Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This We Believe and The Wesley Study Bible

Bishop Will Willimon wrote This We Believe, The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice as a sort of companion for Abingdon’s The Wesley Study Bible. I didn’t purchase or write about The Wesley Study Bible when it was released last year because, honestly, I have a few Bibles already. However, Willimon’s book caught my attention and, as it was designed to be read alongside the study Bible, I figured I better pick up both.

This We Believe is a pretty useful book all on its own. Willimon, heavily referencing scripture and the writings of Wesley, lays out a very clear synopsis of Methodist Doctrine. I have a lot of respect for the clarity and simplicity of the Bishop’s explanations. As an ordained Elder, I had to write an examination that covered some of the cores doctrines and these are some difficult concepts. The beauty of this work is that, without watering them down, the author has made these concepts readable and understandable.

The explanations are explicitly Wesleyan. I think it would be clearer to say that they are explicitly Methodist which I think makes this an excellent resource for the United Methodist Church. Covered in the book are key doctrines of the Trinity, the reign of Christ, the Holy Spirit, our understanding of scripture, the concept of salvation and a clear definition of the “Church.”

One could easily read This We Believe without a copy of The Wesley Study Bible. What you would miss is a great chance to tour this amazing resource. Throughout his book, Willimon gives reference to the resources within the study Bible – mostly to small sidebars in the study notes called “Wesleyan Core Terms.” There are around 200 of these throughout the study Bible covering issues of doctrine and Christian living through a distinctly Wesleyan lens. They cover some fairly core doctrinal topics like faith, salvation and grace; some Wesleyan particulars like Christian perfection and intineracy; and some distinctive Methodist concepts like character of a Methodist and General Rules. These alone make this an amazing resource for United Methodists. As Methodists, we believe that we read scripture in conversation with reason, experience and tradition. This study Bible gives us instant access to, not just the tradition of the interpretation of the texts as with most study Bibles, but also to the core doctrines of our faith tradition that speak to how we live out those interpretations. I need to spend some more time with The Wesley Study Bible, but I believe it may become one the recommended study Bibles for our core Bible studies like Disciple and New Testament Survey.

Back to This We Believe. I highly recommend it to United Methodists who want to have a better understanding of our Wesleyan faith: the core doctrines that guide our faith and practice. This would be a great small group study. There is a leader’s guide available. I am looking at my calendar for 2011 to see if I will be able to offer it.



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