Theologian Thursday: John Wesley 1703-1791

I'm really excited to start Theologian Thursday as a weekly feature on the blog. I know, it's totally nerdy, and probably very few of you will have any interest in it, but I hope you'll at least learn something new or check out something to read.

photos from The Wesley Center

For my first Thursday theologian, I just had to pick the itinerant founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley. You may know him as the man who said, "Cleanliness is next to godliness." While he was a committed Anglican to the end, and would never really admit to starting a new church, his sermons and writings have influenced the formation of the Methodist church, as well as off-shoots in the holiness movement like the Wesleyan Church, the Salvation Army, the Church of God, and the Church of the Nazarene (to which I owe my education and my paycheck).

He was an intense journal-keeper, a prolific speaker, and a committed teacher. He had a heart for the poor, and did what he could to follow Jesus's command to care for them, even giving away most of his money.

Other reasons why John Wesley was pretty cool:
  • rode over 250,000 miles on horseback
  • Preached over 45,000 sermons
  • Founded a school
  • Wrote text books
  • Compiled a christian library
  • Wrote a four-volume history of England
  • Wrote a book of birds, beasts and insects
  • Wrote a medical book (Primitive Physick)
  • Set up a free medical dispensary
  • Adapted an electrical machine for healing & cured over 1,000 people
  • Set up spinning & knitting shops for the poor
What you should read:
Seriously. That's it. There's so many, it'll keep you busy for a long time. I recommend The General Deliverance and A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (that one's kind of a collection of sermons mushed together as one work). Those will give you a good idea of what he's about, namely: means of grace (spiritual disciplines) and works of mercy (helping others). I believe those each have their own sermons as well.

(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)Gender Equality:
Wesley actively encouraged women to listen to his sermons and seek a life of holiness, and many people who claimed to have attained his proposed "Christian Perfection" were women.
Environmental Sensibility:
This dude knew God loved all creatures, and lived and preached accordingly. He was also a minimalist--I think he only owned a few pairs of clothes.
Heretical Tendencies:
Though he had somewhat radical ideas about how to live out the Christian faith, he remained well within orthodoxy and stayed a member of the Anglican church until his death.
General Badassery:
I mean, an electrical healing machine??? Come on.

Lastly, one of my favorite John Wesley quotes:

“I say to God and man, 'What I know not, teach thou me!'"