I have never been comfortable with the claim that only certain people are selected by God for salvation and holiness. I believe that God wants all of us to believe, be saved, and become holy. Responsible Grace: Exploring John Wesley’s Theology is one of those books that explains John Wesley’s thought but does not polarize the views on this, a rarity in academic circles.
I am taking a class entitled “Exploring John Wesley’s Theology” with Nazarene Bible College and we are required to read Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology. I read most of this book last week and I have to say that it is very good and very balanced. John Wesley was astute as finding a middle way between polarized views. This author, Randy L. Maddox, is also great at describing the different viewpoints and then describing Wesley’s viewpoint as somewhere between the two. Maddox has his own middle way, perhaps influenced by Wesley's thought.
The book covers views a myriad of topics that all deserve exploration. It starts by going relating human knowledge and Wesley’s quadrilateral thought of scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. The second chapter explains the nature of God and Wesley’s view on God as Creator/Sustainer, provider, governor, physician, and judge. The third chapter is entitled Humanity’s Need and God’s Initial Restoring Grace. This chapter is the heart of John Wesley’s thought.
"Wesley's most fundamental conviction about human life was that we are created and dependent beings. Our very existence and all of our faculties are gifts of God's grace" (p. 67). It all begins with God, but we are responsible to respond to this grace. I do not believe we can do this perfectly, but we are called by him to respond.
The fourth chapter is about Christ - The Iniative of Responsible Grace. It talks of Wesley’s view of Christ as atonement for sin, and explains Christ as a priest, a prophet, and a king or physician. This also touches on Christ’s nature. Other chapters include Wesley’s view on the Holy Spirit, grace and human response, how human response to grace builds on itself, the means of grace and response, and the triumph of responsible grace.
As previously stated, I find that Dr. Maddox is very adept at avoiding predetermined positions and relating things as he finds them - a rare attribute that comes across openly and honestly. This book is a definite essential for those who would understand the real value of holiness doctrine and theology - and not be disheartened by those who simply dismiss it with cryptic shots from the hip after expounding their own views.
This is probably the only textbook I would recommend to the general public. Go ahead and pick up the classic work on John Wesley's theology.