February 5, 2011

John Wesley & the Trustworthiness of Scripture

Here's a gem from John Wesley on the trustworthiness (dare I say, inerrancy) of scripture:
I read Mr. Jenyns's admired tract, on the "Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion." He is undoubtedly a fine writer; but whether he is a Christian, Deist, or Atheist, I cannot tell. If he is a Christian, he betrays his own cause by averring, that "all Scripture is not given by inspiration of God; but the writers of it were sometimes left to themselves, and consequently made some mistakes." Nay, if there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth (Journal: July 24, 1776, emphasis added).
Two observations are noteworthy. First, Wesley takes the character of God to be the basis for his doctrine of scripture. If God is true and scripture is God's word, then scripture must be true as well. Second, for Wesley, if a Christian denies the trustworthiness of scripture by suggesting it contains error, it is a betrayal of his own cause. My guess is that many Methodist and Wesleyan types wouldn't be too comfortable with their founder on this one.

Do you think Wesley's attitude is characteristic of the various Wesleyan and Methodist groups that claim him as their founder? Is belief in the inerrancy of scripture essential to classical Wesleyan Methodism?


Jason B. Hood said...


It's potent stuff and a great find. So often personal opinion is treated as more infallible than Scripture...

Larry said...

I think this would explain, in part, why Wesley sprinkled his sermons with numerous Scriptural phrases. He actually used them as part of his sermon text. Scripture reflects the character of God. It is reliable only as far as God is reliable.

I think it further explains why he insisted that his Standard sermons, as well as his Notes on the New Testament were to be considered as doctrinal standards. How far we (UMs) have wandered from our doctrinal roots.

Matt O'Reilly said...

Hi guys, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Larry, I think your right. I have been struck just this last week as I read through some of Wesley's sermons just how much scripture is appears in the text of the sermon. We might say Wesley's sermons are scripture saturated.