Helping Christians be better Christians

Recently, I picked up a small book about Jacob Arminius‘ theology of election and his criticism of predestination. The strain of Reformed Protestant theology advocated by Arminius in the 17th century would have deep influence on the development of Methodism.

One hallmark of Arminius’ theology is an appreciation for the practical aspects of theology. Theology is not meant to be a series of abstract ideas. It is meant to have practical application and impact. The author of my book puts it this way:

Genuine theological knowledge (harkening back to St. Augustine) was a habitus, a way of thinking that could not be separated from a way of living. It touched the heart, enlightened the mind, and made one charitable … Arminius understood well that doctrine (doctina) had connotational roots in the history of the church as religious teaching that enables one to be a good Christian.

Christian doctrine exists to help Christians be better Christians. This idea is something Methodists have little difficulty affirming. I find it helpful to realize that this conviction locates us with a grand tradition of the church catholic that can be traced back to Augustine and the early church fathers.

For me as a pastor, then, the question is this: Am I teaching and preaching in ways that are not merely correct but also helpful to Christians seeking to live out their faith?

2 thoughts on “Helping Christians be better Christians

  1. Living as a contemplative Christian, even in a cloistered format, is a practical way of living one’s faith for some. Have there been no such persons in Methodism?

    1. I am certain there have been Methodist contemplatives, but I am not aware of any organized movements such as the monastic orders in Catholicism and other branches of Christianity. Methodism has always emphasized that Christian virtues require social interaction to be exercised, so even such contemplatives would be encouraged to maintain contact with other humans, which something like a monastery would afford but perhaps not an isolated cave like some of the ancient solitary contemplatives.

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