Monday, July 25, 2011

LHP Review: Speaking the Truth in Love

Kieta, Geoffrey A. A Lutheran Looks at Methodists and Holiness Churches. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2011. 127 Pages. Paper. $14.50. www.nph.net (LHP)
The fourth volume in the series A Lutheran Looks At...provides a confessional Lutheran perspective on the teachings of Methodists and holiness churches. Author Geoffrey A. Kieta helps us understand the life of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and how Methodism spread throughout the United States. Kieta goes on to discuss modern Methodism and its views on various theological issues. The author also takes an in-depth look at what are known as holiness churches, including the Church of the Nazarene and the Salvation Army.

A Lutheran Looks at Methodists and Holiness Churches will help you understand the beliefs of your neighbor, coworker, or friend and help you share your faith with them.
(Publisher's website)
Following the success and helpfulness of books on Episcopalians, the Assemblies of God, and Baptists, NPH continues to serve Lutherans with this new book on the background, theology, and people of the Methodist family tree. Did you know that John Wesley claimed he was truly "converted" and had "assurance" of salvation after hearing a group of Christians read the introduction to Luther's commentary on Romans (4)? I wish (in all seriousness) that he would have stayed to hear (or later read) the entire thing! Perhaps that would have reduced the number of theological differences between Methodists and Lutheran Christians.

The Methodist family tree includes not only the mainline progressive United Methodist Church and other smaller Methodist bodies, notably some with African-American roots, but also the Salvation Army, Wesleyan Church, Nazarenes, and Pentecostal bodies. (I would recommend that readers who want to know more about the two strands within the Wesleyan Church consult Concordia's The Lutheran Difference.)
The whole of Part Two of the book, about half of the volume's size, is dedicated to the history, theology, and practice of Holiness Churches.  If Wesley claimed to find a "method" to complete sanctification in this lifetime, hence the name "Methodist," the holiness offshoot of Methodism took this idea to its logical extension.

When discussing theology with those of other Christian traditions, I have found it helpful to ask them what they believe, rather than assuming that they believe what Methodists have always taught. There is considerable variety. Consider this quote:
"Before I became a Lutheran, my husband and I talked about religion a lot. He was always talking about doctrine, He was always asking me what I believed about this or that. I never knew. I knew that I believed in Jesus. But I didn't have any idea about the rest of it." (107)
Sadly, this fits well with the experience of current and former Methodists I know. Methodism is "in tune" with America with an emphasis on "heart" religion (cf. 104). If you want to know more about America so that we can reach Americans with the Gospel in a way they can understand, buy this book.
Northwestern Publishing House has helped me share the truth in love with non-Christians such as Mormons and Muslims. I pray this series will continue and that the four volumes released to-date will help you share Biblical truth in love with fellow Christians that we may share the mind of Christ and agree with His Word. I pray also that books like this will continue to appeal to Missouri Synod Lutherans so that we may restore the Synodical Conference.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.