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«Wesleyan Theological Journal Publication of the Wesleyan Theological Society WESLEY’S GENERAL RULES: PARADIGM FOR POSTMODERN ETHICS Christopher P. ...»

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Wesleyan Theological Journal

Publication of the

Wesleyan Theological Society



Christopher P. Momany






Scott Kisker



MOVEMENT, 1867-1920

Paul Merritt Bassett




Russell E. Richey



Stan Ingersol BOOK REVIEWS

Volume 28, Numbers 1 and 2 Spring-Fall, 1993 Digital text copyright 2008 by the Wesley Center Online http://wesley.nnu.edu The Journal of the


A Fellowship of Wesleyan-Arminian Scholars

Editor and Chair of the Editorial Committee:

Paul M. Bassett, 1987-1993 Barry L. Callen, 1993 to present All communications concerning editorial matters should be addressed to the editor, Barry L. Callen, c/o Anderson University, East Fifth Street, Anderson, Indiana 46012. Membership dues and other financial items should be addressed to the secretary-treasurer, William Kostlevy, c/o Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky 40390. Rate and application form are found at the end of this issue.

Publication Address: Wesleyan Theological Society, P. O. Box 144, Wilmore, Kentucky 40390.


(Organized 1965) The Society’s mission is to encourage exchange of ideas among Wesleyan-Arminian theologians; to develop a source of papers for CHA (Christian Holiness Association) seminars;

to stimulate scholarship among younger theologians and pastors; and to publish a scholarly Journal.



JOURNAL #############

–  –  –

Indexed with abstracts in Religion Index One: Periodicals, American Theological Library Association, Chicago. Available on-line through BRS (Bibliographic Retrieval Series), Latham, New York, and DIALOG, Palo Alto, California.

Available in Microform from University Microfilms International, 300 North Zeek Road, Dept. I.R., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106.

Printed by Old Paths Tract Society Shoals, Indiana 47581


Christopher P. Momany, Ph.D., D.Min. (Drew University); Pastor, Centenary United Methodist Church, Pentwater, Michigan John E. Stanley, Ph.D. (Iliff School of Theology, University of Denver);

Chair, Department of Bible, Warner Pacific College, Portland, Oregon Scott Kisker, M.Div. (The Divinity School, Duke University); Associate Pastor, American Protestant Church, Bonn, Germany Paul M. Bassett, Ph.D. (Duke University); Professor of the History of Christianity, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri Floyd T. Cunningham, Ph.D. (The Johns Hopkins University); Dean and Professor of the History of Christianity, Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, Manila, Philippines Russell E. Richey, Ph.D. (Drew University); Associate Dean for Academic Programs, The Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina Stan Ingersol, Archivist, Church of the Nazarene


With this double number of the Journal, the term of the undersigned editor comes to an end. Two three-year terms, in fact.

At the very outset, I approached the work with enthusiasm and a deep yearning to be of service—to the Wesleyan Theological Society in particular and to the wider world of theological scholarship in general. Enthusiasm for editing has abated, to be sure, but the concern to be of use grows apace.

Good Wesleyan that I aim to be, I am reporting to you an investment of 2100 hours in the Journal in those six years, much of it under difficult circumstances—personal and otherwise. So I reach the end of these terms in a rather bittersweet mood. Too many hopes lie unfulfilled; and yet, thanks to you, the quality of the articles appearing in the Journal continues to strengthen. And the Journal continues to grow in reputation as a major source for understanding the Wesleyan/Holiness Movement.

Thanks to changes in the format of the annual meeting of the Society;

to vast, ready-to-hand changes in communications technology, many of which have taken place only in the last half-decade; and to changes in editorial policy and administrative matters on the part of the incoming editor, the Journal itself should be easier to produce in timely fashion and new features should be more feasible. I anticipate very good days ahead for our Journal under the editorial direction of Barry Callen.

Now, to turn to “old business”: I apologize to Dr. Stan Ingersol for having presented his fine article in two successive numbers. That error will perplex bibliographers and researchers for generations to come. And, I apologize to Prof. Mel Shoemaker, who teaches at Azusa Pacific, not Warner Pacific.

As to present business: It is at the request of the incoming editor, Barry Callen, that I have included an article of my own in this double number. It was not his request that it go on forever, as it does. But it is with his approval that it does appear in entirety.

And last: The Executive Committee of the Wesleyan Theological Society, publishers of the Journal, decided for reasons of schedule and finances to print Numbers 1 and 2 of Volume 28 under one cover. This is in line with contingencies noted in the original decision to publish two numbers per year.

P. M. B.

–  –  –


Poised at the cusp of transition from premodernity to modernity, “The Nature, Design, and General Rules of the United Societies” (1743) bear postmodern ethical import. Wesley’s premodern emphasis upon “doing no harm” and “doing good” anticipates the modern debate between those ethical theories which stress either nonmaleficence (not inflicting harm) or beneficence (provision of benefit). In many respects, the story of modern ethics revolves around an extended process of presenting, critiquing, and then representing the dialogue, the tension, between doing no harm (nonmaleficence) and doing good (beneficence).

However, Wesley’s simple integration of these primitive Christian principles offers deeply promising postmodern possibilities for a coalescence of ethical emphases which have often been considered mutually exclusive. Could not a postmodern synthesis of the “General Rules” point contemporary Wesleyans toward an ethic which both protects the sacred individual and promotes the commonweal, an ethic which both aims to avoid harm and yet is highly cognizant of the public good? It is in this sense that John Wesley’s “General Rules” offer a paradigm for postmodern ethics.


Any consideration of Wesley’s “General Rules” as a premodern construct with postmodern significance must first articulate some typology of —7— modernity. While several credible delineations of modernity abound, none are perhaps as concise as that offered by Thomas C. Oden. Oden sees modernity best defined “first as a historical period, then as an ideological worldview, and finally as a malaise of the deteriorating phase of that worldview.”1 In this schema, modernity is confined to the specific twohundred-year period between 1789 and 1989, between the French Revolution and the fall of Communism. Whether such definitiveness will ultimately be ascribed these two events remains to be seen, and one might offer a more nuanced understanding of mid-eighteenth century antecedents of modernity, as well as post-communistic expressions of modernity. But in at least general terms, the years 1789 and 1989 best frame the chronological poles of modernity.

The ideological worldview of the period has been indelibly marked by scientific naturalism, hermeneutical deconstructionism, and moral iconoclasm. French rationalism, German idealism, British empiricism, and American pragmatism, while apparent epistemological foes, all share, in various forms, the presuppositions of modernity. One need not be unsophisticated or reactionary to identify in modernity a destructive tendency toward ethical nihilism. The often arrogant appeal to a hypercritical hermeneutic has left modernity convinced that its entanglement with relativism is something “objective.” Yet, as Oden points up, the Enlightenment’s dogmatic regard for relativism has left an almost unimaginable legacy of confusion and pain.2 Given this state of affairs, it is appropriate to ask what one means by a move beyond modernity to a postmodern consciousness. Such a movement does not, must not, imply an intellectual amnesia which denies that modernity ever happened. A postmodern awareness does not champion the nostalgic return to precritical constructs as ends in themselves. Rather, reference to a “critique of criticism” best exemplifies the constructive project of postmodern consciousness.3 Such a hermeneutic owes much to the prolific work of Paul Ricoeur and his emphasis upon the postcritical resilience of narrative, symbol, and metaphor.4 But it is Ricoeur’s oftquoted reference to a “second naivete” which most directly captures the sense of postmodernism’s return to premodern sources.5 This second or “willed” naivete does not engage modern thinking by merely harking back to a time of literal understandings. It is not a reaction to critical thinking so much as a response to it and an attempt to move beyond the sophomoric claims of iconoclasm. This second naivete is a postcritical or postmodern acknowledgment that the most mature under8— standing still wears the flesh and blood of symbol. One cannot simply reduce the symbolic and longstanding to some conceptual certainty of critique. Even as traditional images and icons are subjected to criticism, they disclose renewed meaning in indispensable ways. They continue to speak through the modern world to the postmodern horizon. For Ricoeur, the aim of understanding is not to eliminate outmoded symbols and traditions but to journey with them through the rhythms of critique and willed naivete.6 Wesley’s “General Rules” of 1743 offer a decidedly premodern ethical construct. Their simple integration of (1) doing no harm, (2) doing good, and (3) attending upon the ordinances of God is often dismissed as a hopelessly dated precritical formulation.7 Yet beyond such modern conceit lies promising postmodern significance. One can even argue that Wesley’s practical moral formulation substantively anticipates the current revolution in postmodern consciousness. What if Wesley’s “General Rules” were neither naively idolized nor critically discarded? What if the “General Rules” were appropriated out of an intelligent, postcritical second naivete? One might find a way beyond certain accepted dilemmas of modern ethics.


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