
    Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
    Subject Area(s): B - Biblical Studies, general
    C - Church History
    C - Systematic Theology
    Association with University of Divinity: SABC: Salvation Army Booth College
    Depositing User: Rev Associate Professor Glen O'Brien
    Date Deposited: 11 May 2016 13:06
    Last Modified: 11 May 2016 13:06
    URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/1975

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