Thursday, November 17, 2005

 

What Killed Primitive Methodism?

This is continuing a debate started by commentators on
http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/archives/2005/11/the_evangelical_1.php


This post is about the cave-in by 21st century evangelicals over the authority of the Bible. Originally, Methodism was always Bible-based, and John Wesley and Hugh Bourne would lead the way in condemning our modern departure from Scriptural foundations, supported by their fellow Methodists.

Here is my reply to the posts on Slice of Laodicea (which site I commend as warning about the apostacy of the Church in these days.)

I posted some comments which included references to Primitive Methodism and another comment asked "What killed Primitive Methodism?"

In reply, I suggested the following. But it needs more debate than is suitable for Slice of Laodicea.


Dear [name]

I happened to be browsing in case there were any comments on my comments and I saw yours.

The question is, "Where did the liberal theology come from?" Peake on his own would not have had all the effect you appear to attribute to him.

There are a number of factors, which can be summed up as departing from the Bible, and from the doctrines which the Methodist pioneers proclaimed. For example, by about 1800, a desire for respectability had begun to creep in, and this was a key factor in the putting-out of Hugh Bourne and his friends. Rather than submit to the stifling effects of respectability, they formed a new connexion, the Primitive Methodists, named after John Wesley's reference to the "primitive" religion of the early church. That is, as found in the book of Acts. And as long as they followed their early vision and preached the Bible, there was the blessing of God.

And we must remember that 18th century Methodists were not the denomination, but a group of various men who had a zeal for revival of true Christianity in Britain. Hywll Harris was the Methodist evangelist of Wales before John Wesley was truly born again. Harris eventually became a calvinist, and the churches he founded in Wales became the Calvinistic Methodists. Evan Roberts was in training for the Calvinistic Methodist ministry in 1904.

Even today, there are still Bible-believing Methodists who still preach the truth. But they are a small percentage.
In the 19th century, the factors were similar to what they have been in recent years. The desire for respectability causes people to drift towards academic understanding of the Bible, leading to liberal theology. The Primitive Methodists were major workers for social welfare and care for the poor - a natural thing as most Methodists were poor. They were involved in Trades Unions and Co-operative movements. Unfortunately, this was taken over by socialism - an atheistic cancer preached against by some Methodists and championed by others. In this context, Hugh Bourne's family had a marriage link with the Wedgewoods, who had a connection with Darwin. While scientists attacked Darwin on scientific grounds, a lot of Christians (from almost all denominations) said how wonderful evolution was in explaining how God had created.

I'd better cut this short for now. 120 years ago, Ingrid would have been warning us about some of these other factors drawing the Church away from Biblical faith. There was then an emphasis on statistics of church growth (does this sound familiar?) but then it was conversions and new Christians. And the histories are full of accounts of genuine faith and changed lives with true Scriptural Holiness. That was what John Wesley said Methodism was raised up, by God, to proclaim. Where Methodists have remained faithful to Wesley's vision (Scriptural holiness), they have also remained true to the Bible and Methodism, at least locally, has not died. But when we look at the typical, we find an apostate denomination, with the evangelicals going over to seeker-friendly substitutes for seeking God.

The influence of Peake may have been a factor, but far from the only one. Early Methodist history is full of accounts of the work of God. Which is why an emphasis of my web site (www.rewlach.org.uk/books) has become the old histories. One of the ways we see error is by knowing truth, and these accounts expose the apostacy of these days. (I have a lot of material which needs time to copy.) Rather than burden Slice of Laodicea with this debate, I will try to get some of it posted on this Blog, where we can look at these issues.

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