Samuel M. Powell, Discovering Our Christian Faith (Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 2008). ISBN: 978-0-8341-2354-0
Dr. Vic Reasoner

THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 1. Spring 2010. Volume 28.
Date Posted July 10, 2010

This may well be the best introduction to theology from a Wesleyan perspective. Powell's writing is simple, yet profound. He emphasizes theology as worship, not merely as a philosophical exercise. Each chapter includes a Wesley hymn that expresses the theme of the chapter. In this introduction to theology, Powell rarely quotes secondary sources. His theology is post-modern and relational, but not process theology. The result is a consensus theology based on scriptural authority.

On the first page he states that he and his publisher stand within the Wesleyan tradition of Protestant Christianity. Later he elaborates, "Protestants differed from the medieval Church in seeing only the Bible as the product of the Spirit's inspiration. Creeds, customs, and theologians, they argued, were human and therefore, unlike the Bible, liable to error. The Bible, being inspired, fully, accurately, and without error reveals the will of God."

Is this a statement defining what the Word does without necessarily defining what the Bible is? While Powell was attempting to make a consensus statement concerning the inspiration of Scripture, I asked him what he meant by "revealing the will of God" since no professional Church of the Nazarene biblical scholar or theologian affirms full inerrancy. Did he restrict the will of God to matters of salvation only? He replied,

The Bible is true in everything it affirms, even in its affirmations about the natural world, but that it views things and events according to their relation to God. So the Bible makes some affirmations about the natural world that differs from the conclusions of the scientist, but those affirmations are still true because the biblical writers are portraying things, not according to their relation to natural laws but instead according to their relation to God... I can't convince myself that the Bible is a reliable source of scientific knowledge about the world... At the same time, I am far from making scientific knowledge the measure of revelation and biblical interpretation. It's important to recognize the limitations of scientific knowledge.

I am concerned that such a view might create separate categories of truth. Thus, the Bible is true when it speaks of salvation, but not necessarily of history or science. The doctrines of creation cannot be divorced from the gospel of Jesus Christ since the teachings of Genesis are foundational to the gospel.

However, in fairness to the author his text does not delve into such issues. It is a positive statement of doctrine, regardless of any intellectual reservations with which the author may have been wrestling. He wrote, "As I tried to emphasize in my book, the most important thing is the faith that accords with godliness. History shows that godly people can disagree on important issues, while still holding to the faith that works through love."