UNITY & “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and, in all things, charity.” The real source of the quote often attributed to John Wesley. #NotAugustine #NotWesley

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This popular quote above has oft been attributed to John Wesley, while others attribute it to Saint Augustine. Actually, as the following articles point out, it may have been the German pietist movement that first coined the term during the violently divisive years of church conflict. Wars were being fought over theology and church history. But this phrase emerged and was popularized when embraced by John Wesley, who may have heard it while residing among the Moravians in Germany early in his ministerial career. Read these articles for an interesting history.

Regardless of its genesis, this motto provides a helpful reminder for today’s divided culture and church.

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and, in all things, charity.”

Enthusiast! Finding a Faith That Fills
(Wesleyan Publishing House,
2018: pp. 201-202, 252.

Though the quote above is attributed to John Wesley and though this sums up John’s thinking and writing, it cannot be traced back to John’s pen.  For more see Kevin Watson’s article here: https://vitalpiety.com/2010/09/02/wesley-didnt-say-it-unity-liberty-charity/

Also read the Moravian History account below (followed by a discussion started by a Georgetown University scholar on the origin).

Read more here … http://www.moravianchurcharchives.org/thismonth/12_05%20In%20Essentials.pdf

And for a discussion started by a professor at Georgetown University read more here … https://faculty.georgetown.edu/jod/augustine/quote.html

ETHICS & Implications of Wesley’s quote: I would not tell a lie to save the souls of the whole world.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/2/10.

John Wesley famously said, “I would not tell a lie, no, not to save the souls of the whole world.” So, I ask my students to grapple with this.

One student remarked that according to a book he read (written by two of my close friends, Gary McIntosh and Charles “Chip” Arn) that “the goal of your financial investing should be to make the greatest number of disciples” (What Every Pastor Should Know).

Subsequently, the discussion turned to a discussion if finances could be used in an unethical way because more people would be saved as a result.  As I mentioned above, I know the authors of the book and this is of course not what they are saying.

But, this reminds us that outcomes can (but should they?) be used to justify the means.

According to John Wesley’s writings, it has to do with our understanding of God’s foundational action in love. Here are some questions that will help our understanding of ethical actions:

  • Would God have us do something unethical to make the greatest amount of disciples (This is part of the question in the story of the “plank of Carneades.”)
  • In other words, should we do something that furthers benefit to ourselves or even someone else’s soul … when that action is unethical?
  • And finally, would God require such action?

What are your thoughts?  If you are a student of mine, you can reply in the discussion forums to garner more points.  For all others, this is a good exercise to keep your leadership team sharp when considering ethical dilemmas.