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All too often, John Wesley’s warmed heart is celebrated by those who ignore the import of that richly stored head of his and that superb set of scholarly tools that he kept burnished throughout his career.
The author believes that Wesley can support Wesleyan evangelicals and free them from their tendency to knee-jerk conservatism, moralism, and negativism. He can support Wesleyan liberals and free them from their tendency to humanism, to relativism, and to half-heartedness. He can support Wesleyan liberationists and free them from their tendency to self-pity, divided loyalty, and fragmentation. He can support Wesleyan process theologians and free them from their tendency to intellectualism, distance from biblical roots, and divided loyalty.
Wesley was an evangelical in the sense that he undertook to supplement the activity of the Church of England with a program aimed at bringing the gospel to the masses of estranged people and helping them to transform their personal and social lives. Cobb enumerates genuine Wesleyan qualities which "evangelicals" today should give up, and those which they should emulate.
The author holds that the most unequivocal way in which Wesley was liberal was in his insistence on human participation in the process of salvation A second respect in which Wesley was clearly liberal in his own time was his attitude toward those with views differing from his own. However, today the false identification of liberalism with the absence of conviction and disciplined living receives far too much support from the practice of many who think of themselves as liberals.
The author believes that Wesley would have supported the Social Gospel. However, for Wesley it would be very important that every effort to formulate new theologies remain centered in Christ. With all the diversity of historical and cultural experience, Wesley would want attention given to what is also common to believers. Loving one another across differences would be part of that commonality.
Cobb holds that Wesley was a process theologian in the sense that Wesley sees God as working with each human being through the course of our lives -- a process. Wesley pays close attention to the actual changes that occur: the emergence of faith, growth in love, falling back into sin. A large part of his preaching and theology deal with the stages of this process and how God works in them. None of this is decided from all eternity. It is worked out in a real process of interaction between the individual and God.