A Book Review
A Wesleyan Theology of Holy Living for the 21st Century by Victor P. Reasoner,
[Evansville, IN: Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers, 2012], ISBN: 978-0-976003-2-4.
Today, teachers, speakers and writers are advised to "Put the cookies on a lower shelf." Accessability of knowledge by a semi-literate public is stressed in this current generation. Publishers want books and articles with a sixth-grade or lower reading level. This may be called the "dumbed-down generation."
Making the product of our studies available and understandable to the man or woman on the street or in the pew is important. But drawing on the analogy of the advice above, what are we giving them? Is it solid and nutritious? Or is it junk food—unbalanced, over-processed, and filled with empty calories or harmful substances? When it comes to Christian doctrine and its application, this is more than important—it is vital. We should be putting the undefiled Bread of Life in the hands of those who depend on us. What ingredients and recipes are we using?
In A Wesleyan Theology of Holy Living for the 21st Century, Vic Reasoner examines the ingredients and recipes of the doctrine of holiness as they come from the Bible and as they have been prepared through two millennia. From ingredients to the end product, this is an essential guide for the "bakers" and the "servers." Regarding his own experience, Dr. Reasoner says, "I came to a crisis where I had to decide whether I would preach the Word or what I had heard" (p. 13). This work is the product of his quest to preach holiness as it comes from God’s Word. His two-volume study is organized into three parts: Biblical Theology, Historical Theology and Practical Theology. It has 794 pages of text,1598 footnotes, an eighty-page bibliography and an index of Scripture references.
Regarding the place of holiness (sanctification) in Christian doctrine, the text begins with a quote from Nazarene theologian Mildred Wynkoop: "‘Sanctification’ cannot stand alone in theology. It cannot be lifted up out of the complex of theological doctrines to be separated from them. The interlocking relationships of all Christian doctrines are integral to the life and meaning of every other one" (p. 16).
Throughout Biblical Theology, Dr. Reasoner includes John Wesley’s handling of the biblical texts. And in Historical Theology, John Wesley’s writings, especially Christian Perfection, hold a central place. Two questions are addressed along the way: "How biblical was John Wesley’s teaching on holy living?" and "How ‘Wesleyan’ is today’s teaching of the ‘Wesleyan’ doctrine of holiness?" Vic Reasoner shows us that John Wesley endeavored to be as biblical as possible in his teaching and practice, but the Wesleyan Holiness of succeeding generations has strayed from both Wesley and the Bible. He uncovers both the need and the justification for a corrective.
A corrective is provided in Part III, Practical Theology. For those not ready (or inclined) to wade through systematic theology or to follow in detail the historical development of doctrine, this concluding section may be read first. In fact, Dr. Reasoner even encourages readers to do so. A college education is not necessary to read and understand the final chapter. For ministerial students this is extremely important, since they must make the doctrine of holy living understandable to the person in the pew.
A Wesleyan Theology of Holy Living for the 21st Century meets a critical need of the church today in knowing how "to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:12). It is not hard to foresee this becoming a standard reference on holiness.
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Dr. Reasoner is President of Southern Methodist College in Orangeburg, SC, member of the Fundamental Wesleyan Society, Editor of Publications for FWS, and Editor of The Arminian, a quarterly journal. Besides A Wesleyan Theology of Holy Living for the 21st Century he is also the author of A Fundamental Wesleyan Commentary on Revelation, A Fundamental Wesleyan Commentary on Romans, The Hope of the Gospel: An Introduction to Wesleyan Eschatology, and co-author of The Wesley Workbook.