Any notion of Christian Perfection is quickly dismissed by most Protestants. The Wesleys are held in great regard, but heads shake over their teaching on what is often referred to as ‘sinless perfection’. That is not helped by the way in which the nineteenth-century holiness movement was shaped by its revivalist subculture to reduce everything to ‘the second blessing’. What could seem more irrelevant to today’s generation, struggling to come to terms with the challenges of world poverty, child abuse, high school shootings, the revived nuclear threat and global warming, than pietists debating how many ‘blessings’ there are in their ordo salutis? This book was written to do two things. The first is to present and clarify exactly what John Wesley taught about what is better called ‘Christian perfecting’. The second is to show that this is not an odd sectarian hobby horse but is firmly based in the central Christian doctrines of Incarnation, Atonement, and Trinity. As a preliminary, the first chapter looks at theological method, and particularly the roles of scripture, tradition, and what is called ‘rational spiritual experience’ in the hermeneutical task of shaping doctrine. Scripture is the one and only source of Christian doctrine, but it has to be interpreted by us today, standing faithfully in the traditional formulations handed on down through generations of preachers and teachers. To do so we have to exercise our reason - not merely rational powers which are part of our fallen condition (thinking kata sarka), but in obedience to God’s self-revelation in Christ (thinking kata pneuma).2 Christian Theology is Trinitarian in shape, centred in the confession that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’ Our understanding of our own sanctification therefore has to be articulated within that Trinitarian framework, something which to my knowledge has never been seriously attempted in a systematic way within the Wesleyan tradition. The book is claiming that Wesley’s doctrine of Christian holiness as ‘perfect love’ is in no way an eccentric pietistic hobby horse but is based profoundly in the central convictions of the Christian faith? Atonement, Incarnation, and Trinity. Here is a doctrine of sacrificial yet triumphant love which not only accentuates the Church as the community of divine compassion, but which casts the vision for a generation passionately concerned to be part of God’s loving mission to the world.
II. Wesleyan Doctrine
III. The Trinitarian Basis