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Describe the way the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a good method for discussing theology and for paying attention to Christian revelation. Does the Quadrilateral answer the issues brought up in the texts this week and in Richard Twiss’s recommendations for the church in the US (see video)?

© 2014 by Beth Felker Jones
Published by Baker Academic
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
www.bakeracademic.com
Ebook edition created 2014
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy,
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publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed
reviews.
ISBN 978-1-4412-4559-5
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at
the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the
New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989,
by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council
of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used
by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations labeled ESV are from The Holy Bible,
English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by
Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text Edition: 2011.

For my students—
“May the mind of Christ our Savior

live in us from day to day”

Contents
Cover
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
Acknowledgments
Introduction: To Practice Doctrine

1. Speaking of God: Theology and the Christian Life
2. Knowing God: Doctrines of Revelation and Scripture
3. The God We Worship: Doctrine of the Trinity
4. A Delightful World: Doctrines of Creation and Providence
5. Reflecting God’s Image: Theological Anthropology
6. The Personal Jesus Christ: Christology
7. The Work of Jesus Christ: Soteriology
8. The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: Pneumatology
9. Church in a Diverse World: Ecclesiology
10. Resurrection Hope: Eschatology
Benediction: A Prayer for the Practice of Christian Doctrine
Subject Index
Scripture Index
Notes
Back Cover

Acknowledgments
This project was born of teaching, and I am grateful to my
students at Huntington University and Wheaton College, to
whom this book is dedicated. It is my privilege to be in
conversation with you. Thanks for the good questions, the
thoughtful conversations, and the desire to put faith into
practice. You have helped make doctrine come alive for me.
I am grateful to many friends and colleagues who helped

make this book possible: for the wonderful team at Baker and
Brazos; for the support of my dean, Jill Baumgaertner, and
associate dean, Jeff Greenman; for the remarkable work of my
research assistant, Ella Myer; for my colleague Keith Johnson,
with whom I developed some of the early ideas for this text.
Thanks to those who gifted me with time and talent, reading
and commenting on portions of the text: Aimee Barbeau, Jeff
Barbeau, Gary Burge, Lynn Cohick, Holly Taylor Coolman,
Michael Graves, Gene Green, George Kalantzis, Tiffany Kriner,
Christina Bieber Lake, Tim Larsen, David Lauber, Steve Long,
Miho Nonaka, Amy Peeler, Nick Perrin, Noah Toly, and Dan
Treier. The book is better because of you all.
Thanks piled on thanks to my husband, Brian, whose support

of my work is one of the most tender gifts in my life, and to our
children, Gwen, Sam, Tess, and Zeke, for hanging in there with
me and enduring my speeches about things like the Trinity.
Chapter 8 and a small portion of chapter 2 appear in slightly

different form in my God the Spirit: Introducing Pneumatology
in Wesleyan and Ecumenical Perspective. Copyright Cascade
Books, 2014. Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Beth Felker Jones
Lent 2013

Introduction
To Practice Doctrine

Times were troubled when Josiah assumed the throne. A brutal
invasion and the faithless leadership of several apostate kings
had left Israel in chaos. The people of Israel were living
desperate and uncertain lives. In the midst of their struggles,
they still worshiped the Lord, the God of their ancestors, but
they turned to other gods as well, hoping those other gods
could help them meet the challenges they faced. God, however,
had not forgotten his people or his promises to them. He
worked in the heart of the young king, and Josiah began to
“seek the God of his ancestor David” (2 Chron. 34:3). The
temple in Jerusalem, the center of worship, had suffered years
of neglect and misuse, and Josiah funded carpenters, builders,
and masons to begin to restore it. In the midst of the dust
flying, the high priest made a discovery, a “book of the
covenant”—Scripture.
When Josiah heard the ancient words read aloud, he

recognized the depth of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Tearing his
robes in grief, he repented, and he took action. After consulting
with the prophetess Huldah, Josiah gathered together “all the
people both great and small” and read the book aloud to them.
Then, in front of his people, Josiah “made a covenant before the
LORD, to follow the LORD, keeping his commandments, his
decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to
perform the words of the covenant that were written in this
book” (2 Chron. 34:30–31). He led his people to join in the
same commitment. The entire nation promised to perform the
book, to return to faithful relationship with God. Josiah spent
the following months purifying Israel. He purged the temple of
idols, destroyed altars to idols, and scattered their remains
over the graves of false priests. Josiah’s reforms culminated in
a celebration of Passover, where the people remembered what
God had done for them. The discovery of the lost book and the
acceptance of its teaching changed the lives of God’s people.
This story may seem like an odd beginning to a book meant

to introduce theology, but Josiah’s story provides a wonderful

window into the relationship between Scripture, doctrine, and
practice. Christian theology is a conversation about Scripture,
about how to read and interpret it better, how to understand
the Bible as a whole and imagine a way of life that is faithful to
the God whose Word this is. This conversation about Scripture
produces distinct Christian teachings, called doctrine, but the
work of theology does not stop there. Notice the key to Josiah’s
story. He moved directly from the teaching he found in the
rediscovered book to action. He immediately connected belief
with practice, the Word of God with reform, and he led the
people to follow in his footsteps, bringing his community along
with him as he sought faithfulness to the true God.
I open with the story of Josiah’s reforms in Israel because it

displays the core premise of this book: our beliefs must be put
into practice, and faithful practice matters for what we believe.
When we, like Josiah and his people, perform the book of
Scripture, when we connect truth with action and doctrine with
discipleship, God does marvelous things.
This book’s title reflects my confidence that Christian

doctrine is intimately interconnected with faithful practice in
the Christian life. This book will introduce the basics of
Christian doctrine, but without our practicing that doctrine,
that introduction will be meaningless. Christian doctrine
informs Christian identity and action. Certainly, the idea of
doctrine implies belief, but doctrine is about so much more
than just believing certain things. The word doctrine has taken
on cold, hard connotations. Many assume that it is about
rigidity and control or that it points to an inaccessible arena of
knowledge outside the realm of ordinary Christians. I hope that
this book does some work to rehabilitate the word doctrine, to
show ways that good Christian teaching can help us to grow in
faith, reach out in love, and look to the future in hope.
The study of doctrine belongs right in the middle of the

Christian life. It is part of our worship of God and service to
God’s people. Jesus commanded us to love God with our mind
as well as our heart, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27). All four
are connected: the heart’s passion, the soul’s yearning, the

strength God grants us, and the intellectual task of seeking the
truth of God. This means that the study of doctrine is an act of
love for God: in studying the things of God, we are formed as
worshipers and as God’s servants in the world. To practice
doctrine is to yearn for a deeper understanding of the Christian
faith, to seek the logic and the beauty of that faith, and to live
out what we have learned in the everyday realities of the
Christian life.
All of that becomes richer as we gain familiarity with

Christian teaching. Practicing doctrine is not unlike practicing
the piano or going to basketball practice. New pianists begin
by becoming familiar with the instrument. Before they can play
sonatas, they must spend a lot of time on basic exercises like
running scales. New basketball players do not start with
shooting three-pointers; first they have to learn how to dribble
and how to run a play. Before playing a game, they must
master rules and repeat basic drills until these things become
second nature. Only after much practice are they ready to play.
Newcomers to the study of doctrine are in a similar position
and need to spend time becoming familiar with the discipline of
theology. It takes time and patience to learn how to practice
doctrine well. Learning Christian doctrine is something like
learning a new language: it takes time to learn the vocabulary
and concepts used in Christian thought in order to understand
what other people are saying. Along with this basic study,
students of doctrine have to immerse themselves in the
teachings of Scripture, listen to the wisdom of other
practitioners of doctrine throughout history, and pray for the
insight and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
But there is an important difference between a beginning

student of doctrine and a new pianist or basketball player.
Many students new to the formal or academic study of doctrine
will not be new to the Christian faith, and many basic habits
and skills may be familiar. There is continuity between the faith
embraced by the littlest child or the newest believer and the
faith embraced by the most competent Bible scholar or
articulate theologian. Readers should expect continuity

between the living faith they bring to the practice of doctrine
and the knowledge and challenges that practice will bring to
them. Some doctrines will be easy to learn, and application will
be immediately apparent. Some concepts may lead to “aha!”
moments when studying doctrine brings clarity to some
familiar belief or practice. At other times, the study of doctrine
challenges our assumptions and preconceptions. Some of God’s
greatest gifts can come when we face disconnect between our
assumptions and what we learn through study. None of us has
our doctrine exactly right, and as we search eagerly for the
truth that comes from God, we must also search for the
humility to see where we may be wrong. The best practitioners
of doctrine are open to correction, and like Josiah we must be
willing to change. The practice of doctrine will be more fruitful
if we are open to change and reform. Humility and repentance
are keys to the faithful practice of doctrine.

Key Scripture

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to
present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but
be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern
what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by
the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of
yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober
judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members
have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ,
and individually we are members one of another. (Rom. 12:1–5)
John Calvin claimed, “All right knowledge of God is born of

obedience.”[1] Doctrine and discipleship always go together.
Our job as we study doctrine is not to get all our answers right.
The point of our study is to grow in our knowledge of and
faithfulness to God. God can use our study of doctrine to form
us. As you read, I encourage you to think of yourself as a
doctrinal theologian, a disciple of Jesus Christ who practices

doctrine by seeking knowledge of God and of the things of God,
reading Scripture faithfully and regularly, rejoicing in the
continuity between saving faith as you have already known it
and doctrine as you are coming to know it, welcoming the
disruption that God may bring into your life in challenging you
to more faithful and truthful practice of the Christian faith, and
embracing the practice of doctrine as part of Christian identity.
Evangelical and Ecumenical
While no two theologians will ever introduce doctrine in
precisely the same way, Christians share a great deal in
common, and this introduction is focused on that common
ground as surveyed in evangelical and ecumenical perspective.
The word evangelical comes from the Greek euangelion,
meaning “the gospel,” the good news of Jesus Christ. All
Christians belong to that good news. The term is also used to
indicate a particular context, one in which evangelical
Christianity—especially in Great Britain, North America, and
global churches with roots in the movement—takes more
specific historical form. Still, this evangelicalism is diverse. It
includes Christians from several centuries and many cultures,
and so it cannot simply be identified with one confession of
faith, denomination, institution, or cultural form. Historians
have offered different ways of understanding evangelical
Christianity.
David Bebbington identifies evangelicalism by pointing to

four characteristics shared across denominational or cultural
lines: biblicism, conversionism, activism, and crucicentrism.[2]
Biblicism is a focus on Scripture as the ultimate authority for
faith and practice; conversionism is an emphasis on life-
altering religious experience; activism is a concern for sharing
the faith and doing good works; and crucicentrism names a
focus on Jesus’s saving work on the cross. This description
provides an account of evangelicalism that is not limited by
culture or denomination. Evangelicals are a varied lot, and you
can find them in many groups, including Baptists in the United
States, Anglicans in Africa, Presbyterians in Scotland, and
Pentecostals in Latin America. Bebbington shows how these

diverse Christians have certain beliefs and characteristics in
common. His definition also balances doctrinal affirmations
(biblicism and crucicentrism) with experiential aspects of
evangelicalism (conversionism and activism), indicating a
broad spectrum of emphases within evangelical life.
The breadth of Bebbington’s description is also a potential

drawback, a lack of specificity. Historian Timothy Larsen points
out that St. Francis of Assisi, a medieval monk, could fit within
Bebbington’s definition. This is a problem, Larsen reasons,
because the term “evangelical” then loses “its utility for
identifying a specific Christian community.”[3] Larsen adds a
particular historical context to the doctrinal and experiential
aspects of Bebbington’s definition: “An evangelical is an
orthodox Protestant who stands in the tradition of global
Christian networks arising from the eighteenth-century revival
movements associated with John Wesley and George
Whitefield.”[4] This definition locates evangelical Christianity
within the larger story of the church. Evangelical Christianity is
orthodox because it shares the doctrinal commitments of the
early church’s creedal tradition, such as a belief in a Triune
God. This orthodoxy is a point of connection between
evangelicals and the bigger Christian story, beginning with the
early church. The evangelical movement is Protestant, which
identifies it as belonging to a theological tradition in continuity
with the Reformation of the sixteenth century. Larsen’s
definition accounts for the distinctive claims of Protestant
theology. The definition grows yet more specific: not all
Protestants are evangelicals, not least because Protestant
Christianity existed for nearly two centuries before
evangelicalism became a distinct movement. Larsen recognizes
that eighteenth-century revival movements brought about a
distinct community within Christian history, and that most
evangelical Christians today can trace their spiritual roots back
to those movements. Even though evangelicalism shares much
in common with other Christian groups, it also has a particular
history within the Christian tradition.

A third historian, George Marsden, helps us understand
evangelicalism in light of twentieth-century conversations
about the relationship between the church and the wider
culture.[5] In the 1920s, liberal theology emerged as a
powerful voice in Protestant churches, privileging human
experience and feelings as the best authorities for Christian
faith and maintaining that Christianity was about ethics and
not doctrine. The term “liberal” here does not refer to
American politics. Instead, it names a theological tradition that
reinterprets much of orthodox doctrine in light of modern life.
In opposition to liberalism, a broad coalition of doctrinally
conservative Protestants identified themselves as
“fundamentalist,” seeing liberal interpretations of doctrine as a
rejection of fundamental scriptural teaching. Between the
1950s and the 1970s, a split occurred in this coalition. Billy
Graham’s “new evangelicalism” remained doctrinally
conservative while cooperating with other Christian traditions
and insisting on active engagement in and with the culture.
Separatist Christians, rejecting any association with a world
seen as sinful or with other Christians seen as accommodating
that sinful world, kept the “fundamentalist” label. For Marsden,
evangelical Christianity takes a self-consciously mediating
position between liberalism on the one side and separatist
fundamentalism on the other.
The evangelical perspective in this book lives within the

complexities of these historical definitions. As the author, I
identify with the practical and doctrinal tendencies that
Bebbington sees among evangelicals, and as the title of the
book makes clear, I do not see those tendencies as opposed to
one another. I am part of the particular history that Larsen and
Marsden identify with evangelicalism: I am “evangelical”
because the evangelical story that began with those
eighteenth-century revivals is my story. I came to Christ in, and
remain committed to, a church descended from the Wesleyan
revivals, and I teach in the same evangelical Christian college
that sent Billy Graham into the world. My faith is lived in the
North American context in which evangelical Christians felt the

need to distinguish themselves first from liberal modernism
and later from separatist fundamentalism, and I continue to see
good reason for both distinctions. I, with all three historians,
resonate with the idea that orthodox Protestant doctrine and
activism in the world are strengths of evangelical Christianity.
All of this gives you, the reader, a better sense of the context
and commitments from which I, the author, practice doctrine.
Doctrine is indispensable to evangelical Christianity, but most
evangelical doctrine is not unique to evangelicalism.

Evangelical Theology
Seeks faithfulness to the euangelion, the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Connects to a historical Christian community that emerged from eighteenth-century
revivalism.
Holds practices in the evangelical tradition—emphasizing conversion and activism—together
with key doctrinal claims about the authority of Scripture and the centrality of Christ’s work on
the cross.
Is committed to active cultural engagement “in” the world while maintaining the distinctive
commitments that identify Christians as not “of” the world “so that the world may know” the
good news (John 17:23).

This is where the ecumenical perspective of the book is
important. The word comes from the Greek oikoumene, which
means “the entire inhabited earth.” This term reminds
Christians that God’s salvific love applies to the whole world—
every nation, every tribe, and every person. Ecumenical
Christian teaching is the teaching of the whole church, the
faith of the whole body of Christ spread across the centuries
and around the globe, and Christian efforts at ecumenism are
efforts to converse across lines that divide us, to find common
ground, to recognize that diverse groups of Christians have a
great deal in common, and to work toward unity in the body of
Christ. Timothy Tennent notes the importance of ecumenical
theology in his acknowledgment that “it would be arrogant to
believe that one or more of the theologies our culture has
produced have somehow managed to raise and systematically
answer all questions, for all Christians, for all time. Every
culture in every age has blind spots and biases that we are
often oblivious to, but which are evident to those outside of our
culture or time.”[6]

Ecumenical Theology
Recognizes that no one part of the church is the whole body of Christ.
Rejoices in the shared doctrine and practice that belong to the whole of that body.
Allows difference to flourish, without seeing it as a threat to unity.
Humbly listens to other parts of the body.
Looks for God’s active work in the whole world.

My perspective in this book is ecumenical in several senses.
First, in introducing the various Christian doctrines, my main
focus is not on questions that divide the church. Christians hold
much doctrine in common, an ecumenical consensus about
important truths of the faith. This agreement is often
underplayed, and I try to highlight areas of Christian unity.
Second, I want to introduce you to an ecumenical gathering of
Christian voices—men and women, North American and
European and African and Latin American and Asian,
contemporary, medieval, ancient, old, young, black, white, and
brown. Space is limited, and this attempt is woefully
inadequate, but I try to give you a glimpse of the beautiful
diversity of the church as a global reality. Finally, I do all my
work as a theologian with a strong sense that the gospel is
truly for the whole world. Jesus told his disciples to be
“witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the
ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The gospel is global because it is
for everyone, in all times and all places. Athanasius (c. 296–
373), an early church leader, appreciates the ecumenical
nature of the gospel when he reminds us that God “is working
mightily among humans, every day invisibly persuading
numbers of people all over the world.”[7]
This takes us back to the word evangelical. Most simply,

evangelical Christians are people of the gospel, called to be
witnesses to Jesus in the world. The gospel has not been
entrusted to any single group of Christians in history, as if it
were their sole possession. The gospel is God’s good news to
the world, and God has raised witnesses for the gospel across
generations and cultures. Evangelical theology has to be
ecumenical theology. We simply cannot tell the story of
theology—nor can we practice discipleship faithfully—without

accounting for the wide variety of ways that God has used
Christians throughout history to spread the gospel to the
world. So, while I stand as part of the tradition of
evangelicalism—and while I think that this tradition has much
to offer the wider Christian tradition—I also believe in the need
for conversation between Christians from across centuries and
backgrounds whose lives have been shaped by the gospel of
salvation in Jesus Christ. These conversations can be difficult
and challenging. New perspectives can expose our assumptions
and reveal areas where we have wrongly identified contextual
elements of our time and place as essential to the gospel. In
engaging with others, we are held accountable for mistakes we
might make because of our limited perspectives, and we gain
insights about God that we would be unable to see on our own.
As we talk with one another, we are forced to do the hard work
of articulating what we believe and why we believe it. This hard
work becomes a gift to us, because, through it, we are
strengthened to be the people God has called us to be and to
fulfill the task that God has set out for us in our own time and
place. As we live in this way, we stand in a long line of
Christians who together make up the great “cloud of
witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) called by God to put doctrine into
practice as we share the good news of salvation.

1
Speaking of God

Theology and the Christian Life
The word theology can be a conversation stopper. When people
ask what I teach, and I answer “theology,” the most common
response is a short “Oh,” followed by uncertain silence. That
“Oh” seems to cover several reactions, both from Christians
and from those who are not of the faith. First, many people do
not know what theology is. The word implies something
obscure, even pretentious. Other people, again both Christian
and not, have strong negative ideas about theology. Perhaps
they have heard stories about the study of theology causing
people to lose their faith. Perhaps they associate theology with
self-righteousness or, worse, with violence against people who
disagree with a certain theology. Still other people simply
cannot imagine why anyone would care about such a thing. It
sounds far removed from what really matters in life. While I
understand these reactions, the ideas about theology they
represent could not be further from my own experience in the
discipline. It goes against the nature of theology for it to suffer
elitism, sanctimoniousness, or uselessness. Theology, as the
study of the things of God, a God who loves the world, is a
discipline for all Christians. It is to be practiced with love, and,
by God’s grace, it can make the practitioner more loving.
What Is Theology?
The word theology brings the Greek term logos—translated
“word,” “speech,” or “reason”—together with the term theos,
the word for “God.” In the Gospel of John, logos is identified
with Jesus, who was “in the beginning . . . with God” and then
“became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). Paul encourages Christians to
“let the word [logos] of Christ dwell in you” when teaching one
another (Col. 3:16). He uses the same root word when he talks
about worship of God being “rational” (logike), an idea he
connects to presenting our “bodies as a living sacrifice” and
being “transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom.
12:1–2). Knowledge of the logos (Jesus) is reflected in true
worship of him, which is manifested in the ways we act and

think. It is also reflected in the ways we speak about God to
others. When we, as Christians, bear witness to the gospel, we
are doing theology. Early Christians called preaching about
Jesus the “word [logos] of God” (Acts 8:14), and we are called
to be ready to make a “defense to anyone who demands from
you a reason [logos] for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15
ESV). All of these moments in Scripture point to the fact that
words about God matter. Those words are right at the heart of
Christian faith and life.
Theology begins with God’s revelatory word to us. It

continues as we respond with words: words to God and to each
other. So prayer, praise, testimony, preaching, and teaching
are all parts of the daily theological work of the people of God.
We also respond in the academic practice of theology, when
theology is taught and written in the context of formal
education and publication. Such academic theology can never
proceed rightly if it is separated from the Christian life. The
early church articulated this connection with the phrase lex
orandi, lex credendi, “the law of prayer is the law of belief.”
Theologian Geoffrey Wainwright points out that this expression
contains a double suggestion; it “makes the rule of prayer a
norm for belief,” but it also implies that “what must be believed
governs what may and should be prayed.”[1] The “law of
prayer” suggests the whole of an active life of discipleship, a
life in which individuals and churches are in personal
relationship with God. That living relationship informs orthodox
or correct belief even while belief informs the life of faith. So,
the connection between academic theology and theology that
happens in the life of the church runs both ways.
While shaping our words, theology also shapes our reason,

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