Wesleyan theology: Redemption is both personal and cosmic

August 26th, 2020

When John Wesley explored the image of God, the imago Dei in which humanity had been created, so evident in scripture, he considered the interconnectedness between homo sapiens and the rest of the animal realm by articulating the political image in the following manner: “As all the blessings of God in paradise flowed through man to the inferior creatures; as man was the great channel of communication between the Creator and the whole brute creation so when man made himself incapable of transmitting those blessings, that communication was necessarily cut off.” [1]

Wesley One Volume CommentarySince humanity is at the nexus of a network of relations, its redemption has consequence for other animals as well. In other words, a Wesleyan understanding of salvation goes well beyond anthropological considerations to embrace, as does scripture, consequences for the entire created order. Simply put, a new creation is coming. To be sure, not only will there be a new heaven and a new earth as a result of Christ’s saving work but also Wesley speculated that the animal realm in the future, in that coming sparkling new day, may be invited to participate in the knowledge and love of God. He wrote: 

May I be permitted to mention here a conjecture concerning the brute creation? What if it should then please the all-wise, the all-gracious Creator, to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What if it should please him, when he makes us “equal to angels,” to make them what we are now? Creatures capable of God? Capable of knowing, and loving, and enjoying the Author of their being? [2]

A Wesleyan interpretation of scripture then underscores the fullness of redemption on a number of different levels or relations as is evident in the following: 

• God to humanity,
• humans to other humans,
• persons to themselves,
• humanity to the animal realm, and
• humanity to the cosmos. 

How poignant then will be the loss felt by men and women who have rejected the gracious offer of redemption in this life only to learn in judgment in the next that the beasts of the field may yet be welcomed to participate in nothing less than the image and likeness of God, the very image in which humanity had been created. In the end a Wesleyan interpretation of the Bible is both glaringly truthful and unavoidably serious. Such factors, however, must be seen in terms of God’s love and holiness, not as an invitation to sentimentality but an invitation for all humanity to be transformed by divine grace, which is ever sufficient, such that the redeemed, filled with joy, will praise the Most High for all eternity for so great a salvation in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

[1] Albert C. Outler, ed., The Works of John Wesley, vols. 1–4: The Sermons (Nashville:Abingdon Press, 1986), 2:442 (“The General Deliverance”).

[2] Outler, Sermons, 2:448 (“The General Deliverance”).

This article is an excerpt from the recently released Wesley One Volume Commentary. Copyright © 2020 Abingdon Press.

comments powered by Disqus