Rachel Held Evans and John Wesley

Rachel Held Evans writes what strikes me as her core argument about the way we read and use scripture. She makes some excellent observations and points.

I too need reminding that, for all my big talk about a “Christocentric hermeneutic,” more often than not, I’m following a “Rachelcentric hermeneutic” when I read the Bible, complete with my own biases, preferences, insecurities, and opinions guiding how I “pick and choose.” (Oh I can wield every Bible verse that challenges Calvinism like a knife, but I’d rather not talk about how I’m actually applying the Sermon on the Mount to my life or what I really think about enemy-love.)

 (Don’t read only the quote above. It is one small piece of a longer post. But it is one piece that makes a good point. As I say, read the whole post.)

Given my interests, I find myself thinking about how John Wesley would respond to the arguments she makes.

Wesley was never one to shrink before the size of the gospel. He believed and taught that we could, in this life, be transformed by grace to the extent that the Sermon on the Mount does not become an impossible hurdle to clear. Indeed, the says the commands of God are “covered promises.” What he commands us to do he gives us the power to do.

In reading Evans’ post, I get a strong sense of her generosity of heart. I think Wesley the pastor would want to press us beyond gentleness with each other to zeal for holiness. That zeal would not eliminate gentleness. Indeed, we cannot be holy if we are not gentle, kind, humble, and meek. (Check the Sermon on the Mount for pointers there.) But in Wesley I find a search for something beyond and beneath acceptance of each other. There is a sense that my sins really, really matter. And so do yours. So we should take them seriously, the same way we respond to cancer or kidney failure.

I do think, however, that Wesley would agree with a large part of Evans’ argument: We spend too much time talking about the sins of others instead of dealing with our own sin.

And I think Wesley would approve of her final notion: We should put down our stones and share a table together. He called it a love feast.

13 thoughts on “Rachel Held Evans and John Wesley

  1. It seems to me Evans, like many others, take different events of history, finds one common element, then thread and lumps them all together as if they are all the same and they are not. IMHO

    A good read
    The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Study
    by Michael C. Legaspi
    Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

      1. It is typical for those that see themselves of defenders of the oppressed to lump women, blacks, and GLBT persons in the some bag as if their plights, history and experiences are the same.
        I, being female, do not agree with the tactic. The common element is self explanatory.
        The “things different” are many.

  2. I am beginning to get the sense that what is ailing the UMC is systemic.
    Studying who was who in leadership position and family that follow in leadership seem to have some relationship to where the church is today.

    1. Rachel Held Evans is not a United Methodist, if that is at all important to your point.

  3. What can you share with us what you know about the theology of Dr. Peter Held Professor of Christian Thought and Biblical Studies@ Bryan College?
    I am trying to get where Rachel Held Evans theology is from. Is it her own thinking , her fathers influence or the rejection of?

      1. It is not important but it is something to know.
        Rachel Evens has a father who happens to be a teacher of Christian Studies.
        I was wondering what influence he has on her theology and that is only related to UMC in the context of relationship to Families within UMC that hold leadership positions, have followed in some relatives footsteps and the effect that has on the church.

        1. Hereditary church leadership can be a bad thing if it freezes others out. I’ve seen that happen.

  4. And I didn’t care for the piece.
    It was winey.
    Evans forms conclusions on others positions in the negative, offers nothing to support her conclusions and throws a few rocks herself.

    1. I’m not as critical of it as you are, but I am not adopting her position after reading it. I do find it a good articulation of that particular line of argument, even if I do not accept all its conclusions.

      1. I was not as focused on the line of Hereditary related to power although that is a real concern.
        I was more focused on the teaching or theology passed down when it is in conflict with the church. Evans and her family dynamics coincides with the general theme I have been considering.

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